An online wheelchair provider based in America and founded by a NASA engineer and former Ottobock sales boss will consider using UK distributors to break into British and European markets.
Rowheels has developed the world’s first production wheelchair to use “pull-wheel” technology, which it will sell directly to consumers in the US.
While it believes it can follow this same model in the UK and other international markets, it is keeping its options open.
CEO Gaurav Mishra, who was formerly a boss at Ottobock, said that part of Rowheels’ plan to disrupt the market will be the sales channel it uses.
He said: “Instead of going through all the middle men, which can bring mark-up, we run a direct model so users can buy it on our own website and on other online markets like Amazon.
“We want a proper service to be done so we don’t want it to be international straight away.
“But once we have successfully rolled out this new model in the US, we will be looking at potential distributors in the UK too and they will be able to either sell it online or follow the traditional model.
“The key will be how best they can serve the patient.”
Mishra however, believes that the market is nevertheless moving further towards the direct-to-end-user model.
“It is going to move, there is no doubt. If the manufacturer does it directly, it’s a great experience for the customer. I think that will definitely happen.
“And with social media, communication lines are more open, which never used to be the case. We often find that patients are more informed than the carer about the latest technologies in their line of treatment, especially in the mobility space.
“People do not hesitate to buy directly and spending £1,000 on wellbeing and better quality of life is not usually a barrier.”
Servicing and maintaining equipment is a challenge for online sellers however, and Rowheels is no different.
But Mishra says that most people tend to renew their chair every three to five years and Rowheels’ low cost means it can be repurchased.
He added: “We don’t even have the same spoke and tyres on our chairs, we use moulded strong plastic on the wheel and they are the things that usually break on a manual wheelchair.
“We also plan to a offer product protection plan for up to three years. Breakage due to misuse or accident can happen, especially with the kind of patient population we have, and so we will replace it at no extra charge.
“These are new concepts that have long been awaited in this industry.”