Mr. Kunal Saha, Director and Co-founder, Vandelay (owned by SFT Technologies Pvt Ltd) holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and Strategy from Warwick University, UK, and leads the entire management of business operations with a vision to make Vandelay a premier lifestyle and personal care brand. Kunal has worked in the IOT (internet of things) space for a long time, catering to different segments including but not limited to Logistics, Education, Food and Beverage, & Manufacturing.
The days of walking or driving to the nearest pharmacy are almost gone, for the pandemic has ensued a deep change in our behaviours that will impact our preferences. Even as India earns the nicknames of diabetes capital or obesity leader, there is no denying the fact that today, people will start their search for insulin or a weighing scale on the popular e-commerce platforms rather than going to a pharmacy. The pandemic has furthered the progress of e-commerce in India, which has played a vital role in the healthcare sector. The healthcare sector is speedily converting into that section of the economy where e-commerce can become the mainstay and play a significant role.
What e-commerce means for India’s health needs
The major ways, can be termed as 3Cs, in which e-commerce has worked to increase the reach of healthcare, not only in urban pockets but in semi-urban and rural areas too, can be identified as:
- Convenience: If a smaller number of people will visit stores, this will certainly become a top reason. E-commerce is changing the way people buy healthcare products as well as the way those products reach the customers. The ease of use introduced by e-commerce platforms is being leveraged by companies to create a business model that ensures fast delivery to the doorstep, live chats to handle questions, and an app that allows them to directly talk to doctors.
- Care: Predictably, features doling out ‘care’ are fast becoming a norm in the e-commerce industry. This integrated model of caregiving – right from consultation to delivery of medicines, perhaps on a subscription model, can well become a standard to meet. It will not only make such platforms an e-commerce portal but an integral part of the society by creating and nurturing value, especially among people who must leave elderly or unwell parents and relatives for livelihood.
- Competitive cost: Thanks to the lack of involvement of intermediaries, online prices are lesser than the physical market and more transparent than stores – e-commerce consumers can compare the prices across the range of available sellers. Retailers, owing to a lower cost of managing an online shop, transfer the benefit of significantly lower fixed cost to the customers. In addition, discounts and refunds, rarely available in physical stores, feature frequently on online stores.
Other factors in favour of e-commerce
In addition to the benefits discussed above, other aspects of e-commerce that has increased its reliability and uptake for the health requirements are:
- Variety and authenticity of products: Buying medical supplies online saves the trouble of visiting multiple stores to look for products that are not only affordable but reliable as well. This process becomes easy on an e-commerce platform where one can compare many types of the same product and compare their prices and features to make an informed buying decision. Trusted online stores allow verified consumers to leave genuine feedback so that people can learn from their experience and reputation of the product and the potential buyer is informed how good or bad the product is.
- Dependable option for bulk buyers: When restrictions were imposed to contain the spread of the virus, one of the constant fears among healthcare providers was the possible shortage of life-saving medicines and equipment, even though they were under the list of essential items. Managing a long and wide supply chain has been a concern for clinics and hospitals who will certainly benefit by streamlining their purchases of medical equipment and supplies. Noting the opportunity, many medical device manufacturers are increasingly moving online and leverage the benefits of direct orders and product deliveries. On the part of the healthcare providers, it saves the hassle of ensuring suppliers are adhering to regulations and deliver products on time. Besides, it also ensures that providers give their patients better quality of care as opting for e-commerce routes allows a greater focus on the patient.
In this age of smartphones and smart gadgets, consumers are also becoming smart in their buying decisions and exploring options that make life easy. As the world continues to live under the shadow of future waves and pandemics, the role of e-commerce in addressing the requirements of Indians is poised for a significant leap.
E-commerce post COVID-19
E-commerce played a significant role in post COVID era. Emergency due to global pandemic accelerated growth of the businesses of every size in e-commerce market as when traditional shopping became difficult, or may even be scary, people increasingly got inclined to shop online. E-commerce enabled customers with access to wide range of products from the comfort and well-being of their homes. Below are the factors that will continue to drive E-commerce growth; likely to continue shopping more and more online.
- New shopping habits: People have started investing in items of everyday needs of homecare, edibles and healthcare items (masks, medicines, thermometers, oximeters) etc. over luxury items
- Fear of COVID-19: Even post lockdown, people will be cautious of the situation and many will still prefer shopping from the safety of their homes
- Rapid digitization is making it easier than ever to browse and shop online. Customers can easily place the orders from the device that is likely in their hand or pocket at all times
- Wide range and options available across online stores: Even if items scares in physical stores, ecommerce offered various options online with better rates and discounts.
To an ever increasing extent, customers are enjoying the convenience and accessibility of online shopping. While the limitations imposed by COVID-19 have made online shopping considerably engaging and appealing, this will be a long term shift that will exist in the post-pandemic world as well. To benefit as much as possible from this, organizations need to offer transparency, adaptable policies, and convenient omni-channel solutions for the customers.