Puneet Singh, Senior Marketing Manager, Stayhappi Pharmacy

Mr Puneet Singh, Senior Marketing Manager at Stayhappi Pharmacy, an Offline and Online Platform incepted for providing High-Quality Medicines at a ‘Real and Affordable’ prices. With StayHappi Pharmacy, patients have the power to choose quality generic medicines across all therapeutic segments at prices that are 30%-90% less than the commonly retailed price of the same medicine in India. He is an energetic professional with experience and expertise in strategy, insights and execution. He began his career in 2006 and has grown exponentially on the success ladder. He is PGDBM from IIFT, Delhi. Having worked with well-established giants in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, he has gained valuable experience, expertise and knowledge over the years. 

 

E-pharmacies, which first appeared in India in 2015, have grown at an exponential rate in recent years, fueled by technology and e-commerce. E-pharmacies have surpassed their retail counterparts with their innovative offerings and a slew of services, making them one of the preferred ways to buy medicine. 

As contactless delivery gained traction during Covid times, the e-pharmacies rose to prominence in our fight against the pandemic. There are already close to 50 e-Pharmacies in India, with estimates putting the market size (2019) at $ 0.5B – around 2-3% of overall Indian pharmacy sales. 

According to a FICCI white paper, internet pharmacies are expected to reach 1.4 times their pre-covid-19 predictions by 2025. Pharmeasy, Medlife, 1mg, and Netmeds are just a few of the companies fighting for a piece of this lucrative market. In 2020 alone, there was a continuous increase in e-pharmacies, with the industry attracting 700 million dollars in investment.

E-pharmacy growth drivers

1.  Expanding internet penetration — Internet penetration is increasing as a result of low-cost smart phones and 4G internet access. The country is predicted to have 850 million internet users by 2025 as a result of the Digital India campaign.

2.  Increasing e-commerce adoption — Due to shifting customer preferences and digital channel adoption, e-commerce penetration is predicted to reach 11% in 2024.

3.  Push for organized channels – As consumers become more aware of the dangers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, they are turning to organized and digital channels that give assurance against the risk of counterfeits.

4. Changing illness profile — e-Pharmacies are primarily concerned with the medical needs of chronic patients. The changing lifestyles of the people are causing an increase in chronic and lifestyle diseases among the Indian population.

5.  Reach and Accessibility: The most significant advantage of an online pharmacy is its reach not just in tier-1 and tier-2 cities, but also in distant places. It provides instant access to high-quality healthcare when combined with Tele-consultations. Some e-pharmacies have also expanded their reach, currently serving at least 90% of the country’s pin codes. In remote places, delivery time may take between 7 and 10 days.

6.  Convenience: E-Pharmacies have significantly revolutionized the user experience in terms of convenience. People may now safely buy critical medicines from the comfort of their own homes and receive doorstep delivery of high-quality medications, as well as extra choices like rescheduling, refill reminders, and online in-app customer service.

7.  Cost-effectiveness: The whole supply chain became more efficient by integrating a network of pharmacies to a single platform and getting access to a bigger customer base. The pharmaceuticals got cheaper for consumers as a result of the decreased working capital, elimination of waste in the system, and increased margins. Because of the enormous volume, internet pharmacies are able to negotiate significant reductions on pharmaceuticals with the manufacturer.

Value added services from e-pharmacies

E-pharmacies have grown into a ‘One-Stop Shop’ for all Healthcare Needs: Apart from selling medicines/drugs and over-the-counter healthcare items, e-pharmacies are expanding the range of products and services offered on their websites. Among these services are:

1.  Appointment Portal for Doctor Consultation: For appointments, e- pharmacies have partnered with hospitals, stand-alone clinics, and individual consultants. Customers may book appointments for medical consultations through the e-pharmacy website.

2.  Offering E-Consultation to Customers: Hospitals and e–pharmacies collaborated to integrate Tele-consultation technologies and improve their present digital capabilities. Since then, both doctor and patient use of Tele-consultation and e–pharmacy systems has increased dramatically.

3.  Collaborations with Diagnostic Facilities and the Establishment of Diagnostic Laboratories: For sample collection, e pharmacies have partnered with reputable diagnostic institutions such as SRL labs and Dr. Lal Path lab. In this way, they also serve as a diagnostic facility aggregator. Some e-pharmacies have also established diagnostic labs.

Challenges 

1.  Access: Obtaining authentic drugs has always been a problem in India, particularly in non-Tier I cities.  Despite the numerous benefits, several experts claimed that one-fifth of the drugs supplied through internet pharmacies are fake. To overcome this issue, e-Pharmacies have developed an offline/online integrated strategy that makes use of a large network of licensed physical pharmacies staffed by registered pharmacists providing services to 22000 pin codes in India.

2. Supply chain issues: Traditional pharmaceutical supply networks are not optimized and contain various holes, resulting in waste, delays, and the possibility of low-quality medications entering the market.

3. Lack of trust: The Indian e-pharmacy sector is still in its early stages, and buyers are still concerned about acquiring counterfeit medications. To ensure the validity of the drugs, most players issue FAQs and run marketing campaigns.

4. Limited customer support: Currently, the market is plagued by complaints about late delivery and issue resolution. While the majority of players provide voice-based customer service, chatbots, self-help tools, and speedier payment/refund processing will be industry success enablers.

5. Data privacy concerns: As the e-pharmacy sector grows, consumer worries over health information and prescriptions are projected to escalate. Market participants would have to take severe precautions to safeguard client data privacy.

6. Unregulated sales of prescription drugs: This is a major problem of e pharmacies leading to self- medication which can have serious implications on public health. 

Conclusion

E-pharmacies have changed the face of healthcare and ushered in a new era. Despite its limitations, India’s young e-pharmacy business is thriving and achieving national development goals by creating an infrastructure to supply quality and inexpensive pharmaceuticals to customers across the country. However, if not handled appropriately, it might lead to dishonest behaviour like unregulated sale of drugs. Hence, there’s a need to promote public knowledge about the dangers of self-medication and dissuade people from obtaining medications from unknown and illegal sources. It is also necessary to confirm the legitimacy of prescriptions and to warn e-pharmacy clients when they purchase drugs. Furthermore, if India is successful in adopting a professionally rigorous system, such as the NABP/VPPS in the United States, which can efficiently monitor over 250 newly created e-pharmacies; overall health care costs can be greatly lowered.

 

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