E-pharmacies need an offline-online model for efficient delivery mechanism: Sumit Goel
Sumit Goel, Managing Partner and Head – Healthcare and Pharma and Life Sciences, Praxis Global Alliance, discusses how the COVID pandemic has boosted the scope of E-pharmacy in India.
Q: The E-pharmacy has grown tremendously in recent years, do you agree the COVID pandemic has been a major contributor to this upward push?
Sumit Goel: Online pharmacy has evolved over the last couple of years wading through regulatory uncertainties. As the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed, the online pharmacies received the much-needed impetus with the Government itself declaring delivery of medicine through E-commerce as essential services. As per estimates, the number of households using E-pharmacy services grew 2.5 times to 9 million during COVID times.
Q: Do you expect companies and E-pharmacies to expand their offering through digital platforms even post COVID era?
Sumit Goel: Key players in this segment have significantly expanded their customer base during the COVID period and have expanded the product and service offerings to keep up with the needs of the expanded customer base. The core focus has been to increase the customer LTV by catering to customer’s healthcare needs in a comprehensive way. We see many online pharmacies have started offering services such as E-consultation, E-diagnostics, and retailing of health and wellness products on their platform.
COVID-19 pandemic has nudged many consumers to try the services offered by these platforms and after having experienced the convenience and benefit that these platforms offer, it is expected that a significant proportion of customers would continue to use these platforms even after the COVID situation eases out. Another trend that we see is online pharmacies actively exploring potential profit pools to make their service offerings comprehensive as well as profitable.
Q: With big players entering the online pharmacy segment, how do you think this will impact brick and mortar businesses?
Sumit Goel: All online pharmacies need an offline-online model to have an efficient last-mile delivery supply chain mechanism to deliver medicines to consumers within the promised turnaround times. This would require them to partner with and leverage the extensive network of physical local pharmacies. So, while there would be a case for synergistic co-existence, local pharmacies have an edge when there is an immediate need for medicines and patients cannot wait for few hours for the drug to be delivered. Many local pharmacies have upped their service levels in their own way, have also become ‘online’. They are taking orders on the phone or WhatsApp, providing discounts, and delivering medicines to the patients – trying to match the value proposition offered on online pharmacies. This is good news for the consumers.
Q: With an increasing number of consumers using online pharmacies, do you feel data protection would be one of the key priorities now?
Sumit Goel: Securing the healthcare data of patients will be a key priority. Recognizing the issue of cyber-security and the need to protect personal digital data, the Government is working on Personal Data Protection (PDP) and Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA). Different countries have enacted specific laws to protect personal health information, an example being HIPAA in the US. DISHA aims to be the Indian counterpart of similar laws. While many companies would be taking necessary steps for data protection, these laws would go a long way in installing confidence among consumers that their data is well protected and managed.
Q: What are your views on the recent acquisition of Thyrocare by PharmEasy and its impact on the E-pharma chain?
Sumit Goel: This recent transaction should augment Pharmeasy’s digital platform to provide customers with a continuum of care across consultations, diagnostics, and medicines needed for treatment. Both companies will be well-positioned to synergistically leverage and grow their customer base and generate much larger value for the business. This transaction is an example of online pharmacies exploring to add alternate profit pools while broadening their service offerings to deliver value at different customer touchpoints.
Source – EThealthworld