Offline pharmacies are here to stay regardless of govt guidelines on e-pharmacy: Siddharth Ghadia

Nandita Vijay, BengaluruFriday, November 20, 2020, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Offline pharmacy outlets are here to stay in spite of the government’s e-pharmacy guidelines. Online medicine purchase is the way forward, said Siddharth Ghadia, co-founder, Zeno Health, the erstwhile Generico pharmacy retail chain for generic medicines.

The ongoing pandemic has changed consumer buying patterns and fuelled e-pharmacies business which is a safer and convenient option. Geographically, e-pharmacy business is an upmarket metro phenomenon but in Tier 2 and 3 markets its work is in progress. Ideally, an omni-channel model works best in the interest of consumers and pharmacy business eco-system needs to drive value and sustenance, he added.  

Therefore, e-pharmacy regulations play a crucial role to watch over product lifecycle and processes put in place for seamless delivery of medicines. India already has stringent regulations for the brick and mortar pharmacy outlets and we only need a replication of these guidelines for e-pharmacy to keep drug abuse in check, Ghadia told Pharmabiz.

Largely, the pharmacy retailing sector is unorganized and organised players face impediments to make an entry.  So long, discounts on medicines were not allowed as a trade practice, but with rules being relaxed, an outlet operating at higher efficiency and keeping costs under control can attract more consumers with discounts. Now, the organised retail players can pass the benefit to consumers, which was not possible earlier. As the shift towards generic medicines comes through, the retail sector will become powerful and pave the way for organised retailers to enter, he noted.

Current shortfall is to achieve economies-of-scale. Tech adoption too is key and smaller players find it difficult to afford it even if it provides convenience in terms of online sales. Cost advantages can be passed on to consumers but that is not possible in the current set up. Pharmacy services cannot be done in the existing form which is the fragmented. Once the bigger players come into this, we hope all these issues will be managed better.

With the Medical Council of India urging practitioners to promote use of generic medicine, Zeno Health sees it as a game changer to source the high quality generic medicines in the country.

"We have a range of generics which is over 1,000 SKUs (stock keeping units). So, consumers coming to our store can have maximum access to generic medicine, which saves his medicine bill. This convenience can be provided for online pharmacy sales, by keeping a track of repeat orders and even ensuring doorstep delivery. Currently there are 1.5-2 lakh customers reaching out every month. At least 70,000 customers are added every month. We educate each one of them and through word of mouth we hope to spread awareness and promote use of generics in the country,” he said.

In 2018, the company raised pre Series A of $1.5 million from Whiteboard Capital and Tomorrow Capital participated. Following year it closed another round with lightbox amounting to around $14 million viability and profitability are key to raise funds.
In the next 5 years, Zeno eyes to expand pan-India and reduce their healthcare spend by 50%. It will put in place a front and backend infrastructure to service efficiently and effectively, said Ghadia.