Mr Mittal, aged 51 years, is an FCA, FCS and FCM by education and has experience of more than 20 years working as an entrepreneur and a social worker. His areas of work include the digital platform of healthcare and financial services.
With the advent of the Pandemic, if there’s something bankable and sustainable, it is the E-Pharmacy. Tracing back to its onset, at a global level, the need of the hour was a war-footed expansion of ‘Pharmacies’. This would not only make for easy accessibility of prescription drugs but also ensure timely intervention for those in dire need. Confronting the Covid-19 upsurge, Pharmaceutical companies accorded more priority in making the investigational drugs for COVID-19 treatment available on a broad scale. Manufacturing these drugs at short notice was only one part of the problem. The other remaining was that of the last mile reach of these lifesavers – from the apothecary cabinet to the ailing. The CTA was made possible with E-Pharmacies bridging the gap between the medicinal demand-supply forces and those who are suffering.
With the massive allocation of budget in the “Health and Wellbeing” sector, by the Government, the priority cascaded and reflected in the market behaviour as well. Not only from a consumer’s point of view but also physicians, who started making the slow but steady shift to the virtual space; being backed by robust growth in online purchase behaviour. The conditions were prime for the uptick and subsequent stabilization of the ‘E-Pharmacy’. This was nowhere to stay.
E-Pharmacy- Global Benefaction
During the lockdown, the digitalization of pharmacy, which was in limbo for quite some time, came as a welcoming change to the market dynamics. With limited physical infrastructure coupled with scalable technology, the time was ripe for the concept of sustainable Pharmacy. Gaining rapid traction, e-pharmacies became the prevalent norm in a direly needing market. Social distancing further relayed the necessity of an E-Pharmacy.
E-Pharmacy trends while Covid Catastrophe in India
India is one of the most populous countries, addressing the demand for medicine was tough. Even though during lockdown medicine stores were open, to physically get them one had to dive headfirst into the risky waters of exposing themselves to the Virus. With the inception of lockdown, both the Union and the state government classified E-Pharmacy to be under Essential services. Through Aarogya Setu, the promotion of e-pharmacies made this tool beneficial to the mass.
Challenges addressed by E-Pharmacy during the Covid Crisis
- Easy Access– People could reach out to their daily dose of medicines at-home comfort and with “doorstep delivery” features, which is not less than a boon.
- Convenience – 24×7 ordering, online consulting, order management, contactless payments and robust governance/ grievance redressal turned out to be absolute game-changers.
- Catering to rural demands – Many a time, people from the outskirts are unable to access the pharmacies or have to travel a lot to find one. In such a scenario, there are a lot of E-pharmacy portals that reach out and promise services beyond demographic constraints. In times of lockdown, this feature has helped numerous families to stay secured.
- Cost-effectiveness– Since the online portal does not require the mediator supply chains, the process is shorter and hence the intrusion of the trade associations is clipped. This results in cost reduction as well.
- Patient safety– As there is no outdoor exposure, especially during the pandemic, this acts as a huge safety measure working in favour of a patient or their families.
- Scalability – Due to the limited use of physical infrastructure, a single warehouse/ pharmacy stockyard can serve a vast catchment area. Thus effectively translating into economies of scale.
- No queues– Also because of the online format one does not have to wait in long queues to get their turn called. One just has to fill up the prescribed drugs in their order list or add to the cart and enter payment gateway mode and wait for on-time delivery. Mostly, these portals have an easy navigation layout that can be accessed by all. A bonus? Well, the time you save can be put to some rest.
- Hassle-free experience – Being governed by standard shipping, cancellation and returns policies the end customer is assured of a standard buying experience that is not subject to vagaries of human behaviour.
- Easy Access to Immunity Products — The pandemic is significantly accelerating the demand for immunity boosting products and supplements along with medicines. E-pharmacies have tapped into the pulse of their consumer needs ensuring easy access to a wide range of immunity products as well.
Moreover, e-pharmacies have been structured in a way that includes various self-checks and pre-set protocols to ensure transparency and genuineness. All orders for medicines are processed only upon the submission of a valid doctor’s prescription and any prohibited medicines/drugs are not even listed on the inventory. Further, the online platform only works as an order receipt and processing mechanism, and each order undergoes the process of cross-checked till the final shipping point. These technology-driven value additions result in the consumers accessing the medicines faster, easier, and more affordable manner. Therefore summing it up, the war against Covid wouldn’t be possible without the pillar of E-Pharmacies. Indeed the e-pharmacy ecosystem is a saving grace during the Pandemic!