As the ₹10-billion online pharmacy space starts to get crowded with more players entering this nascent industry, e-pharmacies focus on offering value-added services to their customers to boost both customer retention as well revenues. Analysts said this would help to mitigate business risks in a fast-changing regulatory environment. The idea is to have a one-stop-solution for one’s healthcare needs, said Pradeep Dadha, founder and chief executive officer of Netmeds Market place. Pharma start-up Netmeds acquired JustDoc, a Bangalore-based start-up that connects patients and doctors over video call for any medical consultation at any time of the day. They have a pool of doctors from top hospitals that cover over 40 specialties. Netmeds has plans to expand its offerings, which include diagnostics, lifestyle-related consulting etc. Dadha said, “People would prefer to have one mobile application to cater to all their healthcare related needs. So, expanding the offerings would help to retain the customers.”
According to analysts, banking only on delivering medicines to the doorstep and offering discounts cannot work to ensure repeat customers. “Even neighborhood chemists deliver medicines to your doorstep and many also offer discounts for chronic prescriptions,” said Deepak Malik, analyst at Edelweiss. As such, chronic prescriptions account for 15-20 percent of the overall sales of a bricks and mortar chemist, the industry claimed. Bulk of the revenues comes from acute and over the counter medications. Ashraf Biran, director of Wellness Forever, an organized pharmacy chain that is now getting into the online space, said, “The extension of services model works well for e-pharmacies because they are dealing with chronic patients. These patients would require diagnostic tests and medical devices to complement their ongoing therapies.” Wellness Forever, which has launched an alpha version of its application and expects to launch the beta version within the next few weeks, plans to start a 24-hour helpline number that would guide the customers or patients for their emergency medical needs.
“One might need an oxygen cylinder, blood transfusion, medical equipment, and most of the time, one does not know where exactly to contact during an emergency. We would start a helpline number that would connect the customers with the service providers,” he said. The value-added services also act as a revenue stream. For example, when one connects the customer with a diagnostic center, there is a revenue sharing model. Almost all the major players are looking at tying up with a diagnostic services provider. Dhaval Shah, co-founder of PharmEasy, had told apart from medicine sales, the firm is looking at diagnostics, doctor consultation, among other areas. The firm is scouting for acquisitions in these verticals. Analysts said at present almost 80 percent of the sales for e-pharmacies come from medicine sales. However, this is expected to change soon in favor of value-added services. Some players are also looking at entering the bricks and mortar space, like Netmeds is expected to start offline stores next quarter. – Business Standard