The domestic e-pharmacy market is poised to touch Rs 25,000 crore by 2022, at a robust CAGR of 63 percent, buoyed by an increased access of medicines to a majority of under-served population, long-term drug compliance for chronic conditions, and rising internet penetration. Online sale of medicines, now at Rs 3500 crore, could account for 15-20 percent of total pharma sales over the next 10 years — due to multiple factors including Digital India, e-healthcare initiatives, increasing health insurance, and schemes like Ayushman Bharat — says a report by Frost & Sullivan. The e-platform is led by Medlife (about 30 percent market share), followed by Netmeds, 1MG, PharmEasy, Myra, CareOnGo and Pharmasafe. The global e-pharmacy market is led by North America and Europe, while major opportunity lies in addressing the vast unmet needs of the developing countries in Asia Pacific. Overall, organized pharma retail market valued around Rs 1.3 lakh crore is the third-largest in volume terms and the 13th-largest in value, globally. It grew from USD 28.5 billion in 2014 to nearly USD 30 billion in 2017, and is expected to clock a CAGR of 11.3 percent to reach USD 55 billion by 2020.
The growth will be primarily driven by high disease burden, steady economic growth leading to higher disposable incomes, improvements in healthcare infrastructure, and an improved healthcare financing, it adds. Retail pharmacy — which is highly fragmented with over eight lakh chemists across the country — faces challenges of increased competition, rising pressure on price controls, lack of documentation/ tracking and poor inventory management, the study says. These issues can be addressed through a technological upgrade of the model for streamlining processes and computerization of pharmacies. Medlife CEO and founder Tushar Kumar said, “Being the clear market leader, Medlife will have the share from organic growth. Along with the same physical network we have built, it allows us to also cater to the acute segment and express needs of customers, helping us increase our overall market. Our fast pace setup of labs, expansion of our private label portfolio and the e-consultation platform further will allow us to get hyper growth from these additional areas, with a target of Rs 2000 crore from pharmacy business and Rs 500 crore from lab business in the coming financial year.”
The company has already clocked USD 100 million in revenue, and recently acquired online consultation startup EClinic 24/7 to provide telephonic consultation, along with chat and video-based doctor consultation. Value-added products/services are being offered by e-pharmacies to widen customer base. The sector is hopeful the government will issue regulations soon to resolve uncertainty, with two high courts — Madras and Delhi — taking up the case recently, with one even banning online sale. The Madras high court has ordered the government to issue rules by January 31. The government is yet to notify amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, to regulate online pharmacies. Last year, the expert committee under the health ministry, DTAB approved the draft regulations for sale of online drugs by e-pharmacies. – TOI