Netmeds.com, is India Ki Pharmacy, the first e-commerce site dedicated to sales of prescription medicine and other healthcare products across the country. Pradeep Dadha comes from a family that has been in the pharma business for more than 100 years. His grandfather, Lalchand, founded Dadha and Company in 1914 and his father Mohanchand took over the company and grew it into one of the most trusted pharma companies in South India. Pradeep learnt everything there was to know about the business and then went off to find his own path in the world of e-commerce, digital marketing and global logistics and fulfillment. He had always dreamt of creating a strong Indian-facing consumer brand and in 2015, he felt that both market factors and regulatory climate were favorable for launching what was heretofore the "holy grail" of e-commerce, an online pharmacy.
From Netmeds.com’s launch in 2015, the internet penetration in the country has jumped leaps and bounds, creating a favourable environment e-commerce/ e-pharma to operate. The segment has gained traction and witnessed significant growth in the last few years due to increase in awareness among consumers.PradeepDadha Interacted exclusively with indianretailer.com.
Excerpts from the interview below:
What is your take on government curbing on online pharmacy chains? Did you see any kind of impact on your overall operations?
The ambiguity in terms of policy and government regulation keeps looming over the e-pharma sector. However, in the coming months the draft regulation will be released ensuring a framework in a largely nascent and disorganised sector in India.We expect some clarity in terms of the policy and guidelines for operation of licensed e-pharmacies as prescribed under the Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940. The Madras High Court’s order suspending the ban on online sale of medicines recently, validates our commitment of providing affordable and accessible medicines to customers across the country. As a fully licensed pharmacy, Netmeds.com is committed to adhering to all the guidelines and standards as prescribed under the Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940.
How do you see the market of online pharmacy is evolving in India? According to you, what are the bottlenecks in this segment?
Our growth will be market-driven. E-pharma, our healthcare niche, is still nascent to the extent that the industry as a whole has yet to even scratch a single percentage point of the overall retail pharmacy spend. According to Frost & Sullivan, the e-Pharmacy market in India is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 63% to reach US $3,657 million (INR 25,000 Crores) by 2022.As the industry settles into a comfortable position, new regulations are put in place and the public continues to embrace the concept, we expect exponential growth in the sector.
As of now, how many categories are being retailed via Netmeds?Also, shed some light on your average bill size.
Netmeds serves about 3.7 million customers, as a result of 20% month-on-month growth, doing about 10,000 orders a day and shipping them to more than 600 cities, including metros, as well as Tier II, III and IV towns and rural villages.
Who do you see as your major competition?
Netmeds is already a ‘top-of-the-mind’ brand in the industry consisting of three or four major players. However, the market share for all the players is less than 1%. So, we have an opportunity to grow, both by putting more space between us and the next closest competitor and by grabbing an even greater share of the overall pharmacy retail spend.
Do you have any plans to go omnichannel by launching your offline stores?
Netmeds.com is looking to set up offline stores to cater to Tier II, III and IV markets. We believe that the neighbourhood chemist shop and the local pharmacist will continue to play an important role in the overall healthcare landscape, especially when it comes to serving acute needs. Currently, about 65%of our online business comes from non-metros. While we fully intend to continue to serve them through the Netmeds.com website and app, we believe we can enhance the customer experience and improve access with Netmeds Pharmacies. The stores will offer access to medicines that may not be in stock locally through our well-established supply chain at lower prices. The franchise enrollment process is under way and the applicants are being vetted. The five–year-plan for this programme is to open a minimumof 1,000 stores across the country. The Netmeds’ franchise programme will see the launch of a number of branded stores across the country, including metros like Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi to Tier II, III cities like Surat, Ahmedabad, Pali, Rajasthan and Balurghat, West Bengal.
How do you ensure last mile delivery? Also shed light on your return policy?
We ensure last mile delivery using a multi-pronged approach, which begins with a diligent selection process of courier partners and then deploys AI by analysing historical data amassed over the last few years and determines the best courier outcome based on the customer's PIN, as per TAT'ssuccessfully met, and then assigns the courier accordingly. We also depend on a strategic third-party tool which helps us to not only further optimise supply chain performance, but also automates notification to the customer in all stages of the order journey. It allows for automation of the re-delivery in the event the courier finds no one available at the delivery location, or if an unforeseen weather, traffic or regional holiday event should cause a delivery to miss the promised date. Although its rare, it happens, and we have factored the possibility into the mechanism.
Our return policy is very lenient and dictated by an overriding belief that the "customer is always right". If a customer decides they don't want it, they can return it̶no questions asked. We also understand that in the case of prescription medicine, patients' needs can change, as conditions hopefully improve, or in many cases worsen and doctors may have to change dosages and medications, so we allow for the return of unopened medicines and welcome our returning customers to adjust their future purchases according the updated medical advice.
At last, kindly highlight your growth plans?
Our plans include what one might describe as a sort of contrarian approach, since, although fully aware of and on board with tech advances and their importance to the healthcare scenario, we are moving to expand our “non-tech” presence by opening physical “brick-and-mortar” with franchisees. We think the local, traditional walk-in pharmacy can continue to play an important role in the local neighborhoods, and even these “good old-fashioned” stores can be completely up-to-date, aided by new tech inventory management and mayeven offer online video consultations.
Likewise, with the rising trend toward implementation of Artificial Intelligence, we are taking great care to be sure that our customer service and patient outreach touchpoints continue to maintain the empathetic quality necessary to provide holistically effective healthcare.
The future plans of the company include creating partnerships with other pharma/nutritional companies and using data analytics to enable the targeting of specific patient groups. Netmeds.com currently has 14 fulfilment centres operational across Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Noida, Lucknow, Raipur and Guwahati and will operationalise 12 more to ensure efficient and quicker deliveries pan-India by 2020.
Netmeds.com acquired online video consultation app JustDocwas launched in September 2018, venturing into healthcare services, diagnostics and consultation.In March 2019, Netmedsalso acquired health tech startup,KiViHealth̶a clinic management platform providing cloud based, AI powered tools for effective doctor-patient interaction.With these acquisitions, Netmeds.com continues the transformation into a complete healthcare product and service company.