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We aim to have over 2.5 lakh chemist shops computerised

Technology intervention in the Indian pharma supply chain would enable reduction of mismanagement in inventory and weed out counterfeits from the system, informs Sudhir Singh, Managing Director, Marg ERP to Akanki Sharma

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Why is supply chain management a challenge for the Indian pharma industry? Where does India stand in terms of supply chain when compared to other countries?

Compared to developed countries, supply chain of pharma industry in India is fragmented, and suffers loosely managed inventory threats. A country of our size requires a lot of inclusive pharma distribution which is largely being done via supply chain. We need a large and efficient tech-enabled supply chain to serve the country’s need. Currently, the country has approximately more than two lakh distributors including wholesalers, traders and C&F agents, and approximately over nine lakh retail points. If we talk about the distributors, they are appropriate in number but the retail side of the trade penetrates deeper. It increases every year by 20 per cent.

Some experts argue that Indian pharma industry is over-regulated, but being regulated adds up to the products’ structured distribution, which, compared to many countries, is far ahead in reach, depth and quality. Nevertheless, there are gaps which need to be bridged before we can actually call the supply chain all-inclusive and secure. We do have possibilities of digitalisation (the digitalisation in the supply chain management through distributors to retailers to customers) that will make it more robust and effective. Currently, there are 70 per cent of pharmacists who still need to digitise their business. Technology intervention in the Indian pharma supply chain would enable reduction of mismanagement in inventory and weed out counterfeits from the system.

What software do you have for catering to the Indian pharma industry? How many pharma companies do you offer your solutions to? Kindly name some of these.

We have a total user base of one million out of which 5.5 lakhs comes from the pharma trade. Our customer base is small size businesses that are large in number and are spread across the country. You can say a shop near your house is our customer using Marg Software.

We have a complete line up to cater, right from manufacturing till the last-mile retail connectivity. The focus, however, remains to be supply chain comprising two lakh distributors and suppliers. We have solutions available for pharma industry, such as salesman and retailer ordering platform, pharma next medicine directory, DMSxpert web-based reporting system, etc. Marg ERP is our flagship product that we offer to supply chain having capability to configure it to manage dynamics of the supply chain.

What was the need to come up with Marg ERP?

We started Marg ERP to energise the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as growth engines of the country. Seeing the low level of technology penetration, we wanted to cater to the underserved businesses which were not able to compete in the dynamic market due to lack of technology. Our goal is to provide feature-rich and AI-backed products at the most affordable prices.

By disrupting future technologies like big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable maximum automation, better information for quick decision-making and accelerate operational efficiency, the company is successfully simplifying inventory management, accounting, payments, GST compliance, sales, marketing, HR and other basic yet complex needs of the last-mile MSMEs in India and in other geographies.

How can material, capacities, manufacturing times and manufacturing yield fall in line with the deliveries by using the solutions provided by you?

We have got a comprehensive enterprise management solution which is designed to manage the complex procedures of enterprises in the simplest manner. While designing and developing our solutions, we keep the user situation and mindset at the centre. The solutions incorporate management of each complex element and process in a user-friendly interface to suit the most basic level user.

Material, capacities, manufacturing times and manufacturing yield need to fall in line with deliveries like clockwork for any organisation to successfully deliver efficiently. In regards to material management and dispatch, our systems intelligently integrate the various manufacturing functions and create ease in managing as well as effectiveness in it.

What helps you to manage your working capital and funds?

Being into the domain of inventory and account management solutions, our capital information has become handy. We are a manpower resources-centric organisation rather than capital-centric one. There needs to be significant stress on maintaining liquidity and operational efficiency for a business to flourish. We stay true to our practice of clearing dues in time and maintain a good receivable process. Our financial needs are taken care of by internal accruals only.

Do you face any challenges in bringing your solutions to the market? If yes, how do you overcome those?

Being active in over 700 districts across the country with more than 10,000 field force provides scale to the organisation. These strengths enable ease and effectiveness while getting any solution to the market. We have managed to build a powerful communication and updating system. In one hour, we can float a new solution and update the market across the country. The challenge has not been to be able to deliver the solution for the market but to create a shift in the mindset of businesses towards investment into technology solutions as part of their growth strategies. Engagement Based Services has been our strength; we have given door-to-door services and taught a customer from how to turn on a computer to how to use the software. Handholding is what we call it.

Any new product in the pipeline?

We do have plans to launch ‘New Marg’ which will focus on pharma retail and cater to their specific requirements. We aim to have 2.5 lakh plus chemist shops computerised in next 18-24 months.

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