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We have been agile in responding to changing needs of our merchant partners and will continue to do so’

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Pine Labs is a leading merchant commerce platform. Kush Mehra, Chief Business Officer, Pine Labs talks about its recent launch, ePOS, a mobile app application. He informs about its capabilities to enable value-added services with improved efficiency and how effective it has been during the nationwide lockdown, to Usha Sharma

Give us a brief update about the company’s journey so far?
Pine Labs was founded more than 20 years ago and is today one of Asia’s leading merchant commerce platforms. The company was founded by engineering a large-scale solution in the form of card-based payment, and loyalty programme for the retail petroleum industry. With the advancement in technology, the changing needs of our merchant community and the shift in consumer preference for digital payments, there have been several strategic pivots ever since. Over the years, we pioneered the smart, cloud-based, unified point-of-sale (POS) platform. The company has redefined the payments technology and fintech space while contributing to the creation of a global digital economy. Today, Pine Labs has more than 1,50,000 merchants in 3,700 cities and over 4,50,000 touchpoints. We led an industry-first initiative of providing EMI on debit cards from the PoS and helped our merchant partners boost sales by offering the convenience of affordability.

How are you helping the Indian pharmacy sector with your smart integrated technology for hub management? Share a few examples
India’s offline retail pharmacy sector faces stiff competition from e-pharmacy players who are delivering a better shopping experience by making the most of new and emerging technologies. From large pharmacies to neighbourhood mom and pop stores, today’s customers are looking for a hassle-free payment transaction experience. According to data revealed by the RBI, digital payments have grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 61 per cent over the past three years in terms of volume. Today, one in every 10 adults in India uses some form of mobile payments on a regular basis. Pine Labs provides seamless payments solutions to merchants which helps them accept several forms of digital payments including cards, wallets, UPI and QR code. Pine Labs helps in automating these business processes through its Android-based multi-utility point of sale (POS) machine, Plutus Smart. The Android operating system of Pine Labs provides merchants with the option of integrating value-added services and third-party billing apps for improved efficiency. Through Pine Labs PoS, a merchant is also able to manage below-highlighted activities:
Inventory management: The device will notify the merchant if a product is about to go out of stock removing the hassle of checking for each and everything manually.
Accounting: From recording every purchase and sale, the system also generates invoices adhering to GST compliances removing merchant’s worry to go into the nitty-gritty.
CRM/ Loyalty: A merchant on the same PoS can also have a consumer feedback system. The system also maintains, and track consumers buying behaviour and helps generate insights in order to serve them better.

Share a brief on ePOS that you launched recently. How beneficial and cost-effective is it for pharmacists, especially those at the local level?
At a time when businesses were disrupted due to COVID-19, we launched ePOS by Pine Labs within the first week of the national lockdown 1.0. ePOS is a mobile app, which merchants can convert their Android smartphone into a payment acceptance device. The application is currently available on Google Play Store and can enable contactless payments through various methods including cards, Bharat QR, UPI, digital wallets, etc. All a merchant needs to do is to download the application and register himself to start accepting payments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made customers explore the contactless mode of payments and the arrival of ePOS has truly been an innovative solution to help do just that. Using the ePOS app, link to pay can be generated and sent to customers for payments.

Tell us about the current industry trends in the pharma sector. How are these going to play out in the future?
India’s pharma and healthcare sector is among few of the most regulated industries and in recent times, the sector is witnessing rapid growth. With it coming under essential services during the pandemic, there was no major disruption in the operations of this sector except a steep drop in OPD count in hospitals. During the pandemic, consumer behaviour has also seen a major shift towards contactless experiences. E-pharmacies are seeing a rise in demand and neighbourhood pharmacies are revamping their effort to onboard integrated solutions that can automate last-mile processes seamlessly and provide contactless human-centric experiences. The stores-of-the-future are going to be as good as e-commerce platform enabling hyperlocal deliveries, omnichannel presence, seamless distance payment mechanism, buy now-pay later options and touch-free checkouts.

And if we talk about purchase patterns, our own data analysis reveals that the sector is witnessing bulk buying behaviour as consumers avoid multiple store visits. The ticket size in June was 14 per cent higher as compared with pre-COVID levels.

What are your plans for the Indian pharmacy sector and how are you strategising to take them forward?
Our aim is to provide pharmacy owners with holistic offering to help their business tide through the changing times. We have opened our ePOS APIs to developers so that they can build innovative solutions without having to worry about regulatory compliance or security features which are already built-in ePOS.

We had also opened our in-store Android application program interface (APIs) to developers in July 2019. This democratisation of technology has already yielded rich dividends. One such example is the GoBill mobile app, a product from GOFRUGAL, which has helped 30,000 businesses to transform digitally across 60+ countries. Being used by merchants across restaurant, lifestyle, pharmacy and hospitals, they have streamlined the entire payments for faster checkouts, better inventory and return management. Another example is Perpule, the end-to-end billing solution that helps merchants generate digital invoices, manage inventory and get insights on in-store analytics for merchants to attract new customers and retain their loyal customers At Pine Labs, we have always been agile in responding to the changing needs of our merchant partners and will continue to do so in the future as well.

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