Express Pharma

‘We would continue to pursue the cause and case for e-commerce in pharmacies with regulators’

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Established in May 2013, BigChemist.com has its own physical store in Delhi and lately has been on an expansion mode. Recently, AIOCD had called for a national strike against online pharmacies in India, Puneet Kapoor, Director, BigChemist.com expresses his views on the issue and how it will impact his business, in an interaction with Usha Sharma

Tell us about the inception of BigChemist.com.

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Puneet Kapoor

Founded in May 2013, BigChemist.com (A3T Retails) and was conceived on the grounds of giving simple, effective solutions to people in need of online medicines in India. Today, BigChemist offers India’s largest range of genuine medicines, healthcare and lifestyle wellness products across categories and all major brands. Our journey so far has been exciting and challenging. We have had more than 3.6 lakh visitors to our site with over 10 thousand registered customers. Our focus for the last two years has been to study closely the healthcare space, understand the key pain point in supply and demand areas, study how the local pharmacies operate, their scope for profitability and revenue increase.

To our understanding, this space offers a huge opportunity with current market size of over $15 billion pharma market with double digit growth rate. We have been focused on developing our B2C platform and currently our efforts are on to develop our mobile app (expected to be launched around mid-November) and a B2B platform for supply and demand forecasting fulfilment (expected to rolled-out in the next one year across pan-India).

How many members have their stakes in the organisation and what are their roles?

BigChemist is run by a core team of highly qualified professionals with experience and strong skills in healthcare, pharmacy benefits, technology, operations and customer management. Our team of trained nutritionists, counsellors, pharmacist and product experts help customers in the most professional manner. Presently, we have five stakeholders in the company, three of us are in management, involved in day-to-day operations and expansion, while the other two mainly provide advisory and guidance to the company management from time-to-time. We partner directly with brands and their authorised channels, to ensure strict quality control and deliver 100 per cent genuine products. BigChemist has both online presence in www.bigchemist.com and a physical store in Delhi with partner stores in NCR region to service our customers.

Recently, AIOCD protested about e-commerce pharmacy in India and called for a day-long national strike. Do you think this will act as a deterrent and will have an impact on your mission and vision?

The strike, if nothing, has initiated a debate on multiple dimensions. This includes regulatory framework, industry practices and understanding of the business model which will help collaborate between the e-commerce platforms and local pharmacies.

We see this as an opportunity to outreach AIOCD and address their concerns for creating a mutually beneficial collaboration for a long-term future. We see an opportunity to convey and present how the model will not only impact their sales positively but also help their members with higher profitability and working capital engagement. The e-commerce platform and physical pharmacies together have an opportunity to further create more employment in the sector.

What are your plans if the government bans online pharmacies in India?

Our e-commerce offering covers both medicines, healthcare and lifestyle wellness products. Incase the regulation goes ahead to ban e-pharmacy, we would continue to offer healthcare and lifestyle wellness product range to consumers through our B2C platform. We would complement the healthcare and lifestyle wellness growth by expanding our current physical store presence from Delhi to other cities for prescription drugs and medicines fulfilment.

We have also collaborated with other healthcare service providers for diagnostics, consultation, nutrition, sports, AYUSH, etc. We would continue to offer these services to consumers through our web and mobile app.

As indicated, we are working on the B2B platform for the healthcare industry. The model itself offers a large revenue stream in the supply chain fulfilment.

We would continue to pursue the cause and case for e-commerce in pharmacies with regulators as we strongly feel that with the call for Digital India, affordable and quality healthcare can’t be kept out of reach of common people in a vast country like ours for long.

AIOCD claims that there will be a surge of spurious drugs if online pharmacies are allowed in India. What precautionary steps do you follow to ensure that the right medicines are delivered to genuine patients?

We operate in strict compliance to Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, Pharmacy Practice Regulations and other Acts while providing the most professional services. We do not sell any schedule X drugs, all schedule H and H1 drugs are dispensed against proper valid prescription with records being kept in digital formats for any future reference as required by the Act.

All our products are dispensed in tamper-proof packaging. Our sourcing is only through credible and authorised distributors, stockists or direct manufacturers on proper purchase invoices with product tractability details.

The claims of the strike are mostly unfounded. The chances and threats are equal or less than what persist in the current industry business model.

The technology enables better compliance and implementation of regulatory acts for patient prescription records, product batch and expiry details, product tractability. The integration of technology with commerce will impact the overall healthcare sector, increasing transparency, accountability and elimination of cost-of-poor quality processes, products and operations.

Due to product tractability, the counterfeit medicines will be reduced in the market place, impacting quality healthcare to the patients. Being electronic in nature, all purchases and sales will be through proper taxation with invoices thus enabling better tax collection and control of tax subversion across business value chain.

This initiative will support the neighbourhood and local physical pharmacies by helping them increase their revenue, reach and efficient inventory management. Eventually it is the inventory stored by them which will be used for servicing the consumers.

Structured customer feedback and rating mechanism will help weed out sub-standard performing pharmacies and products impacting quality healthcare

Presently, how large is your network across India and what are your marketing strategies for further expansion?

Currently, we have our own physical store in Delhi with partner stores in NCR. We plan to expand across India by adding partner stores in all major and smaller towns. There are plans to have one signature store owned by the company in all major cities where the customers can experience the offerings and share their feedbacks in-person. These stores will also be the hub for inventory and fulfilment.

What medicines are offered by your company? Do you plan to expand your service/ product portfolio?

We offer medicines other than schedule X and certain habit forming drugs. We are in process to collaborate with healthcare service providers for offering our customers consultation and diagnostics services through our web and mobile app.

Further, we plan to expand our portfolio to AYUSH, patient healthcare records and lifestyle condition prevention programmes. We are highly dedicated to provide quality service. We are passionate about timely delivery and ready availability of maximum range of products.

Why do you think people should opt for your services when there are so many e-commerce platforms available in the market? What benefits does your company provide?

Our customers chose us for the customer experience we offer – most of all, we listen to our customers. We devise and develop our product range and services for them rather than just be a company offering something.

Our unique loyalty programme ‘BigHeart’ offers insta rewards, offering a truly beneficial programme with maximum benefit to the customer.

The ease of ordering convenience through web and tele-call, timely and notified delivery, returns and payment options, single click reorder, tamper-proof packaging etc differentiate us from other players. We offer our customers an option to visit us at our physical signature store to experience and interact with the team and see for themselves how we work to service them.

We are in process to offer services such as consultation, diagnostics, digital patient records safe, scheduling, loved ones’ notifications as small but unique services to differentiate us and make a difference in their daily life.

Soon, these services will be extended through our mobile app as well for all their healthcare and lifestyle wellness needs and to inspire our customers to ‘Live Big’ and experience an enriched life .

Pharma companies are facing ‘price control order.’ Is it hampering your growth?

No, we offer customers product range across categories. Customers have the option of making informed choices with substitutes and brands. The growth engine comes from volumes rather than prices. It is the economy of scales which will fuel the growth in future. Also, different brands offer different margins to make up for the low margin offerings.

What is your manpower strength and do you train them periodically?

Our current manpower strength is 60. We have internal training programmes being designed to train them. We mostly train them through the on-job training model. Currently, the training is more often as we are still evolving, we expect it take some structured form as we go along and the business model matures further.

Whom do you consider as your competitor and why?

Any company which offers the product range that we offer is our competitor as the customer has the option to buy from them. It really doesn’t matter if they are e-commerce or physical store. The difference is in the quality and time bound manner in which the customer is serviced. It is the 360-degree customer experience which separates us from the others in the market place.

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