The future of online pharmacies in India

With the advancement in technology, there’s literally nothing that you can’t find on your fingertips. From clothes to books to now even groceries, everything is available online.

Online pharmacies in India - map of India and drawings of medicationsBut now, we are also considering medicines delivery at our doorstep. Well, medicines are not similar to books, groceries, and furniture. They need more regulations and unfortunately, have called for more controversies than before. It has been over a year for online pharmacies, but still, the road ahead doesn’t seem as smooth as expected. For instance, apart from medicines, the products, and services that are sold online see more innovation, because there are a number of sellers or entrants on those niches. But with medicines, due to fewer entrants, innovation has also taken a hit.

Having said that, the real problem lies in the fact that no different rules and regulations can exist for two different channels of medicines. That is online platforms and offline pharmacies. This is because one cannot have an undue advantage over the other and others cannot bear an overdue compliance.

Let’s first take a look at what we expect from our e-Pharmacy industry followed by the current situation:

Not-so-strict government regulations

Rather than young entrepreneurs and startups being burdened with licenses and compliances, we expect the government to encourage these digital platforms with an easy kick-start. Digital platforms will prove to be greater in providing transparency and visibility than the brick-and-mortar stores.

So, that should not be a problem for the regulators as they will be able to have a better eye-of-control. However, what is needed is more encouragement from the government for increased participation which will, in turn, lead to better innovation and creativity.

Medications for sale on the InternetDigital platforms to the rescue

When the discussion is about visibility, transparency, monitoring, and control by regulators, nothing can be better than digital platforms as everything happens in front of your eye. So, it would be practical if we expect increased usage of these platforms. In order to improve healthcare delivery for patients across the country, we definitely need to push the usage of technology, just to improve the current standards of the healthcare industry in India.

This section discussing ‘what to expect’ is only the ideal scenario. This is the expectation of the mass at large however the reality is a bit different. Things aren’t really in a great place right now. Below, I have mentioned the current scenario of our country’s healthcare industry and most of it happening due to a delay in finalizing policy:

Not enough Investments

Irrespective of the type of business, investments are a key to growth. If the current infrastructure scene needs to improve, there needs to be a sense of clarity, or else, entrepreneurs will be discouraged and thus there will be no inflow of Investments. Now, when the pharma sector is expected to be over $35 million by 2023, we certainly expect some improvement in the investments. Currently, when at Fintech, 100 startups got funded, out of which, only 25 were in the healthcare space. This was despite the fact that Fintech was much more complex in terms of execution and regulation.

No Innovation

To improve patient experience, as I said earlier, innovation is the key. But online pharmacies are majorly struggling to bring in new features into the industry. While the number one reason is the lack of entrants, the second is the complicated governmental requirements. This is why, even if innovation exists, it will develop at a much slower pace than any other industry. So, to establish better outcomes, one needs better standards of innovation.

But here is the thing, no matter how many problems online pharmacies are facing, going digital is the only way India can move forward to form a better and flourishing India. That’s the reason organizations like PharmEasy, Practo, DocsApp are very popular these days.

I primarily believe that the internet certainly proposes a clear opportunity, if only we know how to capitalize on it. For young entrepreneurs, entering for the first time, my personal advice for them is: your end goal should be to make quality and affordable medicines, which at the same time are accessible to all. There might be a lot of mismatches and lack of clarity existing as of now, but with time, the way is only upwards. The idea is to keep moving towards your desired goal.

After all, there’s no India without healthy India!

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Interesting related article: “Making it in the pharmacy business.”