The COVID-19 induced lockdown resulted in an unprecedented rise in e-commerce transactions across India. In line with this, e-pharma sector also witnessed growth despite regulatory challenges. Against this backdrop, e-pharma space is all set to revolutionise drug market access in the country, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Anupama Mishra, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “One of the reasons for the recent higher uptake of e-pharma can be attributed to top e-pharma players such as Netmeds and PharmEasy providing e-consultation services and offering heavy discounts to their end consumers. It is eventually expected that there will be a significant rise in their consumer base as COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate in India.”
According to GlobalData COVID-19 dashboard, as of 08 September 2020, India has 4,280,422 confirmed cases and the dashboard forecasts 99,158,507 confirmed cases in a low transmission risk scenario as on 17 September 2020.
Reportedly, Reliance Industries Limited’s (RIL) acquisition of majority stake in Netmeds in August 2020 is being viewed as a pivotal step towards the success of the e-pharma business model in India. Moreover, during the same month, Amazon Pharmacy launched a pilot model for customers in Bengaluru to order prescription-based and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines from certified sellers.
Ms Mishra adds: “E-pharma has always been a lucrative segment for investors in terms of its strong value proposition and long-term gains. However, due to lack of clarity on regulatory landscape and lower consumer awareness, the sector did not attract bigger investments.”
Notably, ease of access to medicines is vital especially for chronic patients. Hence, 60-70% of medicine order volumes were from chronic patients across most e-pharma platforms. With the second-highest number of diabetic patients in the world, India will undoubtedly witness a rise in chronic patients in the long-term.
In the near future, e-pharma sector is expected to witness market consolidation. Reportedly, one of the largest e-pharma providers, PharmEasy, is awaiting for the prospective merger with a strong rival Medlife. In addition, post the entry of Amazon Pharmacy, Walmart-owned Flipkart is gearing up for its debut in India.
Ms Mishra concludes: “E-pharma companies will offer competitive pricing and access to quality medicines even in remote places along with the ease of consultation. Therefore, bouquet of value-added services will help pull consumers towards e-pharma post COVID-19.”