Supply Chain for e-pharmacy
by K. S. Raghu, Associate Vice President – ECom Operations
The domestic e-pharmacy market is poised to touch Rs 25,000 crore by 2022, at a robust CAGR of 63%, buoyed by an increased access of medicines to a majority of under-served population, long term drug compliance for chronic conditions, and rising internet penetration. Online sale of medicines, now at Rs 3,500 crore, could account for 15-20% of total pharma sales over the next 10 years — due to multiple factors including ‘Digital India’, e-healthcare initiatives, increasing health insurance etc.
In India, there are four to five players who have emerged in e-pharmacy, i.e., online sales of pharma products. Retail pharmacy is highly fragmented with over eight lakh chemists across India and is facing many challenges including poor inventory management. Therefore, there is a large opportunity in addressing the unmet needs.
eCommerce is seeing a lot of traction due to decreased operations costs based on greater efficiencies in back-end and improved inventory management while improving customer service. Customers on the other hand, want cost savings, availability, information and customer service from on-line pharmacies.
ProConnect is fully equipped to handle end-to-end supply chain services for e-pharmacy players, with services tailored to different product types. A few of the most essential requirements are stringent inventory management process, inventory visibility, customizing storage and processes for different products and categories, track and traceability, and all this should be enabled by scalable and secure technology services.
These requirements are taken care of by ensuring storage as per each manufacturers’ recommendation while monitoring the temperatures and humidity. At the time of dispatch, thorough quality checks must be done looking at expiry dates, damage in storage, and ensuring that packaging is done appropriately. A good Warehouse Management System helps ensuring most compliance. ProConnect does Barcoding of strips to ensure inventory accuracy and right product picking thereby avoiding wrong dispatch to the customer.
The last mile delivery has its own challenges and needs special handling and regulatory compliances. The windows for delivery also change as per product lines. For example, an essential drug order placed during late morning hours may need a four-hour delivery guarantee, while less urgent or critical medicines could be supplied within a two-day window. ProConnect has stringent processes during dispatch. Traceability of incorrect dispatch is done by way of video footage to avoid wrong claims etc. Also, ProConnect has a process of doing multiple last mile pick-ups to ensure faster delivery to customers.
Though the healthcare sector has been late entrants in the online space, but it is at a good time since consumers have already felt the benefits of online purchases. 3PL service providers like ProConnect have the required expertise partner with e-pharmacies and online pharma marketplaces for all their supply chain requirements.