August witnessed a battle for online pharmacy. On August 15, Reliance acquired Netmeds through its retail arm. Netmeds is one of the largest e-pharmacies in the Indian online space. Two days earlier, it was Amazon that triggered a war for online pharma business by storming into the turf..
Then, Medlife merged with PharmEasy which in-turn will merge with its distribution arm Ascent Health. This will create one of the strongest standalone e-pharmacy companies in India.
Market sources say Flipkart may buy or make a deal with PharmEasy. That will make the battlelines complete — Amazon, Flipkart, Reliance on one side and 1mg and Apollo Pharmacy on the other. It is to be noted that the former group is backed by their massive e-commerce experience and infrastructure.
All this came about after Covid spurred changes in the rules of the game. In came regulatory changes. Last week, India announced its new National Digital Health Mission, which has e-pharmacy integrated into it. All the regulatory wrinkles have now been ironed out.
In the last five years, India’s e-pharmacies managed to convert a tiny under 2% of the under $19 billion market into a buzzing business.
Domestic pharma market in India is splintered. Thousands of manufacturers supply to over 8 lakh pharmacies across India. So will there be another battle between online and offline business? Offline pharmacies too have started matching discounts, thus targeting a large consumer base in rural India.