Anything that Reliance does, we can also do seems to be the motto of Amazon India. Even as there is a talk that Reliance is planning to take over the Chennai-based online pharma store NetMeds, Amazon India has launched its online prescription medicine delivery service ‘Amazon Pharmacy’ in Bengaluru. The Amazon Pharmacy service offers prescription, over-the-counter and traditional Ayurveda medication as well as basic health devices.
“As a part of our commitment to fulfill the needs of customers, we are launching Amazon Pharmacy in Bengaluru allowing customers to order prescription-based medication in addition to over-the-counter medicines, basic health devices and Ayurveda medication from certified sellers. This is particularly relevant in present times as it will help customers meet their essential needs while staying safe at home,” an Amazon spokesperson has been quoted saying in media reports.
Just as education and entertainment have moved online in the lockdown period, people have also gravitated towards online consultation, medical tests and medicine delivery. There has been a big spike in telemedicine. Several countries are trying to shift healthcare delivery on to the internet, incentivise telemedicine, encourage online medicine bookings and use chatbots to answer patient queries.
This is the second big online sector Amazon is entering this year, after having launched its food delivery service ‘Amazon Food’ in May, servicing select localities in Bengaluru.
e-pharmacies eye big growth
The Economic Times reports that the bulk of the prescription drugs on Amazon were being sold by Cloudtail, which is the largest seller on Amazon India’s marketplace. It is a joint venture between Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures and Amazon.
As we said, the e-pharma industry is seeing plenty of action. Reliance is close to stitching together a deal take over NetMeds for around $80-100 million.
The online pharmacy market is globally estimated to be a $55 billion one. But growth has been happening in fits and starts as most countries have stringent rules for selling medicines. But the lockdown has increased the demand for online medicine. In India, healthcare startups Practo, NetMeds, 1mg, PharmEasy and Medlife are under focus and have also been getting funding from big players.
In India, last year, the Health Ministry had told e-pharmacies to partner with offline retail pharmacies only to deliver drugs to consumers and not stock medicines. Many online pharmacies have been opposing the rule as it affects their margin and increases dependencies on local pharmacists.
Maybe, the emergence of big players like Amazon and Reliance who have the muscle to get policy changes may help the online pharma industry as a whole.