May 12, 2021

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Online pharmacy companies are seeing a massive surge in orders in the second wave

Driven by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s online pharmacy sector is once again seeing an increase in orders for medical devices, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), health supplements, and commonly available medicines.

The large number of cases in cities along with regional closures, particularly in large metro areas, have prompted consumers to order online rather than visit pharmacies and offline diagnostic centers.

This increases sales of 25-65% for online pharmacies, according to company executives and industry experts.

At 1mg, among the country’s top three online pharmacies, drugs like Fabiflu and Doxzee – said to treat mild cases of Covid-19 – saw sales increase 40-50 times in April, compared to March.

The company said that sales would have increased had it not been for the supply restrictions of such drugs.

It said demand for Covid-19-related products on its platform was 5-fold in April compared to the previous month.

“At present, there is an almost unlimited need for consumers, and we are actively investing in ensuring that supply chains meet that demand,” said Prashant Tandon, Co-founder and CEO of 1mg. “Consumers are very concerned about exposure because they are getting lab tests and drugs.”

Experts said the growing demand for Covid-19-related products – such as pulse oximeters, PPE kits, oxygen boxes, masks, and nutritional supplements like Zincovit and Limcee – are standardized across all online pharmaceutical drug companies.

They added that sales also got a boost from the retail FMCG products.

Pharmacy chain Omnichannel Wellness Forever said orders were up 25% as the second wave began. She added that there has been a slight increase in sales of consumer goods products and medical devices such as oximeters and thermometers as well as medicines.

Gulshan Bhaktiani, co-founder, Wellness Forever Medicare, who finished the year ending March 31 with revenue of Rs 900 crore, said a 25% jump year on year.

According to industry trackers, sector growth is on top of an already strong revenue increase of around 35% last year.

The threefold expansion in the number of users ordering drugs online in the past year means that the sector will experience robust growth this year as well.

“I think growth will slow because the base is much bigger now.” Anchor Pahua, partner and national leader of the e-commerce and consumer internet sector at EY India, said, “We might not see 40-45% growth this year, but it will still be high given the increased digital adoption.

“Even in the offline market, players make a discount, so that’s not where the game is anymore. Demand is increasing online as experience and convenience are becoming more apparent to consumers,” Bahua said.

EY estimates that India’s online pharmacy sector will grow to around $ 2.7 billion by 2023, from $ 360 million in 2019.

The second wave is preparing the industry for another year of strong growth, a company executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The April increase in orders across the industry ranges between 30-50%.

Demand for Covid-related drugs and devices has also risen offline, due to the surge in cases. “It’s a painful situation.” The person added that consumers are exploring all the avenues they have to stock up on essential medicines.

Aside from reaping the benefits of increased demand, online pharmacies and digital health companies are also looking to join the massive vaccination campaign in India.

Last week, Pharmeasy backed by Prosus, India’s leading online pharmacy company, said it would look to vaccinate 30 million people, working with businesses, Social Welfare Associations (RWAs) and healthcare providers. She wants to be the biggest private player in India’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

A person familiar with the matter told ET that the Pharmeasy consumer-facing online retailer reported sales of Rs 140 crore in March 2021, from around Rs 100 crore in the same month last year, a 40% year over year increase in GMV.

Healthcare booking platform Prakto said it is looking to vaccinate 10 million people, largely by catering to businesses. 500 companies employing 1 million people have already shown an interest, she added, adding that she is looking forward to working with around 1,000 companies in the first round of her vaccination program.