Q] Netmeds.com entered the online pharmacy segment in 2015. How has the journey been so far?
It’s been a thrilling journey building Netmeds.com from ground zero, ever since we started in 2015. It’s been five years and we are proud to call ourselves ‘Truly India Ki Pharmacy’, since we are one of the pioneers of the largest online pharmacy. We have served 90% of the pin codes across India, including the nooks and corners, and are the first ones to start pan-India operations providing greater access to medicines. It was a strategic call to reach out to people across India.
Q] Tell us about your association with brand ambassador MS Dhoni, which has got you a reported 300% to 400% uptick in brand recall… How has this move paid off for the brand?
We are very proud to be the first online brand to be concomitant with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as currently there are several dot coms that associate with him. The connection between Netmeds and Dhoni works well for the company, as he is dependable and trustworthy, leading to a great brand recall for us. Whenever we meet people, 80-90% people correlate Dhoni with Netmeds.
Q] Delivering medicines at the hour of need is the job of any pharmacy. However, online pharmacies often have a time lag, which is a disadvantage to the consumer. How do you work around that?
No business can solve every industry problem and there are pros and cons for online as well as offline pharmacies. We have at least a minimum of 50,000 SKUs, which empower users to order at any given point in time, from any place in India. We don’t serve 100% consumers, but we segment the consumers from acute to chronic and serve customers with chronic conditions. Besides, the consumer always has an option to choose either online or offline. Currently, we are the only pharmacy that mentions the date and time of delivery, even before the consumer places an order. It’s a pre-informed decision and where we also reveal the expiry date of medicines before purchase.
Q] Which properties on Google or Facebook are unavailable to online pharmacy players for advertising? What are their legal terms like currently?
When we started off, there was a complete blanket ban policy on both platforms. Even if you had the budget and wanted to market on Facebook and Google, because of its high slice of internet traffic, you were not allowed to advertise there. Currently, we are able to advertise, but with restricted opportunities since we are into the regulated space of medicine. We don’t get into the nature of any particular medicine and we cannot take anyone to any specific product page. If I run advertisements on Google and Facebook, I can only take a customer to the Netmeds homepage, unlike a Flipkart or an Amazon that can take people to a specific product page. Customers have to go to the Netmeds homepage and then find what they are looking for.
Q] So far, Netmeds has invested in TV, Digital, Print and on-ground sponsorship as well as activations for sports, with heavy spends on cricket which has worked wonderfully for you. Why then are you planning on reducing your spends on cricket?
This year we have been associated with the Pro Kabaddi League. We realized that our media spends were overloaded with cricket. However, if opportunities keep coming to us and if things work out in a great way, we will certainly make use of them. We are going to get the recall value of what we did last year and are now exploring Kabaddi, since it is the next big opportunity after the IPL in terms of its USP and appeal, and also according to the market research data we have gathered.
Q] Which are your strongest growth markets currently and what mediums are you planning on investing in the most, going forward?
The non-metro markets stand as the leading ones, while zone wise, the north-west market is at a higher growth percentage. Going forward, we will advertise more on Digital, Print and TV.
Q] What kind of growth do you anticipate for the brand, five years down the line?
There is going to be a clear-cut consolidation in the next five years, with only a maximum of three players in the game. According to reports from EY, the e-pharma market is poised to grow to $2.7 billion by 2023. Currently, the overall market size is at $18 billion, and is increasing by 7% according to the EY report. There is at least a 10% year-on-year growth happening in the overall pharmacy category.
Q] What is your biggest challenge today and how do you plan on tackling it?
The biggest challenge we face is an ongoing one of a prescription, which consumers have to produce in order to avail medicines. In our country, one can walk into any pharmacy without a prescription and still purchase their desired medicines, unlike other developed countries which have uniformity in their offline and online policies. It’s a cultural shift which will happen about five years down the line, as they will understand that the rigidity towards a valid prescription is only for their safety. Educating the consumer is the first step. We’ve made progress in helping the consumer accept the fact that if their prescription is not valid, we cannot process their order and have no immediate solution available. If a policy plays a role in standardising the prescription rules and regulations across the board, it will solve the problem.