Chennai: Inspiration, they say, can come from anywhere. In Pankaj Gupta’s case the idiot box helped him think out-of-the-box and set up a booming business. It was the famous show Satyamev Jayate where the actor Aamir Khan and a doctor discussed generic medicines, which triggerred 31-year-old Pankaj and his wife Madhu Gupta to start an online pharmacy.
The couple were shocked to know that despite the fact that generic medicines cost 40-60 per cent less than branded drugs and have the same composition, not many doctors prescribe them and nor were many patients aware of these medicines.
Pankaj, an engineering graduate and his wife, an IT professional saw a business opportunity in this and went on to set up Mera Medicare in June 2014. The company is an online market place that enables patients to get medicines — generic and branded — and bodycare products delivered home from nearby authentic pharmacies — all at affordable prices.
Currently, the company which operates in Bengaluru and Delhi, has about 300 pharmacies registered. The whole system works on a fairly simple system. A customer can login and enter his requirements. They can simply upload a picture of the doctor’s prescription and upload it. The system figures out the closest, partnered pharmacies and notifies them about the order. They reply with the best quotations, discounts and delivery time, and the customer can choose from the list. Once the customer selects an option, the pharmacy gets a notification and it is committed to deliver the order in the mentioned timeframe.
“Busy professionals and patients with chronic disease are looking for comfort and savings when it comes to buying medicines. We are targeting these customer segments and want to provide them with medicines at their doorstep with 10 to 25 per cent discount,” said Pankaj. “Almost all the orders are delivered within 2-12 hours.”
What about the market for this business? “Indians consume medicines worth `60,000 crore every year. We are trying to bring efficiency and transparency into the system and we plan to grab 5-10 per cent market share in next few years.” The company has almost 35,000 active users currently. “We are seeing 150 per cent growth in the number of orders every month,” said Pankaj.
The company is self-funded and has a 45-member team. The initial investment of about `31 lakh has gone towards building the platform, team and marketing. It is also in talk with an US Hedge Fund Investor for a funding of $750,000 and is in process of finalising the deal. Mera also has partnered with a few healthcare organisations like the Indian Health Organisation, a health insurance organisation, AllizHealth, a preventive healthcare start-up to sell medicines.
In the next few years, Mera has aggressive expansion plans. “We would like to expand to 25 major cities in the next one year,” said Pankaj. “In the next one year, we are investing on data analytics and Big Data integration to create more values for our customers. We are also targeting to increase the number of registered pharmacies to 1,000 and the registered user base to 5,00,000,” Pankaj explained....