Every pharmacy store, whether offline or online, realises this indisputable maxim when they are delivering medicines to their customers.
People may have different reasons to love e-commerce in the sector, but the point is that they do. In 2016, the Consumer Online Foundation commissioned a survey where 61% people preferred buying their medicines online.
The (Convenient) Last Mile
A home-delivery for medicines is obviously more convenient for patients. They don’t have to go hopping from one drug store to another. Offline pharmacies are notorious for fulfilling only ~60% of the orders and patients end up visiting 2 or 3 stores at a minimum before they have the medicines they need.
On the other hand, people living in non-metro towns and villages in India look forward to e-commerce as a viable access to primary healthcare as well as medicines. E-commerce can bring legitimate brands closer to people and help them avoid falling prey to the fake-drug industry that globally kills 1 Million people, every year.
The (Regulated) Last Mile
The current laws in India do not exactly incentivise a pharmacy to deliver medicines. Only licensed pharmacies can sell medicines in India. A registered pharmacist should supervise sales and ensure that medicines are sold only against prescriptions.
E-pharmacies, like 1Mg and Netmeds, do not hold inventory on their own but work on the license of partner vendors. They typically collect prescriptions from customers and pass it on to registered pharmacists for verification, before confirming the sale. At the time of delivery, the customer needs to show a copy of the prescription before the courier hands over the medicines.
The (Complex) Last Mile
Validating patients and their prescriptions is necessary, both at the time the pharmacy sells the medicine as well as at the time of delivery. Such stringent checks add to the complexity of navigating the last mile when delivering medicines.
Secondly, majority of consumers buy medicines through offline pharmacy stores. Such stores are not exactly known for using technology. This means that pharmacies have no way to track and trace medicines that they are selling. In case a drug company wants to recall a particular batch of medicines, there is no way a pharmacy can help the company find customers using that particular batch.
Another important topic, related to delivering medicines, is often left out of conversations. Medicines need to be kept under temperature controlled conditions. Packages, on the other hand, travel exposed to a wide variety of weather conditions. They might bake in hard sun, or lie unattended in the warehouse or customer’s doorstep for hours or days at a time. This means that medicines face a non-trivial temperature risk during deliveries.
The (Solutions at the) Last Mile
At Shadowfax, we believe that a sophisticated technology platform can solve the major last mile delivery problems that businesses face in India.
For example, the delivery person can verify prescriptions using nothing but a mobile application. Image and location features allow delivery personnel to verify customer’s prescriptions at the time of delivery. Documents like prescriptions and medical reports can also be delivered from doctors to patients or vice versa.
To ensure safe deliveries, mobile apps can track deliveries from the pharmacy to right before it reaches the customer. This data is useful at the time of review as well as to evaluate performance of the delivery partners.
To mitigate the temperature risks that medicines face, shippers can provide a lightweight heat barrier which includes corrugated boxes, envelopes or even temperature stabilizers like gel packs.
Shadowfax is India’s largest crowdsourced delivery platform with presence in 150+ cities across India and 10000+ daily active delivery personnel. Shadowfax has worked with offline pharmacy stores like Fortis and online marketplaces like 1Mg to track orders, monitor OTD and optimise route algorithms. The latest logistics 2.0 update makes it possible for both retailers and customers to have a transparent view of the supply chain and make changes seamlessly. Read all about it here.