Hyderabad-based online pharmacy and e-health startup MetroMedi aims to be a unified healthcare platform

The Hyderabad-based startup is operational across six other cities, fulfilling over 100,000 orders since its inception in 2018. MetroMedi recently raised a seed round of $1.5 million.

Online healthcare in India is a domain that renders even the most established ecommerce players cautious. Not only does this area pose the usual logistical challenges but it also comes with its own set of industry-specific challenges, like a tricky regulatory environment, inefficient supply chains, difficulties in prescription management, and a lack of proper understanding of end users. Dilip C Byra founded his startup, MetroMedi, with a mission to address some of the problems plaguing this coming-of-age industry. 

Founded in March 2018, MetroMedi is an online pharmacy and e-health store that fulfills healthcare needs like medicines, health foods, health check-ups, medical equipment, and other health products. The way MetroMedi works is simple: patients share their prescription with MetroMedi’s trained healthcare assistants through WhatsApp, call, or email, and the MetroMedi staff delivers the medication to them on a recurring cycle. 

Maruthi Medisetti, who joined MetroMedi in early 2019 as a Co-founder and CEO, says,

“MetroMedi is offering more than just medicine delivery. It is a platform that helps patients automatically refill their prescriptions, recommends health foods, and educates users with health tips.” 

Maruthi Medisetti, Co-founder and CEO, MetroMedi

The Hyderabad-based startup is operational across six other cities - Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur, Rajahmundry, Kakinada, and Bengaluru

“We have built strong partnerships with distributors across these geographies and work directly with them to secure supplies at lower costs. We then undercut the pricing of over-the-top counters, providing medicines to customers at an affordable price,” Maruthi adds. 

But this has not come without some resistance, with the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) holding protests in late 2018 against the Central government’s draft proposal to formalise online sale of drugs.

This furore came as a reaction to online pharmacies providing lower prices (up to 10-20 percent) than traditional pharmacies, as they could save on a lot on overheads like real estate and intermediaries.

But, despite the backlash, startups like MetroMedi are seeing increased adoption in the country. So far, the Hyderabad startup has fulfilled over 100,000 orders with a 99 percent prescription fill rate.

A unified healthcare platform

MetroMedi has developed a personal health assistant programme, where a trained health professional is assigned for every thousand customers to understand and support their healthcare needs. 

“Our team of healthcare assistants are trained on health products we offer and also core values such as empathy, customer obsession, and getting things done,” Maruthi tells YourStory.

With its mission to become a unified health platform, MetroMedi also started offering diagnostics by partnering with SRL Diagnostics and DoctorC. 

Maruthi says, "Currently, brick-and-mortar pharmacies are fulfilling only 60 percent of the orders, and there are 20 percent counterfeit medicines in the Indian market. MetroMedi is delivering genuine medicines and solving the unavailability problem."  

The dream team

Dilip C Byra is a serial entrepreneur who resigned from civil services at the Ministry of Defence to pursue his passion of creating employment and creating an impact in the society. He founded Vensoft India Pvt Ltd in 1998, which is into development, consulting, and content writing. 

During his entrepreneurial journey, he realised the need for quality healthcare, and established Value Pharma Retail in 2010. In 2018, noticing the increased internet penetration thanks to Jio and affordable smartphones, Dilip started MetroMedi.

Maruthi joined him in early 2019 and together they started working on growth and expansion. Maruthi comes with strong experience from working for tech startups in the ecommerce and education space. 

“Dilip and I met seven years ago and we have been brainstorming on building a health foods business. After trying a couple of concepts and shelving them we finally took the leap with MetroMedi to work on healthcare,” says Maruthi.

Today, MetroMedi has a total team size of 120 employees. 

MetroMedi’s current target market is the population of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka

“We want to focus on delivering the best service in these three states through vernacular language-trained healthcare assistants. We use our blog and social media to educate consumers about chronic illness management and a healthy way of living,” Maruthi explains, adding that they are looking to create a unicorn with MetroMedi.

In October 2019, the startup announced that it raised $1.5 million in seed round from HNI TK GP Rao, who is also the Founder of the TMT Group of industries. The firm is also in advanced talks with a few funds to raise its Series A funding.

“Once we hit a point and figured out a profitable business model, we raised a seed round to double down on growth efforts. The growth in the last 12 months has been very promising and has opened up more opportunities. We are exploring new channels and cities to serve more consumers,” Maruthi says.

The present outlook and future

Manikanta Byra, COO of Metromedi, says that MetroMedi fulfills nearly 800 orders a day, acquires customers at 75 percent less cost than its competitors, has 60 percent monthly repeat customers, and is growing at 20 percent month-on-month. “We are able to deliver orders in 24-48 hours because of our strong partnerships with distributors,” he adds. 

Going forward, the startup is gearing up to serve one million orders in the next 18 months. It is also looking to build its first omni-channel health store business focused on Tier-II and Tier-III cities. 

“The idea is to use these health stores to develop customer loyalty, educate customers, and deliver more healthcare services like health checkups, etc. We are partnering with many channel partners, opening new offline stores, and expanding to 20 new cities over the course of 12 months,” Maruthi says.

According to Google trends 2018, India is searching for ‘online medicine apps’ more than any other country. The Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach $280 billion by 2020, reports IBEF. It is estimated that by 2025, e-pharmacy in India may grow up to 30-35 percent of the total size. And startups like MetroMedi are bringing in much needed efficiencies into the traditional pharmacy space. 

Other well-funded players operating in the space are Practo, 1MG, NetMeds, and Pharmeasy, among others.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)


Updates from around the world