This SaaS startup is playing a key role in changing the pharma industry landscape in India
Most of us have experienced the difficulty of finding the prescribed medicines in pharmacies. According to KPMG, there are 8.5 lakh pharmacies, 70,000 distributors, 25,000 healthcare marketing companies with over 300,000 brands in the country, and despite this, the conundrum persists.
While there are thousands of medicine brands, patients also do not know which brand or the exact formulation available in nearby pharmacies. There is also the challenge of counterfeit drugs, outdated medicines, and out of stock issues. To solve this problem, Bhavik Kumar started Medibox in 2016.
The Bengaluru-based startup helps buyers and sellers of pharmaceutical products by providing them information about the availability of medicines and other healthcare products in real-time, enables transactions, picks-up medicines from various manufacturers and distributors, and then supplies it to pharmacies. The startup also provides information about status updates on supplies and helps track supplies through mobile and web-applications.
“Pharmaceutical and healthcare product companies use Medibox to discover each other, buy and sell authentic products, and obtain insights to grow their respective network and make medicines available,” says the 38-year-old founder.
In the current scenario, the startup has been helping brands and pharmacies avoid stock-outs. Medibox team believes that every patient, regardless of the ailment, needs to find the medicine, and cannot be left in the lurch because of the global pandemic.
Around 2009, Bhavik quit his banking job and started working for a pharma company. During one of his business trips in 2012, he met hospital clients in Vijayawada, Guntur, and a few other cities and towns in Andhra Pradesh. He encountered the harsh realities of the healthcare system, where there was a dearth of medicines for patients, and lack of awareness on the availability and affordability of those medicines.
After having worked with contract manufacturers, hospitals, and distributors across India for around four years, Bhavik had established a network where he knew that such requisite medicines and healthcare products were available in specific pockets or areas in different parts of India.
So, in 2012, he decided to quit his job and applied at a couple of Ivy League Universities. He did a leadership and general management programme at MIT Sloan, Boston, where he specialised in supply chain management in pharma. Bhavik also did Master’s in Commerce, PGD in Marketing and Advertising and International Business Diploma from Australia.
After returning to India, Bhavik started Medibox immediately. Bhavik says, right from the beginning, his goal was to launch a B2B technology startup in India that envisioned a society where nobody was deprived of medicines.
How it works?
Medibox is a B2B marketplace for medicines, which has three verticals.
On one side, it helps stakeholders in reducing costs of doing business, thereby positively impacting their bottom line, and on the other side it improves business outcomes, increasing their topline.
For brand owners and suppliers, it provides an e-marketing module with features such as campaigns, promotions, collaborative tools, etc. It also provides market penetration, reach, and reduces time-to-market.
Its e-distribution module helps distributors to increase their reach (offline/online) by giving them access to retailers’ network. The startup also helps them connect to big enterprise houses like group purchasing organisations and hospitals. This helps them sell their products (in real-time) using order management and delivery features of Medibox.
For buyers, Medibox takes up the responsibility of real time procurement and fulfilment of all pharma, healthcare, and allied products on behalf of retailers and enterprise clients, irrespective of the number of SKUs.
First pay cheque
Bhavik recalls about the dengue outbreak in India in 2015, and a pharma company came up with a medicine to improve health outcomes of patients. Generally, for any pharma marketing company, it takes 60-90 days to tap retailers in a city like Bengaluru.
Bhavik says, while Medibox was still in its stealth mode, it proposed its technology platform to the client that enabled them to search, locate, and communicate with pharmacies across Bengaluru using its e-marketing feature. This created awareness and information about the availability of the medicine with various distributors across the city.
“The pharma and healthcare industry across the world is probably one of the slowest moving industry. The fragmented nature of the industry and addressing it with a tech platform has been challenging. Apart from this, every startup goes through validating its status-quo, hiring the right talent, and ensuring adoption at a faster pace. While traditional and old business houses have been around, the awareness on digitisation has been low. Making an industry to use tech platform is extremely challenging, but then it also creates opportunities,” says Bhavik.
Since its commercial inception in August 2016, Medibox has grown by leaps and bounds. At present, the startup claims to be working with over 250,000 retailers and hospitals, and 45,000 suppliers that includes dealers, distributors, stockists, CSA, etc., and 175,000 SKUs.
Revenue and business model
The bootstrapped company’s business model revolves around ‘retail’ and ‘enterprise clients’. While Bhavik refused to disclose revenue details of the company, Medibox’s revenues are derived out of transaction from enterprise clients.
“The core of our technology is built in-house using latest open source tools across the different application layers from the UI down to the database. We have a strong internal tech team (about 20) at all levels to power the platform end-to-end. The framework uses micro-services-based architecture with easy to use restful APIs for any external integrations," says Bhavik.
In some cases, it has also integrated with a few third-party software providers. This enables faster GTM for their campaigns, videos, and images, and helps it focus on its core areas.
According to the founder, the startup has integrated with payment gateways and bank’s nodal accounts for ease of payments and credit.
According to IBEF, the pharma retail industry in India is pegged at $5 billion, with very little penetration of technology other than UPI.
Medibox, which is looking to become the bridge between manufacturers and retailers,competes with CRM companies like GoFrugal and Zoho, but its niche focus is pharma retail.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)