[Startup Bharat] How Medikabazaar is supplying medical equipment to Tier-II cities to help fight coronavirus
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has unfolded how fragile the healthcare infrastructure is in India. It has also shed light on the fragmented and unorganised healthcare provider market in the country, which shows there is a massive gap between product suppliers and healthcare providers.
To fill this gap,was founded by Vivek Tiwari, an IIM-Calcutta alumnus, in 2015. The startup aims to enable healthcare providers and hospitals to search for the required products online, and compare specifications and prices in real-time.
It also claims to be one of the largest B2B online marketplace for medical equipment and supplies in the country, which boasts of a digital catalogue of over 4,00,000 products.
Presently the company is catering to 45000 hospitals PAN India via a direct presence in 22 cities. Apart from India, it also provides services to the Middle East, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Africa.
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, Medikabazaar has been focussed on ensuring that medical supplies reach Tier II, III, and IV cities.
“The beauty of this platform is that it is geography agnostic, and we can connect not only large towns but Tier II and Tier III towns as well. Since this pandemic is largely concentrated around 70-80 districts, we are having higher traction for COVID products from these towns only,” says Vivek.
The Medikabazaar team
Focus on Tier II and III markets
Vivek recalls the time when his grandmother was undergoing dialysis. He says, he realised the need for such a marketplace because there was lack of access to dialysis centres, and there was no adequate supplies like dialysis machines, equipment, and medicines.
He also realised that it is a bigger challenge for patients living in non-metro cities and smaller towns as it is difficult for them to travel to a bigger city frequently for such treatments.
Today, the B2B healthtech platform is present in around 20,000 pincodes, catering to hospitals in Tier II and III areas, as well as in remote locations, most of which traditional supply chains would struggle to service.
How does it work?
Whether a customer is a COVID-19 product buyer, supplier, or an expert, one can visit the website and fill in their details. The team completes the entire AIDA process through conventional marketing and digital marketing encompassing SEO, SEM, Google ads, content marketing, database marketing, and social media. Here, one can see abundant posts on this, and finally it sends write-ups to the entire data through various mediums to create concept awareness and get the target group onto the platform.
Once an individual signs up, Medikabazaar’s backend engine captures the data and starts tracking the demand-supply scenario and gaps across all towns in a real-time basis. This helps the team keep a tab on demand supply position in these volatile times, where not only demand supply predictability is a challenge, but supply chain is also a big issue.
Vivek adds that the platform has helped the team get close to ground level realities, optimise procurement, and enhanced their ability to fulfil orders efficiently and effectively, which otherwise could have been significantly disrupted.
Working along the pandemic
Vivek says, they have been closely tracking the coronavirus pandemic from the time of its outset in China and few other countries. In their initial learnings, they realised this is a highly communicable and contagious disease, and the number of infections can go up significantly in short time, thereby crippling the entire healthcare infrastructure of any country.
“We understood that the information accuracy would be extremely vital in current times where fake news gets much more traction due to the popularity of social media, where unverified information flows unhindered. To gear ourselves to efficiently manage the pandemic, we launched the COVID Combat Collaborative Platform,” adds Vivek.
The platform aims to bring the COVID-19 product buyers, suppliers, and experts on a single platform to address the huge demand-supply gap, and host relevant and reliable information related to this disease.
“The pressing need for medical equipment and supplies like ventilators, infrared thermometers, PPE Kits, masks, etc., the use of which is more widespread than before with extremely erratic demand supply patterns across the country, led us to create a one platform which enrolls both suppliers and customers of COVID-19 supplies, so we can aggregate accordingly,” says Vivek.
Working along the supply
To begin with, the team started mobilising ground forces from day one. It began by moving their stock from their headquarters in Mumbai across different hubs across India.
“Our supply team is forming the backbone of all of this, negotiating with local authorities enroute delivery. We have also transformed our 10,000+ sq. ft. HQ in Mumbai into an interim warehousing capacity,” says Vivek.
Medikabazaar works on proprietary AI and ML tools to report accurate stock projections. In this way, the team adds that this has helped them save up to 30 percent of the procurement cost.
The market and plans ahead
Currently, healthcare providers like Fortis and many others are focussed on the supply side. The projected growth in the market, which is growing at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23 percent, is expected to reach $280 billion by 2020.
Apart from this, B2B ecommerce is picking up with several players looking at different sectors likeand . However, Vivek says, Medikabazaar is focussed on Tier II and III markets. The platform works like a B2B marketplace aggregator.
In May 2019, the platform raised Rs 200 crore in Series B funding from a clutch of venture capital investors in Japan, Belgium, and Germany. The founder had then said that a significant portion of the funds would go towards further penetrating Tier III and IV cities, as well as potential acquisitions for the company.
“We believe the next wave of growth for healthcare in India would come from Tier II and Tier III towns. This is largely due to the concentration of high-end healthcare establishments in metros. With increasing purchase power in Tier II and Tier III cities, higher awareness levels due to the internet and social media, the aspiration levels in small towns are rising, and hence there are tremendous growth opportunities for the organised healthcare industry in these towns,” adds Vivek.
He says, the Medikabazaar platform has a 360-degree approach to generate demand and fulfilment in these towns. The platform has built 22 fulfilment centres and CDCs to supply medical products across India even in the remotest corner of the country.
“We intend to double this count of FCs and CDCs within a year. We are heavily focussed on creating the infrastructure to supply our entire range of catalogue with over three lakh products even in Tier II and Tier III towns within 48 to 72 hours,” says Vivek.