The rise of online pharmacies during Lockdown

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With India undergoing a nation-wide lockdown, all online pharmacies have seen at least a two-fold rise in its medicine orders. Though PM Narendra Modi had assured the country that essentials will continue to be available during the lockdown, many online pharmacies are coming forward to do so.

When our PM announced the lockdown, Indians rushed to the grocery and medicine stores to pile up their supplies. People have stocked up crazily. This left a number of people devoid of their essential commodities including medicines. The government has confirmed that via e-commerce all basic necessities such as food, pharmaceuticals, and medicines will be supplied. However, numerous delivery firms have failed to do so.

Shortage of supplies

The CEO of Netmeds has estimated that as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for sanitary products has increased by 1400%. Even disinfectants have seen a 500% upsurge in the recent weeks alone.

PharmEasy too has witnessed more than 100% ascent in the regular medicine orders and over 200% ascent in the demand for masks and hand sanitizers.

With the demands being so high and the movement of supplies disrupted for a few days, it was becoming difficult for the online pharmacies to tackle the orders. The state borders were sealed initially but have now been opened only to allow the movement of essential services.

However, courier-based services are still not operational. If the government allows the courier companies to accept orders, the deliveries of medicines and other essential goods will become a lot easier.

Also, India’s pharmaceutical industry imports a majority of the raw products from China. Though China has resumed its operations, they are stuck in logistics issues.

Restricting Order Quantities

To solve the problem of low stocks, both Netmeds and PharmEasy have placed caps on the number of sanitizers and masks a person can order. At a time, a person can only demand 2 bottles of hand sanitizers and 1 box of masks, that contains 10 masks. Our country had never seen such a high demand for sanitizers and masks ever before.

Inventory is not the sole problem

Now that the online pharmacies have bulked up their stocks to ensure that their customers get their medicines, they are facing a shortage of manpower. The Gurugram based online delivery platform 1 mg is immediately in need of 500 people and is willing to hire another 1000 in the coming months.

Even Medlife has around 400 vacancies and is looking for staff mainly for doorstep deliveries and warehouse management. It is currently functioning with 70% of its original manpower. The company is continuously making arrangements for transportations and curfew passes so that their staff can join back.

PharmEasy confirms that presently they are able to fulfill only 60-70% of deliveries than what they used to. They too are looking at filling 1500-2000 vacant spots. They are hiring more and more people and training them to deliver maximum orders daily.

A delivery executive at online pharmacies earns between Rs 50- 60 per order. On average, they fulfill around 25 orders in a day.

The steps taken to solve the delivery issues

Medlife is currently handling around 20,000 orders daily. It has tied up with a number of non-essential services such as Uber, Yulu and Zoomcar to enable faster deliveries. It has also joined hands with other startups such as Bigbasket and MyGate. This will allow all to jointly deliver the essentials as a part of a single order to the customers located in COVID-19 hotspots.

Though the online medical deliveries are now being carried out smoothly, fears are that things may become uneasy if more hotspots are identified in the nation.

PharmEasy has collaborated with the RPG Foundation and has decided to donate 10,000 PPE kits to MyBmc. They have taken this step to express their gratitude to the health workers who are working day and night to help the nation.

The initiatives taken by all the online pharmacies are truly praiseworthy. They are risking their lives to serve us. We must contribute to this fight against the poisonous coronavirus by staying and home. Maintaining the social distancing norms is the least we can do in this challenging time.

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