India: Online medicine firms face delivery challenges

Tablets of multiple vitamin and minerals supplement are arranged for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan. Photographer: Bloomberg Creative Photos/Bloomberg

As India enters shutdown mode to contain the spread of COVID-19, online medicine delivery firms such as 1MG, NetMeds and MedLife have temporarily suspended operations in many cities, after the police roughed up delivery workers, even after e-commerce were classified as an essential service.

Several delivery workers have also decided to stay back home after pressure from their families and due to fear of being manhandled by the authorities and police, industry executives and founders told Mint.

1MG, NetMeds and Medlife who occupy the top spot in medicine delivery in India said that they were also forced to cancel and delay orders that were already paid for. Delivery personnel in cities such as Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Gurugrum were also manhandled by cops even after they held valid curfew passes.

“These incidents do have a negative impact on the morale of the workforce, we have witnessed a cut of about 60% in deliveries in the last two days due to such operational hindrances, which also includes supply to our fulfilment centres. We haven’t suspended operations anywhere,” added Narayanan

On Tuesday night, India announced a three-week nation-wide lockdown as the number of COVID-19 cases crossed the 500 mark.

MedLife, which offers medicine delivery and e-consultation, said that it witnessed a 300% spike in overall orders. Orders for categories such as hand sanitizers and masks surged by 50-times while a concentrated spike was also seen in immunity boosters and Paracetamol, said Narayanan in response to Mint’s queries.

“The country has seen an unprecedented upsurge of over 1400% in sanitation products, and over 500% in disinfectants in the last two weeks alone. This has put immense pressure on the manufacturers and we are working actively to source products from different producers so we can keep up with the demand” said Pradeep Dadha, Founder and CEO of Netmeds.com in a statement.

Dadha, CEO of NetMeds said that the company has recommended online payments instead of cash on delivery to reduce the number of touch-points, and that it has also implemented an artificial intelligence-based solution to alert against bulk-buying of medicines by setting a maximum limit per order. After Prime Minister Modi’s speech on Tuesday night at 8, several city residents lined up outside Kirana stores, pharmacies, and fuel stations in India fearing that they would run short of supplies.

This article was first published on livemint.com.

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.