Chemists are turning entrepreneurs in 2021, and perhaps you can too. There are two reasons why you need to know how to sell medicines online in India – eCommerce and pandemic.
Online pharmacies grew rapidly in the past year and according to this ET article, it is expected to touch over $2 billion in the market by 2023. Not bad for a good business idea then!
But before you get excited and sell medicines online, you need to know what goes into this business. In this blog, we will cover –
- Types of online medical stores in India
- How to set up an online pharmacy
- Sell medicines online – 5 ways to reach the right audience
- 1 What led to the growth of online pharmacies in India?
- 2 1. Types of online medical stores in India
- 3 2. How to set up an online pharmacy and sell medicines online
- 3.1 a. Obtain a drug license and register your business
- 3.2 b. Partner with pharmacists
- 3.3 c. Find an online store provider
- 3.4 d. Find a shipping/courier service
- 3.5 3. Sell medicines online – 5 ways to reach the right audience
What led to the growth of online pharmacies in India?
There is an increase in eCommerce stores sprouting up online. Indians got wary of their health after COVID struck and began to look for online options to buy medicines. Several pharmacies switched to an online space, looking for digital solutions to continue catering to their customers who could not step out of their homes.
The introduction of e-pharmacies set in motion an entire framework that included delivery, logistics, finance, legality and compliance to cater to everyone. Big players like Amazon and Reliance have already bought a major share of online pharmacies to meet the growing demand for medicines being purchased online.
1. Types of online medical stores in India
Before you start selling medicines online, find out what kind of Pharma sector you wish to get into. There are pricing, legal, and procuring differences in each sector.
a. OTC medicine stores – pharmacies
If you are thinking of your local drug store that sells crocin, pain relievers and cold medicine, then this is a kind of online medicine store you will find/set up online. By law, Indian OTC medicines up to 70% cheaper than branded ones.
b. General medicine brands
Think Himalaya. The brand sells OTC medicines for hangover relief, pain relief, cold and also sells baby products, face wash and body care products like shampoo and soap. These medicines also include ethical or branded pharmaceutical preparations from reputed companies in India.
c. Ayurveda and Naturopathy
Over 75% of Indians still actively believe in Ayurvedic medicine. A 300 billion market, Ayurveda is one of the biggest Indian herbal medicine practice globally. They do not require any prescriptions. If you set up an Ayurvedic online medical practice, you cannot sell allopathic medicine.
2. How to set up an online pharmacy and sell medicines online
a. Obtain a drug license and register your business
Before you procure medicines to sell online, it is important for your business to obtain all the certificates, licenses and trademarks you need. This helps reassure customers of the authenticity of your brand and the medicines you sell.
To begin with, you will need a drug license from the Central Drugs Standards Control Organization and State Drugs Standard Control Organization. Both these organisations issue the following basic licenses –
- Retail Drug License: Even though you are setting up an online medicine business, you will need a retail drug license which is required to run a general pharmacy. According to legaldocs.co, The registration can be done only in the name of an individual who possesses a degree or diploma in pharmacy from a recognized institute or university.
- Manufacturing License: This license is issued to a business that manufactures drugs inclusive of allopathic/homeopathy medicines.
- Wholesale Drug License: This license applies to your business if you make and sell medicines wholesale. Unlike Retail Drug License, there are not many stringent conditions that one has to meet in order to get this license.
This article by ClearTax explains all the different documents you need to procure before you apply for a drug license. It is illegal to manufacture and sell medicines online without a valid drug license. You can take the help of legal advisors like Legalwiz.in to know all about e-compliance and legal documents you need to set up the business online.
b. Partner with pharmacists
Before you obtain a drug license, find a qualified pharmacist who can validate the medicines you are manufacturing and selling. Ensure the pharmacist carries the minimum qualification for the profession (a Diploma in Pharmacy D. Pharm or Bachelor/Masters in Pharmaceuticals). You can also partner with doctors and chemists with licenses, to help set up and sell medicines online.
Why? A certified doctor’s and chemist’s name is important to mention in the application form when you apply for a pharmacy/drug license. These chemists will be accountable for the quality and assurance of the medicines you choose to sell online.
c. Find an online store provider
Since you wish to sell medicines online, find a reliable e-commerce platform or online store provider that can guide and set it up for you. If you do not wish to immediately invest in a website, start with an online store like ours.
You can even set up a free online store for no cost and upgrade it to a premium one whenever you like. Here is an example of an online medicine store using Instamojo.
When setting up the online store, make sure to:
- Upload photos of your medicines, along with detailed descriptions of the product
- Explain in detail what your business does.
- Add testimonials and reviews from previous customers.
- Mention doctors recommendations
- Add social media handles if any
- Add your licenses icons on the homepage
- Choose from over 20+ themes and pick one that suits your store best (this is for premium store users only)
d. Find a shipping/courier service
Medicines need to reach customers on time, and NEVER late. Prescription medicines require immediate delivery. Therefore, once you set up an online store and stock up on medicines, partner with a reliable online shipping service provider.
Fortunately, if you use Instamojo, you get access to mojoXpress, our shipping service in partnership with Vamaship. If you need a shipping or courier service that guarantees immediate delivery, check out this list.
3. Sell medicines online – 5 ways to reach the right audience
Reach out to customers with surveys
Carry out a little preliminary research to find out if your customers are comfortable buying medicines online. Understand their challenges and limitations when it comes to buying medicines online. When you set up your store on Instamojo, it offers you a LIVE chat option where customers can leave their Email ID and a query. This way, you do not lose out on a potential lead (customer) and you can reach out to them via email immediately.
Offer doctor consultations on your website/store
1MG – one of the largest online pharmacies in India also offers online doctor consultations to their customers and website visitors. This improves customer engagement on your website/online store as visitors have more than one purpose besides buying medicine. Also, this way, customers can spend more time on your website and choose the right medicine, post the consultation with the doctor.
Request prescriptions when needed
Sleeping pills, psychiatry medicines need a signed prescription from a clinic/doctor. Before you approve a purchase order, ensure the customer uploads a scanned copy of the prescription before the checkout is complete. This helps you reach the right kind of customer who needs the medicine urgently and also, it will help prevent any legal/ medical malpractice problems that may come your way.
Unlike other brands, e-pharmacies should not promote their medicines as if to provoke customers to buy them. Medicines are an essential product, therefore, use your social media handles wisely to talk about safe health practices, COVID updates and raise awareness on general safety and healthy lifestyle practices. For example, Medlifecare makes use of its Instagram to provide healthcare tips and suggestions to assure its customers.
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Social media is one way to reach out to your audience, but you can also make use of email campaigns and SMSes from the Instamojo dashboard to send to your customers. Show your customers you care about their well-being and safety. Selling medicine online requires the entrepreneur in you to be as ethical as possible. Upload photos of your medical licenses on the homepage, follow up with your customers on how they are doing and ensure you keep them informed about what you are selling.