Philippines faced a major doctor shortage in the previous years and the growing population made the situation worst. The increasing concerns led to the advancements in the technology which may provide easy access across the country. E-Pharmacy is one such sector of Philippines health tech market that is targeting to overrule nearly all the barriers in the healthcare access. Covid-19 has been a positive driver of this sector. Most Filipinos are making a slow shift in their purchase pattern and buying medicines online. The sector fears that the consumers may go back to their traditional buying behavior but the question arises that what if the Filipinos are spoiled by the ease and comfort of E-Pharmacies.
In conversation with Mr. Naresh and Mr. Mohit Kumar, Founder and Co-Founder respectively-Getmeds– A Healthcare E- Pharmacy, we attempted to seek their opinions and understand their side of story to ‘Health Tech in Philippines’. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
Q. What are the Growth factors of Health IT Sector/ E-Pharmacy in Philippines?
Biggest reason for Health IT to boom currently is the occurrence of the Covid pandemic. If you want to understand the market in Philippines, then it can be compared to the Indian Health IT/E-Pharmacy Market situation for year 2011-12. During the lockdown many people visited our website, looked for products, posted queries and placed orders. However, majority of the consumers still want the look and feel of the product before they go for an actual purchase.
Q. During Pre-Covid scenario, most Filipinos preferred buying drugs from the near-by stores, is there a difference in the buying nature of the consumers Post-Covid?
Yes, now we are seeing more people coming on mobile apps to buy essentials and non-essential goods. Young consumers are adopting digital channels for their purchase and are one of the promising customer segments to look for in the coming years.
Q. Is there a change in the order size Post-Covid?
It was a roller coaster ride during Covid as searches were very high online, more and more number of people were looking to procure supplies online. Post lift of movement restrictions in the country, a lot of them has moved back to traditional ways but people are moving onto efficient ways to procure needed products. We are growing by 60-70% Month-On-Month in terms of revenue and traffic.
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Q. What are the challenges in Health Tech Market/ E-Pharmacy in Philippines?
Companies like MedGrocer (E-Pharmacy) started in year 2014 but still it has not been able to make a huge mark on the market, reason being the basic buying behaviour of the Filipinos.
Filipino love to spend on shopping, they also show high preference to go to the stores or shopping malls and purchase articles directly and the similar trend is seen in the Pharmacy Sector.
Another challenge is the archipelago geography. The whole country is divided into ~7,100islands. It takes an hour to reach a nearest pharmacy at some places. Therefore, few Philippine Drug stores have sitting areas outside or within the pharmacies as well.
Digital infrastructure is a big challenge as well. Payment ecosystem is very poor and transaction charges are very high. You can have an idea how poor the payment ecosystem is as you cannot do cross banking transactions by online banking.
Another major problem is that Filipinos are reluctant to use card payments, they prefer Cash on Delivery (COD), and the online transaction charge range is around 6-15% with a lot of banking limitations.
Q. Most Tele-consultancy firms are connecting to E-Pharmacies or Local Drug stores. Are you looking forward to any partnership?
Teleconsultation – A lot of big players are eyeing to this opportunity but prior integration and smooth sync up does not exist within pharmacies. We are partnering with global players and exploring more seamless integration and improved customer experience.
Q. Is the market concentrated by the Hybrid players?
As of now, Mercury leads 65% market followed by Watsons and other players. 10-15% is standalone pharmacies (Fragmented market). E-pharmacies are just picking up.
Q. Which region contributes the majority of the revenue and why?
Since 50% of the population is concentrated in Metro Manila so the majority of the orders are from this region. Approximately, 80% of revenue is generated from Metro Manila and Cebu and remaining would be from far flung areas.
Q. What is the order split depending on the product type?
Since, our model is targeting prescribed drugs more, so we have witnessed 80% of orders for the prescribed drugs, 10% for OTC and 10% for medical devices/equipment. In case of overall market, we foresee it to be,50% for Prescription drugs and 50% for the OTC & Medical devices/equipment.
Q. Getmeds operates via mobile application or web browser? What is the user preference?
Yes, we have an Android app and we are working on the iOS version as well. Very soon we will have a 360 degree solution for our users.
Q. The idea of promoting e-health in Philippines was to support access to health facility in remote areas and elderly people, is E-Pharmacy fulfilling the needs of target audience?
To some extent yes, but the delivery for the far-flung areas sometimes takes 25-26 days (When standalone retailers procure medicines from distributors in Manila) that is not very beneficial and the pharmacies that are already in these locations charge more than usual and distributors do not offer deliveries to them.
Yes, we have 40% senior citizen customer base. I would say it is easy to convey benefits to Millennial but our consumer base is growing within all age groups. Currently, entire industry is screaming about digital because transition is clearly visible.
A medicine similar to Paracetamol is Bioflu in Philippines. If Getmeds charges ‘X’ amount, then the pharmacies in the remote areas charges ‘2X’. For Getmeds, if the order size is bigger than 200 PHP then no delivery charges are applied on the order, making it more affordable to the users.
Q. What is the future of E-Pharmacy market?
The future for the Philippines market seems very bright. We assume that a big chunk of the total market will digitalise in next 2-3 years. Digital commerce is the future for sure. The emergence of bigger offline retailers in this segment will further infuse growth in this segment and various innovative business model could be witnessed in the near future.
*Note: We have defined hybrid pharmacies as the pharmacies that have both offline and online presence.
Verbatim: “Healthcare Market in Philippines is moving towards digital commerce with consistency and the Pandemic became a catalyst in current scenario. In next few years, consumer behaviour will change to an extent, where most Doctor Consultations, Diagnostics and Pharmacy needs will be acquired through an app and a radical decrease in traditional way of opting in healthcare services would be witnessed.”
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications