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Unfazed by legal blocks, Netmeds bets big on digital

February 08, 2019 16:37 IST

Netmeds is looking at using new technologies such as deep learning and data analytics to improve forecasting in terms of the demand of the products for pharma companies, reports Peerzada Abrar.

Photograph: Alexandra Beier/Reuters

At a time when the fate of the e-pharmacy segment hangs in balance due to legal hurdles, Netmeds, a leading online pharmacy delivery start-up, is looking to diversify into new business verticals such as diagnostics and generic drugs.

It is also planning to set up data science service where it would provide insights to healthcare players.

"We are building the entire healthcare ecosystem around Netmeds," said Pradeep Dadha, founder and chief executive officer, Netmeds.com.

Promoted by Dadha Pharma, a Chennai-based company, it is one of the earliest players in this space and raised close to $100 million funding so far from investors such as Tanncam, Sistema and Daun Penh.

The Dadha family's pharmaceuticals experience dates back to 1914, when it ventured first into the pharma retailing business and then into drug manufacturing in 1972.

Netmeds is looking at using new technologies such as deep learning and data analytics to improve forecasting in terms of the demand of the products for pharma companies.

The firm also plans to help the government and healthcare players to understand and predict incidences of various diseases in different parts of the country, leveraging Google's TensorFlow machine learning capability.

Dadha said the company is collating a lot of health data, from millions of prescriptions, among others.

For diagnostics business, the company plans to launch a marketplace where various diagnostics companies such as SRL Diagnostics and Thyrocare can list their services.

The company is also building a community platform where patients can anonymously interact with each other to better understand the diseases they are suffering from.

The online pharmacy segment is staring at an uncertain future owing to lack of a policy to regulate selling prescription drugs online.

In December last year, the Delhi high court had ordered a complete ban on online pharmacies across the country with immediate effect.

This was followed by another order from the Madras high court earlier this month staying the ban, stating that the selling of drugs online cannot be stopped "all of a sudden".

Dadha, however, said that the core business of Netmeds would remain the same, that is the delivery of the medicines across the country.

Till now, the company has served more than 3.7 million customers across over 610 cities and towns.

It is seeing an increase in demand from tier-II and tier-III cities, including Kargil in Ladakh and Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he added.

The firm is also planning to set up over a 1,000 physical stores across the country in the next five years.

In the last few years, a handful of e-pharmacy companies have emerged in the country.

Besides Netmeds, they also include PharmEasy, 1mg and Myra.

The sector saw 10 deals worth $140 million in 2018 compared to five deals worth $37 million in 2017, data from research firm Venture Intelligence, shows.

Peerzada Abrar in Bengaluru
Source: source
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