As large corporate houses like Reliance Retail, Pantaloon and Fortis gear up for organised retail pharmaceutical trade, mom-n-pop drug stores around the country are organising themselves in anticipation of competition.
The 6-lakh (600,000) strong All-India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists is registering itself as a company, in a bid to hold on to their turf.
Existing players are equally bullish with Apollo Hospitals planning a five-fold expansion of its pharmacy chain, to 1,500 stores. Morepen is investing Rs 35 crore (Rs 350 million) to increase the number of 'Lifespring' stores to 70 from 10 currently, over the next three years.
Drug makers Zydus Cadila and Himalaya Drugs are also reportedly mulling a foray into retailing. Medicine Shoppe, Lifeken, Global Healthline's 98.4 degree, CRS Health, Health Glow from RPG and Subhiksha are some of the existing players but none has the scale and might that the entrants are bringing into the Rs 35,000-crore (Rs 350 billion) domestic drug segment that is growing at 10-12 per cent.
Reliance Retail, from the Mukesh Ambani group, will be setting up independent pharmacy stores as well as selling drugs from its hypermarts. However, the company is unwilling to let out the investment and store size details for now.
The Ranbaxy Group-promoted Fortis Healthcare will be rolling out 500 stores pan India under the brand Health World Ltd. These are expected to be large format stores like CVS and WalGreens in the US, according to an industry source.
Another big ticket entrant, Pantaloon Retail, has forged a 50:50 joint venture, Manipal Cure & Care. The JV will be setting up its first store, spread across 10,000 square feet, in Bangalore.