Like retailers, chemists chart out initiatives to attract customers, like launching mobile apps and free home delivery services, to beat the competition.
Just like retailers who bring out initiatives to attract customers, specially during festive seasons, organised chemists in the city too are going out of their way to expand their business.
To lure customers to come and get a feel of their outlets, retail pharmacies are doing everything from launching mobile apps to free home delivery.
“Those days are gone when outlets would wait for customers to walk in. Now we have to go to the customers by initiating attractive schemes,” says Hemanth Kumar Bothra, managing director, Trust Chemists and Druggists.
Trust is currently piloting a mobile app that can help consumers download the latest offers that the pharmacy is giving on its FMCG, personal care and wellness products.
“Offers on wellness or FMCG products can pull customers to visit the stores,” says Bothra.
Like fast food outlets and grocery chains, organised pharmacies have also started home delivery services within a certain periphery.
Moreover, some chains in the city are starting consumer centric activities like BMI and BP check-ups, blood sugar check-ups, live cooking counters; all within their store premises.
“It is no longer just about standing in a queue to buy medicines. We want people to come and experience a whole range of activities and thereby experience the brand,” says Bothra.
Experts say such initiatives, hitherto unheard of at least in the pharmacy sector, point towards a scenario where the cost of running organised pharmacies, complete with air-conditioning, trained pharmacists, computerised infrastructure etc is quickly escalating.
Presently there are seven lakh retail pharmacy outlets across India, but only a handful belong to the organised sector, with the vast majority being neighbourhood kirana outlets.
“The rentals are high. So are infrastructure costs and other overheads. Coupled with all this is competition from the mom-and-pop chemist outlets. The margins in this business come under immense pressure and it is a highly volatile sector,” says Viraj Gandhi, an expert who exited the organised pharmacy business some years ago.
Gandhi, however, feels that attractive schemes will not do much to the buying pattern. “This is so since selling medicines is totally different from selling biscuits or soaps, where trial packs, offers, can be given. Even if chemists give offers on their non-medical products, that cannot translate into consumers buying the medicines,” says Gandhi.