- Ahmedabad-based startup Medkart Pharmacy is a drugstore chain that guides patients to buy quality generic alternatives and save on their medical bills.
Ankur Agarwal founded Medkart Pharmacy in Ahmedabad with Parasharan Chari and Parthiv Shah in order to help people lower their medical bills by allowing access to generic versions of expensive branded drugs.
The medtech startup was established in September 2014 with the aim of increasing patient knowledge of low-cost generic drugs that have been approved by the World Health Organization’s Good Medical Practices (WHO GMP).
Many medicines available in India are generic copies produced at low rates, according to experts, but the savings do not hit the consumer because large pharmaceutical firms market them at high prices.
A generic drug is a prescription that is identical to a brand-name drug in terms of dose, strength, route of administration, cost, performance characteristics, and intended use. Since a generic medicine isn’t a brand-new drug, manufacturers don’t have to spend money developing and marketing it; instead, they will apply for approval to produce and sell generic versions as the drug’s patent expires.
The amazement moment
Ankur became interested in generic drugs after his father-in-dialysis law’s care in December 2013, which forced him to take a Rs 1,300 injection every week for a year — an expensive affair.
He discovered that buying the injections in bulk could cut the cost in half.
Ankur had intended to open an e-pharmacy at first. However, he admits that “it wasn’t easy explaining to customers about less costly substitutes; it was a time-consuming task.”
Ankur was the chief financial officer at Endeavor Education at the time, and Parasharan was the chief operating officer.
Parthiv, their mutual bond, had spent a decade working in the pharmaceutical industry and had extensive knowledge of its various aspects.
It was only a matter of time before they teamed up to launch Medkart in 2014.
Parasharan joined the company full-time three years after it was founded and assisted in its development.
Medkart now offers generic versions of the injection that Ankur’s father-in-law was prescribed for Rs 300.
Ankur and Parasharan have been colleagues for around 13 years and are familiar with each other’s working styles, having previously worked together in strategic teams on previous projects.
The process of finding co-founders went very smoothly because we all share the same vision, which is to make generic medicines available at the lowest possible price while also educating consumers about how to buy smart and right, according to Ankur.
Medkart is currently managed by a team of 275 people.
Analyzing the demand
According to Parasharan, after Medkart was founded, the founders tried to figure out how people bought medicines.
For example, if a customer has a prescription that only lists a few branded medicines, Medkart would try to inform him or her about other medicines that are of comparable quality and cost less, he explains.
“The drugs available at a lower cost are from GMP-approved brands, which means they will meet the same requirements across the country,” he adds.
Generico, Dava India, and the Ratan Tata-funded Generic Aadhaar are some of the companies that operate in the same domain as MedKart.
“However, there are no brands that can compete with Medkart’s offerings, and there is no direct competition,” Ankur says.
Customers in Gujarat can search the startup’s mobile app for medication availability and position orders for delivery, and the company also uses an omnichannel approach.
Medkart, according to Ankur, serves about a lakh customers per month and produced Rs 60 crore in revenue in FY21. Customers have saved Rs 1,100 crore so far thanks to the startup’s lower-cost generic drugs, according to the company.
Focus solely on rapid growth.
Medkart has so far been self-funded with funds from family and friends. The first store was opened with a seed capital of Rs 20 lakh, which was used to finance back-end operations.
The company is in talks with strategic investors and hopes to expand its store count in Gujarat to more than 250 in the next 18 months.