Monday, March 4, 2024

BlueMedix: Providing Accessible Healthcare and Medications to India’s Semi-Urban and Rural Areas

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In India’s semi-urban and rural areas, BlueMedix operates retail pharma outlets and telemedicine healthcare clinics to increase patient access to necessary medications. The CxO team of BlueMedix, have an expertise in Retail, FMCG, Rural Social Impact, Supply Chain and ecommerce for a cumulative experience of over 60yrs they got motivated to start the company after realising how difficult it was for people in rural areas to get their hands on basic pharmaceuticals. The company has opened more than 130 stores and 30 telemedicine healthcare clinics in just three years, despite difficulties in procurement, demand, and supply management. The founder believes that the healthcare industry in India will grow by at least 40% in the next five years.

A small introduction about Sumit Dutta

Sumit is a seasoned business leader with an experience in the Corporate, Startup & Investor Ecosystem with an entrepreneurial experience as well.

His overall experience into the industry has been in the corporate world for over 15 yrs To name a few Accenture, Hewlett Packard, and then he moved in the Indian Startup ecosystem venture spost his stint with Flipkart.  He was leading the Marketplace catalog in Flipkart, had a great deal of experience in the E-com industry.

He was grateful to be a part of the first and second big billion-day launches. Wonderful experience, wonderful synergies and great learnings, and a great team. There were great learnings, even though he came in from corporate structured, process-oriented companies. There are many things which he mentions that he misses.

And this particular experience during the big billion days ends up prepping up very in such huge rushes of customer, orders pouring in, having catalog being again at the forefront of it would always be needed to close down the sales and for us. But it was great experience on that side. And then post that he moved to the ecosystem with startups, and then again with the investor ecosystems, launched few angel funds in Bangalore.

Then the last role that I had was with NASSCOM, as a regional head for the Northeast ecosystem for Tripura. So pretty much, a great cumulative experience for more than a decade into this ecosystem now. At BlueMedix as a CBO he heads the  business vertical for the Bangalore expansion creating a vertical of technology and alongside he is actively working on the outreach in terms of investors as well as, developing partnerships and brand outreach engagements.

What was the idea behind Blue Medix?

The idea behind BlueMedix was, that the entire rural ecosystem in India, primarily the semi-urban and rural segments like the  Tier 3,4,5 and beyond, even still has a lack of access to preliminary healthcare support and alongside the counterfeit/fake medicines in the market, and we are providing them the best possible support and access to affordable genuine medicines.

Today at BlueMedix, we are proud to say that we have more than 120 plus retail outlets and we have more than 30 telemedicine healthcare clinics in standalone in a span of mere three years.

And it has been a great experience, a great journey of learnings. Again, India is growing in technology & supply chain has augmented to next levels of optimization. We tend to move alongside in similar pace with our grit & dedication to solve the rural healthcare problems in rural India.

Can you describe your company’s services?

We are 100% retail, pharmacy company, And along with that, we have a telemedicine healthcare clinic which is catering to three primary healthcare constraints that any village level masses face for even a baseline primary consultation done. They have to travel for a minimum, walk around 50 to 60 kilometres to procure and I mean to facilitate a consultation and get and procured medicines which are prescribed by doctors.

So we’re giving these services to them at their doorstep. That’s the unique proposition, and that’s what we are catering to.

What challenges have you faced in building and scaling up your business?

Yes, there were great challenges in terms of procurement, demand and supply maintenance manage the overall supplies from inward and outward. It took a toll on us to setup the supply chain segment to ensure the genuine medicines are supplied to the retail outlets and cost optimisation to ensure the pricing to be affordable by the rural masses.

What do you think is the future of healthcare industry in the upcoming years?

The kind of changes in the ecosystem that we see today as well as to give you an outright answer which way I look at the statistics, I could tell you is that close to 20 to the $23 billion is the total addressable market size in India. And, we have more than 500,000 odd startups working in this sector, all healthcare, tech, e-health, pharma, all put together the growth that we see.

Well, I am assuming from what we have experienced and what we’ve seen personally as well at the company level, it is going to have a minimum spike of 40%, you know, well in the next half a decade.

How does technology help you to grow Blue Medix?

That’s a great question. I would not give a yes or a no. I would say it’s a mixed bag, because now when I talk about when I look into references to the people like you or me, we are sitting in the first world order and then there are  the people who are still in the third world order within this country, the only access they have is a cell phone access.

So in those places they may not be able to play the state of the art facility as a clinical care or a hospital care mechanism. But what we can do is to have a play of technology here, getting the doctor to do a telemedicine remote diagnosis, utilizing this new digital stethoscope, oximeters, digital weighing scales to ECG Machines that relay the readings which are then fed into the portal and the interface we use , which enables the doctor to know the basic patient history, understand what is a problem and then it enables them do the diagnosis in a better manner.

What is your vision for the future of Blue Medix?

Well, we are very optimistic for this year. While 120 outlets sound  as a big number for you, But we are the not even at one fourth of what should we be.

We intend to go phase by phase and we are working on our expansion modules. We have more than 250 LOI’s from, people, businessmen will want to come on board into the franchise network, get on board as a franchise partner and expand into this.

However, we have kept them on hold as of now because we are like I said, we like to walk the talk way.

With such a surge in demand we should be also able to support and supply to them hence, we are prepping for the same We would want to have at least a minimum of another hundred and 50 to 200 stores.

We’ve achieved a lot over the past three years and I hope that we achieve even more there.

How do you plan to stay ahead of the competition in this rapidly evolving world?

  1. Offer home delivery services: In rural areas, people often have to travel long distances to access healthcare facilities. Offering home delivery services can be a game-changer. Partner with local delivery services to ensure prompt and efficient delivery of medicines to your customers.
  2. Focus on affordability: In rural areas, people often have limited access to healthcare services due to financial constraints. Offer competitive prices and discounts on your products to make them more affordable.
  3. Stock a wide range of products: Rural areas often have limited access to healthcare products. Stock a wide range of medicines and healthcare products, including traditional medicines and products that are specific to the region.
  4. Build trust with the community: Build relationships with local healthcare providers, community leaders, and influencers. Offer health education and screening programs to build trust with the community and establish your brand as a reliable source of healthcare products and information.
  5. Provide excellent customer service: In rural areas, people often value personal relationships and customer service. Train your staff to provide excellent customer service and to be knowledgeable about the products you sell.
  6. Leverage technology: Use technology to streamline your operations, track inventory, and analyze customer data to improve your marketing and sales strategies.

Is there any specific reason why there is no competition in rural areas?

They are coming up not really that fast , but they are coming up and they are understanding the Unit economics, business and focus. And any big brand you think of they’re busy doing business you know out of the urban arenas.

So, the focus areas certainly is going to you know have a hit over therefore in terms of expertise, the team that we have, the entire team is pretty much from this arena. And we understand the geography very well and we understand what the trends very well. We know where and we have to be placed going forward. So there’s a lot that has gone to, feet on the street. And we have a fantastic team of Raees being the CEO Gaurav being the CMO. Well, I could tell you another funny side, the kind of questions I get is where do I spend on our marketing. And to your surprise we haven’t spent a single penny in digital marketing build up. It’s a Big deal. We haven’t done any deal till date. It’s only BTL marketing and word of mouth that comes from the experience and trust of our customers.

What do you believe are the most important qualities to be a successful entrepreneur in this field?

Being a successful entrepreneur in the field of rural retail pharmacy and healthcare requires a combination of business acumen, healthcare expertise, and a deep understanding of the rural community’s needs. Here are some of the most important qualities to possess as a successful entrepreneur in this field:

1. Passion and commitment: A passion for healthcare and a commitment to improving the health and well-being of the rural population is essential to succeed in this field. It requires a long-term commitment to building relationships and trust with the community.

2. Business acumen: Successful entrepreneurs in this field need to have a strong understanding of business principles, including marketing, finance, and operations. They must be able to manage their resources effectively and make informed decisions that balance financial sustainability with the need to provide affordable healthcare products and services.

3. Adaptability: The rural healthcare landscape is constantly evolving, and entrepreneurs in this field must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and trends. This includes being willing to experiment with new products and services and embracing new technologies and business models.

4. Customer-centricity: Successful entrepreneurs in rural retail pharmacy and healthcare must be focused on meeting the needs of their customers. This requires an in-depth understanding of the local culture, healthcare practices, and customer preferences.

5. Team building and leadership: Building a strong team and leading them effectively is crucial for success in this field. Entrepreneurs need to be able to attract and retain talented professionals, delegate effectively, and motivate their team members to achieve common goals.

6. Continuous learning: Finally, entrepreneurs in this field must be committed to continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in healthcare and business. This includes attending conferences, reading industry publications, and networking with peers and thought leaders in the field.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering to starting their own startup?

Starting a startup can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging and risky. Here are some general pieces of advice that can help someone who is considering starting their own startup:

1. Identify a problem and a solution: Start by identifying a problem that you are passionate about solving. Think about a problem that you have experienced firsthand or one that you have observed others struggling with. Then, brainstorm a potential solution to that problem.

2. Do your research: Before you invest time and money into a startup, it’s important to do your research. Look into the market you are entering, potential competitors, and any legal requirements or regulations you need to follow.

3. Develop a business plan: Once you have a problem and a solution, develop a business plan. Your plan should include details such as your target market, revenue streams, marketing strategy, and budget.

4. Build a strong team: A startup is only as strong as its team. Identify individuals with the skills and experience necessary to help bring your idea to life.

5. Secure funding: Most startups require some level of funding to get off the ground. Explore different options for funding, such as loans, grants, or venture capital.

6. Focus on customer needs: Always keep the customer in mind. Continuously gather feedback and adjust your product or service based on customer needs.

7. Be prepared for challenges: Starting a startup is not easy, and there will be challenges along the way. Be prepared to pivot your strategy if necessary, and always keep your end goal in mind.

8. Embrace failure: Not every idea will be a success, and that’s okay. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and use it to grow and improve.

Remember, starting a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay focused, stay committed, and stay passionate about your idea.

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