At present there are about 60 online pharmacies operating in India which provide home delivery of medicines through websites and apps. However, no such app is functional in J&K as internet shutdown has created a serious hurdle in online businesses.
“These apps are not popular in our state because people prefer to buy medicines at shops. The frequent internet blockade is also a major reason. Such businesses need uninterrupted internet supply, otherwise there is no point of having these apps,” said an official in the J&K Drug Control Department.
He said that online pharmacies have also been controversial in India after some fake companies were found selling medicines through these apps.
“After so many apprehensions, our department decided against any such initiative here. There are a few local stores which deliver medicines at the doorstep but that happens in rare cases when the quantity of medicine ordered is large,” the official said.
A government pharmacist told Kashmir Reader that a Srinagar businessman once approached the owners of a leading online app to get their franchise in Kashmir, but later turned down the idea after the company demanded huge franchisee fees.
“Running online pharmacy business in Kashmir is already a huge risk because of regular internet shutdown. It’s also unlikely that a businessman will invest huge amount on this. That is why these apps failed to launch here,” he said.
Officials acknowledge, though, that the apps have many benefits. They said customers can get medicines while sitting at home; the apps offer great discounts and other incentives like free shipping; provide information about medicinal needs and prescription drugs, among others.
Pharmacies, too, can increase their customer base by having an online presence. They can attract new customers and reach new geographical locations. Customers can search online for medicine composition and look for generic alternatives. Stores can manage their inventory digitally and get helpful reminders and notifications on expiry dates. Sellers can offer different schemes and marketing campaigns to customers, provide a superior level of customer service, and advantage or refill orders from repeat customers.
Of the most popular online medicine ordering apps in India are Practo, NetMeds, BookMeds, Yodawy, SmartMedics, WeChemist, BrownPacket, PharmEasy, Myra Medicines, HeyCare, and MedplusMart.
J&K Drug Controller Lotika Khajuria said that nobody has approached the drug department to get permission for running these apps in J&K.
“These apps are not popular in our state as we are facing issues due to the difficult terrains and chronic unrest which give rise to internet blockade,” she said.
“People also don’t want to indulge in this kind of business as it involves many legal issues. This concept is popular in metropolitan cities where the regulation is easy,” she said.