Amazon’s foray into the online medicine segment puts it in direct competition with established local players including NetMeds, 1mg, PharmEasy and Medlife. Amazon has launched the service at a time when there is a tremendous demand for such services which are delivering essential medicines to patients amid the Covid-19 pandemic. An increasing number of people are buying products online and avoiding visiting the stores due to fears of catching the virus.
However, it is not going to be easy for Amazon to tap the e-pharmacy space due to the regulatory hurdles and the ongoing war between online and offline pharmacies and the delay in finalisation of e-pharmacy rules by the government.
Last December, the health ministry came up with revised draft regulations for online sales of drugs. It said e-pharmacies
cannot stock drugs and will have to operate through retail chemist shops for doorstep supply of medicines just like food-delivery platforms Swiggy and Zomato. The draft regulations also make retail pharmacies eligible to deliver medicines at a customer's residence.
The Indian e-health sector is expected to become a $16 billion opportunity by FY2025, growing from $1.2 billion, at a compound annual growth rate of 68 per cent, according to a report by research firm RedSeer Consulting. It is expected to touch 57 million households, driven by positive reception from both consumers and providers along with supportive government regulations and investments.
In May, Amazon also announced its entry into online food delivery in India. Customers are now allowed to order from select restaurants and cloud kitchens that have cleared the company’s hygiene certification bar.
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