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Online pharmacies on hiring mode as orders during Covid-19 lockdown

The manpower crunch following the Covid-19 lockdown in India is not just limited to online groceries. Even online pharmacies are struggling to fulfill customer orders due to acute shortage of staff, especially for last-mile delivery. With the lockdown now having been extended, these e-health companies are now resorting to aggressive hiring in order to fulfill orders which have grown manifold during the past few weeks.

Gurugram-based 1 mg, for example, is immediately looking to hire 500 people immediately and another 1,000 over the next 2-3 months. Bengaluru-headquartered Medlife is working towards filling up 400 open positions mostly for last-mile deliveries and warehouse management. PharmEasy, which claims to be running at 35-40 per cent lower capacity in terms of manpower, is also hiring people for last-mile deliveries. The Mumbai-based company says it has seen at least a 50 per cent increase in demand in the recent past. 

“There’s an up to 200 per cent upsurge in the number of orders coming in, deliveries are still at 60-70 per cent of what we used to fulfill. Hence we are hiring people and getting them trained to deliver more orders,” said Ananth Narayanan, Co-Founder and CEO, Medlife.

Delivery executives at online pharmacies earn between Rs 50-60 per order and fulfill up to 25 orders a day.  

Medlife, which is doing about 20,000 orders a day, has also tied up with several non-essential services such as Uber, Yulu and Zoomcar to use their fleet of vehicles for deliveries. It has also partnered with other start-ups such as Bigbasket and MyGate to jointly drop essentials to consumers located in Covid-19 hotspots, as a single order.

PharmEasy, which is currently managing orders on its own and has not gone for any tie-ups is also ramping up on staff. “All our partner warehouses and retailers are struggling with manpower, so we are looking at filling in 1,500-2,000 positions,” said Dharmil Sheth, Co-founder, PharmEasy. 

While online medicine delivery, which has been identified as an essential service, is returning to normal, players operating in this field fear that there could be another spell of confusion and restrictions once more hotspots are identified during the extended lockdown period. “We have been seeing positive signs in inter-state movement of medicines. However, all that could change given that new hotspots might emerge and things might get tough again,” said Tanmay Saksena, Chief Operating Officer at 1mg.

1mg is currently operating with 70 per cent of its original manpower. Saksena said the company is arranging transportation and curfew passes so that more staffers can return to work. 

“We are currently experiencing an increase in demand of three to four times for hand sanitisers, masks, and immunity boosters. Hence, we will be hiring 500 people immediately and will need 1,000 more in the next 2-3 months to fulfil the rising demand and shortage of manpower,” said Saksena.

According to a Frost & Sullivan report, e-pharmacies market in India are expected to reach $3.6 billion (Rs 25,000 crore) by 2022, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63 per cent from 2018, when says the market stood at around $512 million (Rs 3,500 crore). 

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