Suffering from chronic illness? Get medicines delivered at your doorstep

“Our monthly medicine bill is of more than Rs 5,000, therefore, 15 per cent savings on that is a lot. I am satisfied with LifCare’s monthly service concept for medicine refills for my whole family,” wrote 64-year-old Rajeshwari, a retired principal, while reviewing the healthcare start-up. 

Jaipur-based Corner Store Technologies that operates under the brand LifCare last month raised $11 million in Series-B funding from SAIF Partners, Nexus Ventures and IL&FS. Co-founders Krishna Killa and Rohit Mohta plan to use the funds for geographic expansion, besides investing in technology to increase its customer base.

Concept 

Founded in 2015, LifCare is a subscription-based pharmacy that only targets patients with chronic illness like diabetes, cardiac conditions and hypertension. It offers a 15 per cent discount on the bill. 

A person can avail of LifCare’s services by calling on its service centre number. A pharmacist will visit the prospective customer and verify the prescription. Once enrolled, the person will be home-delivered medicine refills every month. 

The company is currently active in major cities of Rajasthan and the NCR, with a customer base of around 300,000. 

Opportunities and challenges

LifCare co-founders Rohit Mohta (left) and Krishna Killa
The Indian pharmacy market is estimated to be about Rs 1.2 trillion in size with about a 50:50 split between chronic and non-chronic segments. 

Online pharmacy sales were expected to be 5-15 per cent of the total drug sales in India, according to a Ficci report in 2016. However, with the increasing smartphone penetration, this percentage likely to increase, even though offline chemist shops would have the lion’s share.

But, the competition is cut-throat for LifCare as it is only focusing on a niche chronic medicine market and leaving the other 50 per cent of the e-pharma business untouched. Even Rajul Garg, one of the seed investors in the start-up and the founder of Pine labs and Globalogic, said LifCare needs to take a holistic approach towards patient care and integrate doctors and clinicians also in its mission. “LifCare needs to improve the geographical footprint,” added Garg. 

Netmeds, which offers prescription and over the counter medicines along with other health products for chronic and recurring ailments, is currently leading the online pharmacies bandwagon in India. The Jaipur start-up is also facing a challenge from the likes of Pharmeasy, 1mg and Healthkart.

Even Pharmeasy, which specialises in the chronic care segment, has a customer base spread across 700 cities/towns. Moreover, Whatsapp is working with 1mg to test its free business app, allowing the online pharmacy to connect with the users. These trends show that LifCare needs to up the ante to grab a larger bite of the online pharma sector or perhaps tie up with an online giant. 

Revenue

Currently, the health care start-up is adding over 15,000 families every month from the two regions as subscribers every month, said co-founder Killa. Since chronic patients need medicines regularly, LifCare’s retention rate is high, hence, the overall revenue from existing users and new users is 80:20. 

While LifCare refused to divulgee its financial details, the company said that it has broken even. However, it is not yet profitable. 

Road ahead 

Besides entering two-three more cities in the next one year, Lifcare is looking to scale three-four times from its current base. “We took two and a half years to add 300,000 patients, and we are looking to add the same number within the next one year,” said Killa.  
Expert Take:  Also target high-risk population

Dr Shuchin Bajaj Founder director, Cygnus Hospitals

The chronic patient population pool across the world has continuously been increasing over the years, ever more rapidly in India, due to changing demographic and nutritional lifestyles as well as better and timely diagnosis. 

Millions of people are diagnosed with at least one chronic disease every year; 88 per cent people above 60 years have at least one chronic health condition, and chronic diseases account for 60 per cent of the deaths in India. 

 
The number of older people is projected to rise from 55 million (6.5 per cent of the population) in 1991 to 150 million in 2023 (12 per cent) and 323 million in 2050, which will compound the problem.

LifCare should find ways to engage better with the population suffering from chronic diseases by introducing services that target such patients. Also, it currently serves patients suffering from chronic conditions only and not to the segment that has a high risk of being diagnosed with chronic diseases. It needs to gain first mover's advantage with the high-risk population by engaging with them more often.