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16-31 December 2010  
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Are pharmacy chains the model for India to follow?

It is estimated that there would be between 750,000 and 800,000 shops that handle revenue of more than Rs 90,000 crore which includes medicine sales of approximately Rs 45,000 crore across the length and breadth of our country. The market is growing at over 18 percent per annum. These chemist shops sell everything that a consumer needs from his ‘friendly neighbourhood corner store’. Their tag line could correctly be ‘we also sell medicines.’ Pharmaceutical retail in India is highly fragmented with trade associations estimating 97 per cent of the market being controlled by unorganised players. In the near future neighbourhood pharmacy (read Mom and Pop store) will play a limited role. India’s economic, disease and demographic profile is changing and the pharma sector can’t lag behind. It has to shake up and change too so that it can serve the changing needs of the consumer and not just the ‘patient’. Organised pharma retail chain will be controlling a major part of the market and for good reasons.

All over the world pharma retail chain is moving from ‘Sick Care’ to ‘Health Care’. This involves change in the role of the pharmacist. He is no longer expected to dispense medicines only as scribbled on the prescription of the patient rather he should be able to maintain the drug profile of the patient, provide information about drugs and their usage and offer support in disease management services. Obviously the increased role of the pharmacist can become possible only when the pharma industry becomes organized and is run professionally.

The disease profile of Indians is changing and in place of acute diseases Indians are getting afflicted in larger number by lifestyle diseases. The World health Organization (WHO) has identified India as one of the nations that is going to have most of the lifestyle disorders in the near future. Already India has become the diabetes capital of the world. A study conducted jointly by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Max Hospital shows the incidence of hypertension, obesity and heart disease is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in the young, urban population. Naturally in these circumstances the consumer demands more from his pharmacy. Preventive Health Care is going to be the buzz word in the coming years and Nutraceutical is going to play a larger role than today. As it is consumption of pharmaceuticals and wellness products is relatively low when compared with many other countries and we are seeing a significant growth especially in the urban areas.

The most important stream of income for commercial pharmacies in developed countries is now derived from dispensing managed care prescriptions and this practice can be seen in India as well. Moreover with increased access to cheap Health Care insurance, Indians are spending more and demanding better facilities.

With the entry of organised retail the pharma retail has undergone considerable change. These chains provide better consumer experience in terms of ambience, cleanliness, air conditioning and store staff training. In addition these stores provide loyalty programmes where a customer gets a point when he makes a purchase which can be redeemed at the store. These loyalty cards are helping customers to get attractive discounts at hospitals and diagnostic centres. Over the next decade, pharmacy chains will continue to expand in our country and establish its presence in all cities of the nation.

Guardian Lifecare Pvt. Ltd is India’s fastest growing chain of Health, Wellness and Beauty stores with over 230 stores across India and is adding one new store every week. Positioned as ‘The Chemists India Trusts’, Guardian’s customer premise has been built on providing “reliable medicines” in a retail environment that is uniquely branded.

Spurious medicines have been an open secret in the pharma industry. Surveys put the figure at 30 percent. This is a huge burden as spurious medicines thwart hopes of recovery and at times extinguish lives too. Yet, we all delude ourselves that our neighbourhood pharmacist will not sell counterfeit medicines. At Guardian Pharmacy we don’t sell any medicine without a bill and we issue bills only for the items sold, not for something else. Initially, the customers baulked at the concept but later they welcomed the idea. In order to position ourselves as a ‘friendly neighbourhood pharmacy’ we began with a unique proposition called ‘Guardian Health Chronicle’ a four page health and wellness supplement that was circulated with Hindustan Times and Dainik Jagran for four years in English and Hindi in NCR. This year we morphed Guardian Health Chronicle in magazine which we retail through our stores. This unique marketing initiative has been initated by the competitors but it did help us stand out from the from the ‘Mom & Pop’ pharmacy stores and from the organised competitors too. At Guardian we offer Prescription Reminder Services to the consumer and offer Senior Citizens Discount too.

A year after founding the Guardian Pharmacy, we entered in an exclusive tie-up with GNC. America’s largest selling nutritional supplements brand. This helped Guardian Pharmacy position itself as a pharma retail chain that was more concerned with the ‘wellness’ of the customer. After all, pharmacy shouldn’t be a place you should visit only when you are unwell!.

Rural India continues to be a huge dumping ground for spurious medicines. In rural and semi-urban India, we have positioned ourselves as “Aushadhi”, which is a Sanskrit word for medicines. Aushadhi stores were opened with the idea of dispensing reliable and genuine medicines to the rural communities. The business model is exactly the same as Guardian. The only difference lies in what we stock at our stores. At a Guardian store you will find branded products but Aushadhi will stock generic products.

In order to offer our customers best of the both worlds, we launched our private label, called Guardian Brands. It has an exhaustive range of more than 785 SKUs and the number is growing. We have ‘Guardian’, ‘Xtra’ and ‘Guard’ brands in our overall categories. Our range comprises of Nutrition, Sports Nutrition, Vitamins, Hospital Care, Health Care, Personal Care, Body Support, Mineral Water and Diapers.

Guardian Lifecare Pvt. Ltd is India’s fastest growing chain of Health, Wellness and Beauty stores with over 230 stores across India and is adding one new store every week. Built on a strong platform of reliability and service to the consumer, the company has presence in 26 cities and is expanding across India.

Positioned as ‘The Chemists India Trusts’, Guardian’s customer premise has been built on providing ‘reliable medicines’ in a retail environment that is uniquely branded. The Guardian mission is to offer our customers the best and most reliable pharmacy in India and build a modern Healthcare Retail organisation built upon honesty, trust and commitment using contemporary technology. Guardian currently serves seven million customers each year.

The author is Ashutosh Garg, Chairman and Managing Director Guardian Lifecare Pvt. Ltd


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