After food delivery, Amazon forays into online pharmacy business

After food delivery, Amazon forays into online pharmacy business
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
14 Aug, 2020

Ecommerce marketplace Amazon said it has ventured into the online pharmacy services segment, with a soft launch in Bengaluru. 

Named Amazon Pharmacy, the service will offer delivery of prescription-based and over-the-counter medicines, health devices and Ayurveda medication from certified sellers, an Amazon spokesperson told TechCircle in an emailed statement.

“This is particularly relevant in the present times as it will help customers meet their essential needs while staying safe at home,” the spokesperson added.

Digital news website Entrackr, which first reported the development, said the service is also available in select cities in West Bengal. 

The development comes a little over two months after the US retail giant launched food delivery services in the country. Amazon Food is live in select locations in Bengaluru.

Despite initial hiccups, e-pharma companies have witnessed a surge in business since the Covid-19 lockdown. Amazon will compete with venture capital firm-backed startups such as NetMeds, 1mg, PharmEasy and Medlife.

Last month, 1mg raised $17.8 million debt from MPOF Mauritius, MAF Mauritius and Swiss healthcare-focused firm HBM Healthcare Investment. In February, it secured $9.93 million from philanthropic organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

In December, Medlife raised $15 million in a non-convertible debenture issue to Wilson Global Opportunities Fund.

Currently an unregulated sector, a draft policy chalking out the guidelines for the regulation of e-pharmacies have been in works since 2018. 

Amazon’s foray into the e-pharmacy business comes amid reports that Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries has acquired Netmeds to enter the segment. The companies are reportedly in advance stages of discussions for a deal pegged to be worth about $130-150 million, the Times of India said. 

Reliance has lately been strengthening its digital commerce initiatives. Soon after Facebook invested $5.7 billion in Jio, Reliance’s ecommerce arm JioMart began accepting orders through messaging service WhatsApp. The firm is also the majority stakeholder in online fashion marketplace Fynd and online learning platform Embibe.