India’s Online Health Care Products Market Is Growing
Although most Indians, and especially those living in rural areas, have lacked access to good medical treatment for a long time, the health care system in India is changing rapidly. Some of the changes result from the burgeoning population of Indians who use the Internet. More and more health care products are available to consumers online.
India Shopping Online
In recent years, India has passed Japan as the third largest Internet service user in the world. Only China and the United States have larger online populations. India’s 243 million Internet users in 2014 comprised only 19 percent of its population, so the potential for growth is staggering. Another 200 million new users are expected to join them in the next three years. Most of these people will first encounter the Internet through smart phones.
India is beginning to experience what China did a few years ago. Broadband service is becoming more broadly available. The high cost of real estate has led to a lack of infrastructure for physical retail. Consumers are discovering and accepting online market places.
Although Indian Internet users spend half of their online time either on social media or using email, more and more are going on the web to shop. India counted some 20 million online shoppers in 2013. By the end of that time, the number is expected to increase to 40 million and continue to grow exponentially. The e-commerce market as a whole is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 63 percent to reach Rs. 54,304 crore.
The increase of e-commerce brings with it an increase in consumer fraud, so if you are among the throng of Internet shoppers, you need to be vigilant and take steps to protect yourself. Reputable online dealers will give you a good shopping experience, as well as the benefits of convenience and privacy.
The Online Health Care Products Market
The general boom in online retail has included a remarkable growth in the online market for health care products, and also the number of companies devoted to serving that market. The major players seem to be concentrating their efforts on cities. They are also introducing numerous product categories.
It should be no surprise to anyone that the traditional pharmaceutical industry is trying to protect its business from online competitors. The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), which has 450 million members, filed a claim with a committee of the Maharashtra government’s Food and Drug Administration that both the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Information Technology Act make online pharmacy completely illegal.
The Maharashtra FDA had already filed a police complaint last May against a company that started offering prescription drugs online, but the committee has asked for public comment, both from companies and citizens. Openness of any government agency to innovation bodes well for online commerce.
In response to pressure from the AIOCD, almost a dozen online health care retailers have formed their own trade association, the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association. Although it is not yet registered, it has already made recommendations to the committee, seeking clear regulations so that its members can be recognized under the law, and also so that unlawful companies can still be recognized as such. The association have requested that regulations require both a licence to operate online and an authenticated seal that they can display prominently on their website for the public to see.
Puneet Kapoor, director of BigChemist, one of the companies that sells health care products online, told Business Standard that online sale of drugs can have many advantages both for the public and the government. “Being electronic in nature, all purchases and sales will be through proper taxation, with invoices, thus helping in better tax collection,” he said, He also claimed that well-regulated online health care companies can help weed out counterfeit drugs.
Even without providing prescription drugs, online health care retailers offer a wide variety of products. Like traditional pharmacies, they offer over-the-counter drugs, skin care products, nutritional products, baby care products, personal care products (for eye care, hair care, skin care, lip care, dental care, hand and nail care, feminine hygiene products, body and bath products, and even self-defense), and a wide variety of medical instruments.
The active opposition of brick and mortar drug stores and lack of suitable government regulation constitute major challenges to online healthcare providers. They will certainly have an impact on the growth of the industry in the future, but the likelihood is that it will overcome them eventually.
So far, online sale of health products forms only about 0.1 percent of the entire healthcare market in India. There is room for tremendous growth. Indians are becoming more health conscious and more and more of them are beginning to prefer online shopping. Their increasing awareness will continue to drive the online market.