Osudpotro: The online pharmacy startup builds an omnichannel operation, eyes adjacent healthcare services

December 27, 2022

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The unique insight

A shift in the market: The growing digital economy is creating new opportunities and challenges for all kinds of businesses. Osudpotro is essentially a product of this broader thesis that the economy is moving digital. Globally, we have been seeing momentum for the shift to digital. Growing the digital economy is now a stated mandate of many VCs. With the growing penetration of the internet and digital devices, consumers have also been moving online at a greater pace.

Osudpotro was launched in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic as an online pharmacy. Online delivery services saw phenomenal growth in Bangladesh throughout the pandemic. Various digital services have been in the ascendancy in Dhaka for the past several years. Before the pandemic, this growth was deliberate and labored. The pandemic has pushed that growth over the board and the gold rush has helped create a significant number of fascinating players in the digital commerce space.

The pandemic created a solid need for home delivery. People were staying indoors and needed supplies. It created a huge demand for online delivery services. Companies like Chaldal and others benefited enormously from the sudden surge in demand. Similarly, an ambitious bunch of entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in the challenge and jumped in. The reading was that new digital commerce adaptation will survive the post-pandemic and create a lasting competitive advantage for the new players.

Osudpotra partly started with this understanding of the shifts in the market.

The Bangladesh story: There are other aspects. Bangladesh has an economic story that has been attracting a lot of attention lately. Between 2012 and 2021, Bangladesh’s GDP almost tripled. Just recently, BCG published a report predicting that Bangladesh will become a trillion-dollar economy by 2040. It is a densely populated country with a population of 167m people. A young nation in every sense of the word where the median age is around 27.

The country has a growing tech ecosystem. Bangladesh has seen a growing penetration of mobile and smartphones — 50% smartphone penetration and 95% 4G coverage. The market for digital commerce has grown. The last five years have seen a series of digital commerce and on-demand delivery services thrive. Online medicine delivery has become one of the prominent verticals in the overall on-demand delivery trends.

Digital services such as Osudpotro often make the case for their services putting these two phenomena in context. And it is an interesting thesis.

A brief history and overview of OsudPotro

Osudpotro was founded in 2020 by Ashfaqur Rahman at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to movement restrictions and also from out of fear of infection, people avoided going out unless there was an emergency. This was a challenge for people who needed medicine but didn’t want to go outside. In many instances, nearby pharmacies were shut down. Osudpotro saw an opportunity in the situation and entered the vertical.

Medicine delivery didn’t receive mainstream attention in Bangladesh until the pandemic. There were several players in the vertical such as Banglameds, which started several years before the pandemic, but broader customer awareness about online pharmacy was not a thing yet. While many on-demand services from grocery to food delivery received customer attention, there were not many options when it comes to on-demand medicine. Osudpotro and a couple of other players entered the market to take advantage of this situation.

Today, Osudpotro is one of the prominent players in country’s on-demand online pharmacy scene. The company offers home delivery of both over-the-counter and prescription medicine to customers in Bangladesh. It has a wide selection of medicines and healthcare products and takes orders 24/7. The company says, it has the largest medicine “inventory in Bangladesh with over 7 lakh medicines available at the best prices.” Osudpotro also sells other healthcare products, “such as over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, healthcare devices, and sexual wellbeing products.”

The company claims to have 199,619 registered users and that it delivers products to customers between 45 mins to 4.5 hours depending on the delivery type the customer chooses. Customers can order through the Osudpotro app or website or over the phone.

Mr. Rahman comes from a business family and has built several other businesses before founding Osudpotro.

Osudpotry products and services

Online Pharmacy: Osudpotro runs an online pharmacy where customers can order medicines and healthcare products and get them delivered to their doorsteps. The company says it works directly with suppliers: “Our medicine inventories are directly supplied from the largest pharmaceutical companies and thus we ensure longest expiry dates for our all medicines and products and also authentic medicines.”

Osudpotro has a website, and a mobile application, and the company also runs a 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM call center. Customers can place orders through all these channels. The website is organized based on types of products, customer profiles, and other categories.

For prescription drugs, customers can order directly or upload their prescriptions. The company apparently encourages prescription upload because it then allows it to build a recurring relationship with its customers.

Apart from OTC and prescription medicines, the company also sells other healthcare products and devices. The company says it aims to “provide a 360-degree solution for your well-being.”

Offline pharmacy: Osudpotro also has 02 offline outlets across Dhaka. The outlets work both as independent pharmacies, warehouses, and hyper-local delivery hubs for the company. Customers can directly go and buy medicines from these outlets. The company also uses these outlets to deliver online orders for those respective areas as well as warehouses.

The ambition apparently is to build an omnichannel operation, an increasingly common playbook these days. The company says its pharmacies are “supervised by A-Category Pharmacists who ensure the best service for customers.”

Delivery service: Osudpotro has an in-house logistics team that delivers products 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM. The company delivers products all across the country. The company writes on its website: “Our delivery services are tailored upon your need. We provide our regular delivery within 4 hours of the order being accepted. For people who need the orders delivered quickly, we have an Urgent Delivery providing all orders to be served within 45 minutes.” The company had an emergency delivery option after midnight but it has discontinued the service due to various challenges and risks. Osudpotro currently offers 4 delivery options.

Medicine Delivery Method and Delivery Charge

Delivery Type Applied Hours Estimated delivery time Price
a. Quick Delivery 6:00 am – 11:00 pm 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours BDT 60/=
b. Next Day Delivery 6:00 am – 11:00 pm(Next Day) 24 hours – 36 hours BDT 35/=
c. Urgent Delivery 10:00 am – 11:00 pm 45 mins – 1.5 hours BDT 130/=
d. Schedule Delivery 6:00 am – 11:00 pm 45 mins – 1.5 hours BDT 100/=

Source: Osudpotro

Online doctor consultation: Osuporto also runs an on-call doctor consultation service 24/7 for a fee of BDT 199. The company says “Patients can communicate in our social media platforms and take an appointments or directly take the service from the app.”

 e-Diagnosis: At-home diagnostics services have seen a decent adoption in Dhaka over the past two years. Osudpotra apparently aims to get into the on-demand home diagnostics space.

Call center: Osudpotro runs a dedicated call center where customers can call and place orders and get information. The company says, “our Call Center is operated by experienced teleconsultants and are always there to serve all customers at all times.”

The business model

The marketplace eCommerce platforms usually act as facilitators between buyers and sellers and charge a commission for enabling the transaction. The platform traditionally acts as an aggregator. It begins with aggregating demand for the suppliers. The aggregation eventually turns into market power and allows the platform to expand and squeeze.

However, online pharmacies are more like managed ecommerce websites where the platform maintains inventory and manages the logistics in-house. Osudpotro buys medicines from manufacturers, manages the inventory in its warehouse, and sells to customers through its online and offline channels.

While it is not a commission model, demand aggregation remains central to the success of these platforms. The more demands Osudpotro aggregates, the more market power it occurs. The market power in turn helps it to get better deals from the suppliers. Similarly, it can help it expand into adjacent verticals more readily.

Traction the market speaks: Osudpotro claims that it has 199,638 registered users and has so far delivered 94088 orders. The Osudporto app shows 130K+ downloads on the Google play store with an average rating of 3.5. The company also has an iOS app

Digital services companies in Dhaka predominantly use social media channels for customer acquisitions. Facebook and Google ads are some of the go-to acquisition channels for most players.

Osudpotro has also built partnerships with various stakeholders where it runs joint campaigns. The company has also been trying to build a loyal customer base through discounts, turning prescription medicines into more regular customers by incentivizing purchasing through submitting prescriptions.

The market landscape

The ideal customers: Osudpotro sells both OTC and prescription medicines. The company also sells a wide range of healthcare products, devices, and equipment. It also offers telemedicine services.

Osudpotro currently delivers medicines all across Bangladesh. However, we guess that the company gets a significant percentage of orders from within Dhaka.

The company predominantly serves individual customers and families. While several digital healthcare startups have been trying to build an enterprise business through corporate campaigns and partnerships, Osudpotro appears to be solely focusing on building consumer business. Strategically speaking, while corporate partnerships are good for optics, these partnerships rarely convert into business. To that end, focusing on the consumer business is a good decision.

Market size: Statista projects that revenue in the online pharmacy segment in Bangladesh will reach US$59.00m in 2022. The German data platform predicts an annual revenue growth rate (CAGR 2022-2027) of 23.99%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$172.90m by 2027.

The pharmaceutical market in Bangladesh is expected to surpass US$ 6 Billion by 2025. According to the IMS Health Care Report, the local pharmaceutical market was about $3 billion in 2019.

While online pharmacies have been seeing consistent growth as the adaptation and market awareness grows, reliable data for the online pharmacy market alone in Bangladesh is hard to come across.

The competitive landscape

Pharmacy is a highly fragmented market in Bangladesh. There are several large pharmacy chains such as Lazz Pharma and a few others but most of these are concentrated in Dhaka mainly.

Offline pharmacies dominate the segment. There are now several online pharmacy players and some of them have raised meaningful capital as well. Let’s take a look at the competitive landscape in the space.

Offline pharmacy: According to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), there were some 155,589 pharmacies in the year 2019-20. The number was a significant jump from 133,629 pharmacies in the previous fiscal year 2018-19. During that same period, there were 739 model pharmacies in the country.

Consumers continue to rely on physical pharmacies. Pharmacy density is quite a thing all over Bangladesh, customers often find it easy to purchase medicines from these offline outlets.

We have seen several online pharmacies over the last few years. Some of the traditional offline pharmacies have also built their online delivery business. Prominent ones include:

BanglaMeds.com: Chaldal acquired BanglaMeds last year. The company apparently has greater firepower and opportunities to leverage Chaldal’s reach and resources to grow more aggressively. BanglaMeds also plans to get into other digital healthcare services.

Arogga.com: Arogga is among the most prominent players in the market. The company has raised significant investment in recent times and has made a good name for excellent execution within a relatively short period. The company has also been looking into doctor consultation and lab testing services.

ePharma.com.bd: One of the prominent players in the space. A brand of Limitless Solutions Limited, ePharma describes itself as a “ONE-STOP ONLINE Healthcare Solutions where we not only provide a wide range of medicines, we also offer a wide choice of healthcare products including wellness products, vitamins, diet/fitness supplements, herbal products, pain relievers, diabetic care kits, baby/mother care products, beauty care products and surgical supplies.”

Shombhob Health: Shombhob is an online pharmacy that sells both medicines and healthcare products. The company is just a year old and like many other players on this list is gearing up to find a solid footing in the market. Shombhob also has one offline pharmacy that works as both a warehouse and an offline pharmacy. The company raised a $300k seed investment last year and has built a unique growth strategy focusing on building a women-focused brand.

Health OS: Health OS is not an online pharmacy company. The company runs a medicine procurement app for offline pharmacies that it claims is now used by thousands of pharmacies in Bangladesh. The company can potentially help offline pharmacies effectively compete with online pharmacies.

Lazz Pharma: Probably one of the largest and oldest pharmacy chains in the country, also runs a successful online operation. It has strong brand awareness and a wide offline presence and can potentially compete with any online players. However, Lazz comes from a traditional offline background which can potentially be a challenge for the company to effectively prioritize its online operation. But if it can overcome the innovator’s dilemma, it is a strong contender.

There are other players such as Praava Health which also runs a pharmacy. While there are a number of players in the vertical, all the players are in their early days. The market is also underdeveloped. Online pharmacy penetration remains limited. Until now, for Osudpotro and others, offline pharmacies remain the major competitors. Osudpotro has been trying to build an omnichannel operation that can lend it certain strategic advantages.

Major opportunities

Online pharmacy is a relatively new vertical in Dhaka’s ecommerce scene. Fast movers will enjoy certain benefits as the market matures. Going omnichannel can create a solid competitive advantage for Osupotro as the company expands. It can also help it build trust faster. The synergy can meaningfully contribute to its growth such as reducing inventory management costs, improving return on marketing expenses, and reducing the both cost and time of delivery. But Osudpotro has to ensure timely delivery and achieve customer trust that it delivers products on time.

Osudpotro has already started diversifying into adjacent healthcare products. Since healthcare is an integrated service, it offers further service aggregation opportunities and Osudpotro can expand into new services using its existing users. But the company has to make sure that at least one of its products has a strong market position before expanding into a new service. Osudpotro should also look into expanding outside Dhaka and see if they can build an early lead in major cities outside Dhaka.

Osudpotro can consider offering additional services, such as prescription refill reminders or other valued added services. These services can help to differentiate the company from competitors and provide additional value to customers.

Major risks

Large existing pharma chains such as Lazz Pharma and others have entered the online pharmacy space. Many hospitals that have their own pharmacy network also now have their own delivery services. With the heavy offline leaning nature of the pharmacy business, these trends can create further fragmentation in the market making it expensive to build a large enough online business.

Maintaining quality while offering a competitive price in the early days can create dynamic challenges. Osudpotro has to make sure that it can deliver high-quality services and that too at a competitive price.

Osudpotro has been a bootstrapped company. The company will eventually seek investment to fund growth. But meaningful growth funding remains a challenge in Dhaka and the ongoing global financial crisis has made it even more challenging.

Endnote

Osudpotro aims to be the top online pharmacy in Bangladesh. Strategically the company appears to be moving in the right direction. It has just turned two this month and within this period it has built a solid presence in the market. The omnichannel strategy supports the market dynamics of Bangladesh. It can potentially help the company to build a hyper-local delivery model and reduce warehouse costs.

That said, while an omnichannel strategy offers various advantages, it can also complicate Osudpotro’s operation, muddle priorities, create distractions, and put additional pressure on resources.

Osudpotro’s ambition to get into other healthcare services such as online medicine, and at-home diagnostics services make a good narrative but the reality is often more complicated. It is true that being an online platform for medicines, Osudpotro has fascinating opportunities to use the aggregation power and expand into adjacent verticals. But early expansions often create unforeseen challenges and cause distractions and wastage leading to more critical challenges for companies.

The other challenge for Osudpotro is the speed of mainstream adoption of online medicine delivery. In the current market reality, retail pharmacy penetration is quite high throughout the country. You can find multiple pharmacies in almost every locality across the country. Many offline pharmacy chains are now getting into their own e-pharmacy business. The market is quite fragmented and it can create additional adaptation challenges for Osudpotro and other players in the vertical.

That said, in just two years Osudpotro has built an excellent omnichannel operation, a growing loyal user base, and a reputation for delivering good services. It has built an excellent team and operates in a market that is relatively recession-proof and infinitely fascinating. We’ll be keenly following how Osudpotro evolves in the coming years.

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