Flipkart launches Health+ vertical: But it has its task cut out

Last year, Flipkart made a tentative entry into the lucrative but highly competitive online pharma and health space. It entered into some kind of understanding with online pharma company 1 mg. But it was a short-lived partnership as the company was later taken over by Tata, which is slowly but surely making its presence felt in e-commerce. 

But undeterred, Flipkart is now making fresh moves in the healthcare sector through the launch of Flipkart Health+. As part of this development, it has signed agreements to acquire a majority share in Sastasundar Marketplace Limited which owns and operates SastaSundar.com, an online pharmacy and digital healthcare platform. It has a network of more than 490 pharmacies.

Starting with e-pharmacy, Flipkart said, it would add new healthcare services such as e-diagnostics and e-consultation over time.

But it is not going to be easy for Flipkart

“Flipkart Health+ will leverage the combined strengths of the Flipkart Group, which includes its pan-India reach and technology capabilities, with SastaSundar’s deep expertise to provide consumers end-to-end offerings in the health-tech ecosystem,” the company said in a statement. 

Ravi Iyer, Senior Vice President and Head – Corporate Development, Flipkart, said, “With growing awareness and focus on health heightened by the pandemic, there is a large opportunity and demand for affordable healthcare and ancillary offerings.” 

SastaSundar was founded in 2013 by B L Mittal and Ravi Kant Sharma. With its model of personalised application of technology and network of pharmacies, it has made inroads in the competitive market. SastaSundar is backed by investors like Mitsubishi Corporation and Rohto Pharmaceuticals.

But Flipkart Health+ has to brace up for strong competition. Its archrival Amazon is already in the business. So is India’s home-grown titan Reliance that has a tie-up with Netmeds. And then there is also online biggie PharmEasy.  

The good news is that the Indian e-health sector has the potential to touch $16 billion 2025, according to a report from RedSeer Consulting. It is expected to reach 57 million households.

The downside, however, is the fact the brick and mortar medical shops as a collective are trying to stall the emergence of e-pharma outlets. The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) are pulling out all stops to curtail the emergence of e-pharmacies. The association is even terming the e-pharmacies operations as ‘illegal’.

All eyes are on the government that is said to be working on an e-pharmacy regulations.

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