Laying Down Clear Norms for E-pharmacy Will Help Healthtech Sector Thrive, Says 1mg Founder
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1mg was started with the simple idea that consumers need transparency in healthcare, says Prashant Tandon, Founder and CEO of 1mg Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
Gurugram-based e-pharmacy start-up, 1mg, was started in 2015 by Gaurav Agarwal, Prashant Tandon and Vikas Chauhan as a content platform or database of medicines to impart knowledge and spur awareness of the same. He says, "People would just come to read about medicines and compare prices..."
The transaction layers were started after Tandon and his team felt the need to achieve the objectives of understandability, affordability and accessibility of medicines. This is when they decided to spread to other verticals such as lab test, consultation etc and make the platform integrated.
1mg has also carved a niche in the fundraising aspect. It is perhaps one of the few healthtech and more specifically, e-pharmacy start-ups to reach Series D funding round. In addition, it is backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital, Kae Capital, Maverick Ventures, Korean venture capitalist fund, Redwood Global - Korea Omega Healthcare fund. 1mg is reportedly valued at $200 million.
The e-pharmacy sector has been facing some challenges which healthtech entrepreneurs have been voicing their concerns about.
Tandon says, "Last year, in August, the government came up with draft e-pharmacy notification, after which a lot of people and associations with vested interests went to various courts trying to get a stay based on misinformation." He also says there was also an order that stated all players (in the e-pharmacy space) operating without a license should be banned. This move did not impact 1mg for the simple reason that all transactions go through the licensed route on the platform.
All these controversies were interpreted in different ways, according to Tandon and as a result, the true essence of the predicament could never come out. He says that "the matter is sub-judice now," with several court cases going on. He is also confident about the position oh his company as "their model is in perfect compliance" with rules and regulations.
Tandon says the fundamental challenge of healthtech and e-pharmacy is they need "a lot investment and innovation." He also highlighted that many entrepreneurs in healthcare have started and shut off businesses because of two reasons. "The regulatory pressure was too much," he says, "And second, the investors would always be concerned whether the regulator would be supportive or not."
He says that regulators making entrepreneurs feel challenged have compelled most of them to give up. "That's not a good sign because so much needs to be done."
The Road Ahead
So what are the things that can streamline the sector? "We need to have very clear norms for e-pharmacy, for telemedicine," he says, also adding that clarifications and laying norms for the industry must happen with speed. Only then, will the sector thrive and see real change.