Reliance Industries Acquires Majority Stake In Online Pharmacy Netmeds
Tablets are arranged for a photograph. (Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg)

Reliance Industries Acquires Majority Stake In Online Pharmacy Netmeds

Reliance Industries Ltd.’s retail arm has acquired a majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds, marking the conglomerate’s foray into a fledgling market.

Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd. has bought controlling stake in Vitalic Health Pvt. and its subsidiaries, collectively known as Netmeds, for about Rs 620 crore, the parent RIL said in a media statement late on Tuesday night. The investment represents around 60% holding in Vitalic and 100% direct ownership of its subsidiaries Tresara Health Pvt., Netmeds Market Place Ltd. and Dadha Pharma Distribution Pvt.

Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani is now on a shopping spree, looking to acquire several local online retailers, to boost his own e-commerce offerings and challenge Amazon.com Inc. RIL is also reportedly in talks to either buy out or acquire stakes in online furniture seller Urban Ladder and lingerie maker Zivame.

Five-year-old Vitalic and its subsidiaries are involved in pharmaceutical distribution, sales and business support services, RIL said in its statement. However, they’re mostly known for their Netmeds marketplace that delivers everything from drugs to medical products to customers’ homes.

RIL’s buyout in Netmeds comes less than a week after Amazon itself started selling medicines online. It has rolled out the Amazon Pharmacy service in Bengaluru allowing customers to order medical supplies and prescription drugs, among others.

Now RIL has entered the fray for a slice of the online pharmacy market which, according to Frost & Sullivan, is expected to touch $3.7 billion by 2022.

This also comes at a time when online ordering and delivery of medicines has increased following the Covid-19 outbreak as customers stay at home and follow social distancing norms. E-pharmacies saw an explosive rise in the number of first-time buyers and even initially struggled to meet the demand.

“The addition of Netmeds enhances Reliance Retail’s ability to provide good quality and affordable health care products and services, and also broadens its digital commerce proposition to include most daily essential needs of consumers,” Reliance Retail’s Director Isha Ambani was quoted as saying in a media statement. “We’re impressed by Netmeds’ journey to build a nationwide digital franchise in such a short time and are confident of accelerating it with our investment and partnership.”

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