Startup Street: This Startup Calls Itself The Amazon Of B2B Medical Supplies
Boxes and bottles of over-the-counter medications sit on the shelves. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Startup Street: This Startup Calls Itself The Amazon Of B2B Medical Supplies

This week on Startup Street, Vivek Tiwari’s Medikabazaar is solving the stocking problem of India’s healthcare providers. The government announced the formation of a National Startup Advisory Council which will suggest measures to boost innovation and scaling of startups in the country. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. launched the first season of its Startup Grand Slam with up to Rs 2 crore up for grabs for six startups, each.

Here’s what went on...

Solving The Stocking Problem Of Healthcare Providers

Prior to 2015, Vivek Tiwari was helping set up and manage tertiary healthcare centres across remote locations in the country. During his stint he noted how an inefficient supply chain system delays medical supplies to these areas. Besides, hospitals had to contact multiple suppliers for different products, leading to higher costs.

Tiwari founded Medikabazaar aiming to address these issues. “We are like the Amazon for B2B medical supplies,” the founder and chief executive told BloombergQuint in an email.

Medikabazaar’s online website is a one-stop-shop for hospitals and healthcare centres to source medical devices and pharmaceutical products. They can compare prices, place bulk orders and get delivery of the more than 3 lakh products.

This helps us to connect with healthcare facilities situated in tier 2, 3 cities, and rural areas that don’t get timely supplies due to an unreliable and inefficient distribution system.
Vivek Tiwari, Founder and CEO, Medikabazaar
Brightly coloured pharmaceutical medication. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
Brightly coloured pharmaceutical medication. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

The startup’s elaborate inventory management system sets it apart. Medikabazaar developed an artificial intelligence tool VIZI to help hospitals and healthcare centres track their orders and provide timely projections on when their stock can run out. “Hospitals are able to procure at the right time and appropriate quantity to mitigate wastage and stock-out situations,” Tiwari said.

India’s pharma market is estimated to swell from $20 billion currently to $35 billion by 2025, according to IQVIA. And the online business, according to Frost & Sullivan, is expected to grow sevenfold to $3.7 billion by 2022 as Indians turn to the internet to buy everything from grocery to medicines. But that depends on how the regulatory framework evolves. The industry is still awaiting the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization’s final rules on selling drugs online.

While operating in the business-to-business space means Medikabazaar is not significantly impacted by this, Tiwari feels some clarity on the regulations would be better.

But that hasn’t deterred investors. The startup, with its team of more than 300 employees, has raised a total of $21.8 million to date. Health Quad, Ackermans & van Haaren and Rebright Partners & Toppan Printing Co. are some of the investors.

Medikabazaar operates in 13 India cities and counts more than 34,000 medical service providers as its customers. It’s also present in some international markets that contribute 15-20 percent of its revenue. The startup plans to use its recent series-B fundraise of about Rs 112 crore to expand footprint in tier-2 and 3 cities, hire more people, set up more fulfillment centres and improve efficiency.

Yet, the startup faces one legacy challenge.

“There is one overarching problem that we face in our sector. In India, hospitals are still operating in the conventional offline procurement system. They are so used to this system that it’s difficult to enable them to shift to an online procurement process that Medikabazaar provides.” Tiwari said. “However, with the way businesses are getting digitised, we believe that we can work with hospitals and help them streamline their supply chains.”

Also read: This Fledgling Online Market Too Is Facing Brick-And-Mortar Backlash In India

India Sets Up National Startup Advisory Council

The central government has set up a National Startup Advisory Council to advise it on measures needed to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country.

The council will also suggest ways to promote ease of access to capital for startups, incentivise domestic capital for investment, mobilise global capital and keep control of startups with original promoters, the commerce and industry ministry said in a statement.

The body will be chaired by the commerce minister and will comprise other members nominated by the government, including founders of successful startups, businessmen who have scaled companies in India and investor representatives. It will also have people capable of representing interests of incubators and accelerators and representatives of associations of stakeholders of startups and representatives of industry associations.

The term for non-official members in the council will be two years. The names of the nominees have not been notified yet.

(With inputs from PTI.)

BPCL’s Startup Grand Slam

Oil marketer Bharat Petroleum Corporation launched its first season of Startup Grand Slam to solve six industry-related challenges.

These are:

  • Energy optimisation at refinery
  • Refinery unit performance optimisation
  • Enhancing customer experience at fuel stations
  • Real time customer feedback
  • Internet of things for LPG
  • Transforming LPG commercial business

The winner of each challenge will get Rs 50 lakh in prize money. BPCL also plans to release additional Rs 1.5 crore to the winning startups if the proposed solution is scalable and requires additional funds to do so. It will provide assistance beyond the grant money in terms of mentoring, collaboration opportunities and access to test facilities and labs, the company said in a press statement.

The programme is organised by BPCL under its Ankur initiative, launched in 2016. Since then, it has developed a number of products and solutions such as the Bandicoot — a robotic system developed by Genrobotic Innovations for manhole and sewer line cleaning.

The last date of application is Feb. 2 and the winners will be selected after a two-round process judged by a panel of startup incubators, accelerators, venture capitalists and other investors, the statement said.

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