Sehat.com.pk claims to be Pakistan’s premier online pharmacy and is powered by one of the oldest retail pharmacies in the country: Fazal Din & Sons in Lahore. While this might not be the first online pharmaceutical retailer in the country, it is certainly the first to receive widespread attention. Working on their SEO would be helpful for the future, as their website doesn’t show up on the first page if one searches for ‘pakistan online pharmacy’ on Google.
The opportunity for becoming a widely recognized online pharmaceutical retailer has been available for the past many years as online shopping and cash on delivery courier services have gained traction in the country and a group of online services in different sectors have popped up to become the first movers in their respective segments.
It is only fitting that a brick-and-mortar establishment expands its arm into the online world in this case as that makes it similar to adding a new channel for customers all over the country to get their services. This gives them access to a complete range of medicine without the effort of starting from scratch and figuring out the industry.
OTC versus Prescription Drugs
The biggest question anyone would have with an online pharmacy would be the issue of prescription drugs. Not just the process of receiving and verifying prescriptions to be able to legally sell a whole range of pharmaceutical products but also determining the proportion of total sales that comes from such drugs and customers’ willingness/need to resort to an online pharmacy for these drugs.
If we trace the process of obtaining a prescription and then look around the usual flock of pharmacies that line up near hospitals and clinics, one would think that it is very unlikely that instead of purchasing the medicine right there with cash and ease, anyone would go home, look the medicine up and then order it to be delivered in the next one to three days.
The availability of consumer products on this website reflects the way actual pharmacies have evolved in Pakistan in terms of supplementing their stock of medicine with these often high-margin products that are somewhat related to health and hygiene. In Sehat’s case, the categories included are: Baby Care, Beauty and Skin, Cosmetics, Detergents, Disinfectants, Water purification products, Mosquito repellents, Household products, Women’s health and Personal Hygiene.
It is not unheard of to see a full-strength grocery store popping out of a pharmacy, or the focus shifting – as is evident if you visit a Shaheen or D Watston pharmacy. It would be interesting to see how this set of products fare as compared to the medicine on this online shop, and if that affects the future trajectory of Sehat.
The delivery time is stated to be less than 24 hours for major areas and up to 72 hours for more remote locations. This is faster than your usual online shopping that usually promised 24-48 hours on average, and for good reason. The nature of these products would require quicker delivery in order for them to be useful to the customer. This feature is essential in making the online pharmacy model work, because longer delivery times would make the proposition of buying medicine online (especially when you need it) pretty unattractive.
The Delivery cost in Lahore is around PKR 30-40, while the cost is around 80-90 for Rawalpindi, Karachi and other cities (for a package weighing up to 0.5 kilograms). I did not come across any option for free delivery if the purchase is more than a certain amount.
In any case, this delivery cost aspect makes things more complicated from the consumer’s perspective. If we assume that an average cart of medicine from this online store ranges between PKR 300 and 700, then customers are facing the choice of either paying between 10 and 25% of their goods’ value in delivery cost. This would mean that the majority of purchases from this online store, technically, should be high value but low weight products.
With the average price of pharmaceutical products in the country, this would mean that consumers would be less willing to purchase one product at a time from this store and might be more willing to resort to this channel if they have a long list of such items or serious transportation issues.
Being backed by a brick-and-mortar store, Sehat is not a high-risk venture. It would be interested to see how it evolves as customers react to the availability of this service for their convenience.