At The Tech Factor by Roopa Kumar. The podcast was an interesting conversation between Suyash Motarwar, Vice President and Head of Technology B2B at PharmEasy and Roopa Kumar, Founder & Group CEO, Purple Quarter. During the conversation, Suyash talks about his stellar career in technology and presents a deep understanding of the B2B landscape, his role in driving innovation and spearheading technological advancements within PharmEasy.
Healthcare Scenario in India
The healthcare ecosystem in the country has been left out in terms of the application of technological advancements. The progression of technology in B2C is far ahead when compared to B2B. Age-old systems are used in supply chains, and twenty-year-old tools such as technology stacks are used by Pharma manufacturers and distributors. Moreover, earlier major parts of commerce were done on pen and paper. This is where a wide space and opportunity was discovered allowing a competitive advantage while solving the problem effectively.
The B2B Pharma supply chain has three major stakeholders – manufacturers, Pharma distributors and neighbourhood retailers that eventually cater to the needs of the consumer. While PharmEasy has built multiple tools for every stakeholder, the dominant use case has been how to solve commerce through technology between the pharma retailers and distributors. Traditionally, it has been a pen-and-paper business where distributors have a set of relationship managers and salesmen working with the retailers who work with multiple distributions in the city or region and try to complete their procurement.
Vision at PharmEasy
The vision towards building PharmEasy was to completely democratize this commerce by building a marketplace which allows distributors and retailers to discover each other through a technology platform. Adoption of technology and making people believe in the process posed as major challenges along with regulations and external factors. However, there was also a competitive advantage since PharmEasy invested in building the layers.
A typical marketplace has two sides- the seller and the consumer. The B2B Pharma ecosystem witnesses a peculiar problem because the seller on the platform is unlike other major B2C platforms. The distributors on the platform run commerce in their own world. They use ERP software that handles all the tasks such as transaction, accounting and inventory management.
The distributors cater to businesses in both offline and online fashions which stays as a source of truth for the distributor. While building a B2B marketplace, it is significant to stay closer to that source of truth as much as possible in contrast to a B2C platform where the source of truth is that platform since the pricing and inventory are managed on that platform.
A constant deep integration with the distributor ecosystem is necessary to guarantee that a superlative experience is provided to the consumer layer. The marketplace makes promises to its consumers such as delivering the product at the desired time and correct price. The problem is making sure that the promises are met on a large scale all the time.
The challenge faced in the distributor world is getting into the depth of the ERP ecosystems. Further, the ERP market is highly fragmented within the country, with close to 150-200 operators across India which had to be integrated into the system. The initial investment was to build infrastructure components and integrations and allow the commerce layers to flourish simultaneously. In today’s time, there is a clear impact in terms of how commerce is done in the B2B segment.
Application of Best Practises as a Tech Leader in PharmEasy
There are some first principles of software engineering around how to architect your system and what NFRs are. In this ecosystem, it is also important to understand the current experience that stakeholders are accustomed to. Another learning is that there isn’t one product that fits pan-India. Every state has their own regulations of the sale of a product; hospital chains might have their own contracts with manufacturers and thus, there is no single solution that fits all. There is a common denominator with overrides for specific geographies, hospitals and chain of distributors that need to be applied. The technological design needs to be as such that can be customized at a microlevel.
The nature of fragmentation of the Pharma supply chain in India is completely opposite to that of in the US. There are a single digit number of distributors in the US controlling the supply of all Pharma products within the Country. In India, that number is more than 80,000 and each distributor runs in their own world, without a standardization of catalogue and barcoding.
PharmEasy is actively working towards solving this problem by creating a universal pharma catalogue and making sure that a retailer and distributor can talk in the same terms across India. This will give an understanding of what is getting sold and then influence the commerce in the right fashion.
Watch the full podcast here,