Mamta Rai (name changed), 38, moved from the Champaran district of Bihar to Delhi seven years ago. She came to town with the dream of educating her two daughters and having a better life. What happened was far from it. Her youngest daughter fell ill and Mamta found herself burdened with a mountain of debt. All the money she earned as a domestic helper was spent buying medicine and running from doctor to doctor.
With a husband who refuses to help run the household, the responsibility lies with Mamta. For five years, this is the life she has been forced to lead.
“I spend more than Rs 30,000 every month on medicine, while my salary itself is only Rs 12,000,” she says. The rest of the money comes from various loans she has taken out. She fears what will happen to her daughter after her.
And so do many Indians.
On the one hand, while India is the world capital of generic drugs, Amit Choudhary, co-founder of Dawaa Dost, claims that almost 68% of Indians do not have access to these drugs. “While we serve a global population around the world, we are unable to serve our own people. This gap only widens as we move deeper into the hinterland of India,” he says .
According to an article in The Print, loans taken out to meet personal health expenses can be more damaging than other household debts, because illness “limits the ability to work, leading to the depletion of household savings and unforeseen economic shocks”. said Sunil Kumar Sinha, an economist at India Ratings and Research.
It is precisely to address this problem that Amit, Yash Harlalka and Anirudh Batwara created Dawaa Dost in 2018.
The Jaipur-based startup is an omnichannel pharmacy retail chain for generic drugs. Created with the aim of providing affordable medicines to the entire population, this company saves between 50 and 80% on each prescription.
So far, they claim to have contributed to a saving of Rs 30 million.
Talk to The best India, Amit says, “There is no way to reach Bharat by just selling online or offline in the traditional way. Some of the largest pharmaceutical companies have remained in India’s major cities alone. The idea behind Dawaa Dost is to reach the interior and hinterland of the country.
Since its inception, the company has served over 3.5 million Indians and with over 72% repeat customers, they are looking to increase that number.
Leverage an existing ecosystem
Yash Harlalka, Co-Founder and COO, Dawaa Dost, adds, “While we were conceptualizing Dawaa Dost, we realized that there was no complete solution, offline or online, that guaranteed ‘medical care’ for all. All our efforts in our physical or online stores are focused on restoring this gap.
In order to reach as many people as possible, the company has partnered with Kirana stores across the country. This allowed them to start operating with very low infrastructure costs. Amit says, “We have partnerships with over 2,500 kirana stores across India, using an affiliate marketing model. In each of these stores, we have a QR code (which the customer scans) that helps customers choose from over 70,000 medicines we offer and download prescriptions. Once the order has been placed by the customer, Dawaa Dost allows home delivery of these orders through our online/dark stores delivery model.
One of the beneficiaries of this service happens to be a young man from Bihar who says that with the savings he “can now avail” through this service. His parents can have their daily medication. Until then, they would only consume medication on an SOS basis, even though both are diabetics and have been prescribed regular medication.
Adding to that, Amit says, “This was one of the most heartwarming impact stories we have heard. The fact that as a family they are all able to take their medications on time and not prioritize the health of the sole breadwinner is a big win for us. Where on average his monthly medical expenses were close to Rs 3,000, he says he is now able to buy all the drugs for just Rs 500.”
Anirudh Batwara, Co-Founder and CTO, Dawaa Dost says, “Health care is impacting India as a whole. To solve a problem of this magnitude, we must embrace simple yet scalable data-driven solutions that align with our mission of equitable and sustainable healthcare for all. This has been the guiding principle behind all of our product offerings to our customers. Every day, tens of thousands of users use Dawaa Dost for their pharmaceutical needs.
But how do they save millions on standard prescriptions?
Dr Anil Mehta, who has been practicing medicine as a general practitioner for 40 years in Mumbai and is a strong supporter of Dawaa Dost, says: “Generally speaking, if we look at the monthly expenses of a family of six in drugs, it would easily be in the thousands. These high costs affect not only the poor but also those who belong to the middle/upper class. It is a recurring problem. »
He continues, “To solve this problem, Dawaa Dost provided affordable alternatives in the form of branded generics (a branded drug already marketed in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and use planned) to my patients and it reduces their drug bills by up to 50%; which also helps with medication compliance.
Beyond Medical Literacy
While a doctor prescribes a certain medicine to the patient, he often does not have the time or the bandwidth to explain how to consume it, what the possible side effects might be or if another medicine in its place can be consumed. To bridge this gap between what the doctor prescribes and the medicine the patient buys, Medwiki was launched.
They claim that it is the world’s largest drug video library with over 7.5 lakh of videos in six Indian languages.
“While the internet is full of health/medicine related content, awareness of drugs and their compositions is still low, leaving a lot of room for misinformation. With the help of Medwiki, we aim to raise awareness about drugs that Indians consume in a click and to help patients self-select affordable and high-quality medical alternatives,” says Amit.
Organized by a team of trained pharmacists and doctors, the search engine-based video library aims to help Indians better understand their medicines.
Today, this platform is used by more than 45 million Indians.
Karma Dost, yet another app developed by Dawaa Dost team aims to improve medical non-adherence in India. He solves this problem by leveraging technology to develop highly effective ways to improve medication adherence.
Explaining this, Anirudh says, “The platform has created a reminder habit that rewards people for taking their medications on time. The points people earn for taking their medicine on time can be redeemed for “good karma,” such as planting trees or supporting a child’s education; activities that Dawaa Dost carries out on their behalf. The user can also be part of a “community” which will rank him within the community’s management committee. »
With a physical presence in over 10 cities, Dawaa Dost has an online presence and delivers over 19,000 PINs across India.
Sharing an interesting statistic, Amit says, “A lot of the digital orders we receive are from very non-traditional PIN codes (rural Bihar and Jharkhand). That’s what excites me the most. What we’re building is meant to go into the backcountry and when we see that happen, it’s great validation.
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(Edited by Yoshita Rao)