Pharma delivery and Meals-on-train are 2 startup ideas that most of us must have thought about at sometime but never tried just because of the obvious hurdles.
YoPharma is an online pharma store that is tackling the first problem. The hurdle here is that the regulations do not allow selling of medicines without the original prescription being produced before purchase. Not that the local druggist adheres to it but when you do it at scale you would attract trouble. The solution that YoPharma has applied is to get a pharmacist to deliver the drug and check the prescription on delivery. This is going to be a little costly as compared to regular delivery but the margins in this business justify the cost.
TravelKhana (profiled here) is addressing the second problem of delivering meals on train. The hurdle is the sheer scale that you need to operate at. Unlike normal food delivery you cannot be growing 1 city at a time building your own delivery system. TravelKhana looks at the problem at a different angle.
Instead of getting 100+ restaurant in a single city with your own delivery system, they got 2-3 restaurants each in 70 cities. They are covering 2000 popular trains through these 70 stations. Almost all of these restaurants already have their own delivery system for trains. In north India, regular travelers already know numbers to call at, at major stations, to get food delivered on their seat. TravelKhana is acting as an aggregator.
There are few things common in these 2 startups:
1. Both these problem have been solved locally. There are local pharma stores that home deliver and there are food joint that deliver in train. The 2 startups are organizing the fragmented sector and taking it to a new scale. None of the popular food chains or pharma chains are addressing this market.
2. Both are high margin business. Pharma has way higher higher margin than FMCG sold at general stores and Meal on train has about 50-100% higher margin than same quality meal available in the city.
3. Both are primarily offline business. Phone is going to be their major communication mode and web is going to do very little help. Phone app? Yes. But again for TravelKhana it is going to take some time as there is a psychological cost barrier for affording data on roaming for train travelling junta. Communicating medicine name or your train PNR number over phone is going to be as painful as explaining an address to a Meru driver.
4. Both are fighting against the retail’s fundamental principal of “Location”. Most drugs are bought at the store just outside a medical clinic, repeat purchase of some essential drugs is also at most times preceded by to visit to the doc. Most food purchase during travel is impulsive. You know you want to eat when you see it.
What I like about both of them is that these are some “real India” problems. I hope they don’t position or build themselves as an eCommerce company, they would not only end up giving the wrong solutions but also undersell themselves.
[Guest post by Naman Sarawagi]