All of her young life, Supriya Shakya aspired to be a doctor but circumstances dictated otherwise. She remained determined to help people with health issues and after years of hard work she has found herself on the same path she had once set out for. She is one of the founders of Nepal Med- an Online Healthcare Service that provides delivery of medicines, surgical products, and organic food supplements through an online portal. We had the opportunity of talking to her about her journey with NepalMed and its current operations.
1. What social change are you trying to bring with NepalMed?
Through extensive research, we found that more than 50% of the adult population in Kathmandu suffer from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiac problems and cancer. Studies showed that medicine availability was scares across pharmacies for people who buy and consume multiple medicines caused due to various ailments.
Due to increased migration of youths for various purposes, in Nepal, more parents are being left behind to take care of themselves. They experience difficulty in finding the right medicines and even forget to take their doses. These are the social problems we aim to address with our service.
2. How did the journey of NepalMed begin?
I wanted to study medicine and dreamt of becoming a doctor one day. But due to financial issues, I was obligated to change my stream and pursuing my dream was not an option anymore. Since I could not become a doctor, I worked as a medical representative for 5 years, after finishing my Masters in Rural Development.
Working for years shed light upon the fact that, in Nepal, many patients consume medicines regularly for chronic and non-communicable diseases. What I could identify from this was that maybe these patients face the problem of finding the right medicines. Then, I took it up as an aim to help these people who consume medicines regularly.
3. How does NepalMed operate?
First, we have a talk with the patients and then we also take their medical history and details about the medicines which they are taking. We record all the information and as per the requirement of the patient, we deliver the medicine.
Once the prescription is obtained, we pack medicines from our inventory and then deliver the medicine. To avoid human errors, we contact the customers before the delivery is sent and ensure the right medicine has been delivered. Since we have a cash on the delivery payment system, they get sufficient time to prepare their payment. All the medicines are delivered at their available time for no additional delivery charge. The customer does not need to worry about ordering late or forgetting to order since we take care of everything.
4. How did you raise the funds for the startup capital? Have you reached the breakeven point yet?
We invested everything ourselves at first but we will need future investors to scale everything. We’ve won some grants and contests as well which helped financially and in terms of publicity. We won 5 lakhs on Idea Studio season 3 and 5 lakhs on Hami Kathmandu Banauncham. We aren’t making profits yet, but we are a self-sustaining organization. We need about 2000 customers to breakeven which we plan on doing over the next 6 months. We’re waiting for our website and app to be completed after which we can market more effectively.
5. What are the challenges you have faced till now and how did you overcome them?
Converting leads into customers in the main challenge for us as people are reluctant about purchasing medicines online. However, once they use our service, the customers recommend our services to other people too.
Another great challenge for us is that some of our target customers are not technology-friendly. However, we’re trying to cater to them by making our technology as friendly as possible. Nevertheless, it’s not very complex either; all they have to do is contact us once and we’ll follow up the rest. Also, once they are in our database, we take all the responsibilities to contact them for their doses.
To tackle this problem, we have planned to visit colleges with bachelor’s and master’s students, to make them aware of our services, website, and app. With this, we hope that the students will get their parents and grandparents in our database since the students will understand the need and the benefits of using our services more quickly.
6. How did you gain your first customers?
Since our website is under construction and most of our customers are not tech-savvy, we have conducted more than a dozen free health camps all over the Kathmandu Valley to collect data. During these, we promote our service and facilities since, our business model is brand-new, different and uncommon. Through these outreach programs, we got about 20 to 25 members. However, today, we have 250 customers, a feat possible due to the positive word of mouth of our satisfied customers.
So, with customer outreach, we are also doing a social service by hosting these health camps.
7. What is the legal status of NepalMed?
NepalMed is registered as a company under the Department of Drug Administration. We have registered two companies for NepalMed; one is for buying and selling medicines and the other is for delivery. We do not have a pharmaceutical outlet.
8. What stage is the company in?
We would say that we are currently at the crawling stage because although it was established a year ago in 2017, we only started operating 6 months ago in June 2018. Since we have not completely launched our website and app, we are still in the beginning stage of operations trying to build a stronger and bigger customer base.
9. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
Yes, of course, because while on the one hand, we are doing social work, on the other hand, we are also generating revenue. Whenever I go to a patient’s house to deliver and to get their feedback regarding our service, they are always so happy to see me. Moreover, they let me know that our service has made their lives easier and health intact.
10. Do you measure the social impact?
We do not have a standard way of measuring our impact but we’ve made quite a good relationship with our customers through our service. These customers let us know that we’ve helped them to track their medicine intake. Furthermore, I feel motivated to work in this business that gives me positive energy.
11. What are the future plans for NepalMed?
In the future, we want to start with e-consultation like online doctor’s appointment, booking online doctor consultation and also to promote medical tourism on our website. As a pilot project, we have started from Kathmandu however, our future goal is to spread nationwide.
12. Do you have any messages for our readers?
Entrepreneurship has become quite popular lately. But it needs a lot of patience and steady motivation. You have to put in at least 5 years to see any results. The younger generation lacks that patience; they get frustrated when they don’t see results right away. You have to motivate yourself.
Lastly, if you know anyone who needs to take medicine regularly and is having any difficulty with it, you should help them out. We’re delivering this all the way to your house, and it is the final step for you to make sure they take their medication.
For more information about this company, visit their Facebook page Nepal Med or connect with Supriya Shrestha at email@example.com.
Interviewed and article by Priyadarshani Shrestha.