Every time my house help returns from the doctor, she brings back a long prescription—the medicines alone cost her between Rs 800-Rs 1,000. The last time she was unwell, the doctor had prescribed an antibiotic course for five days, but unable to bear the cost of medication for the full course, she stopped it on the second day, to disastrous results. Often, she resorts to home remedies only because she is so weary of spending so much on the medicines.
All this make me wonder if there is a place where she can get medicines at affordable prices.
While there are charitable hospitals in every part of the city, the after-care and the cost of medication burdens people.
On 11 September 2016, in West Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh, a group of seven friends decided to start a pharmacy—Jan Sewa Pharmacy. What’s unique about this venture is that the medicines that are sold here are priced almost 80-85 per cent lesser than those available in the market.
Is that even possible, I wondered before I spoke to Mahendra Gupta, one of the proprietors of this shop.
This no-profit, no-loss pharmacy, in its 1.5 years of existence, has served over 4.5 lakh people and contributed to saving approximately Rs 10 crore.
These are very large numbers and to explain this, The Better India spoke to Mahendra Gupta.
He begins, “We stock all kinds of medicines at the shop. We buy directly from the manufacturers and offer a price better than the wholesalers, and our shop is open to anyone and everyone. On average, almost 500 people buy medicines each day.”
He goes on to tell me that while the shop is located in West Delhi, people from Ghaziabad, Noida, and Gurugram are regular visitors too.
“Many customers come with their monthly medicine list and purchase it from here. The money they save by this makes it worth their while to travel the distance,” he says.
How do they manage to sell at such low rates I ask him. He answers, “We just negotiate better while making the bulk purchase. We don’t intend to profit from this, but only want to help people. We also have 12 staff members whom we pay a regular salary. And by doing this for 1.5 years, we have shown that it is possible to be in this business in a just manner.”
This has put pressure on other chemists in the area when customers point towards the hefty price differential, because of which they are forced to reduce their prices.
As a result, it has made it easier and accessible for customers to buy medicines.
Generic medicines are sold at up to 85 per cent discounted rates, while others are sold at prices discounted to up to 35 per cent. “We stock almost 10,000 different medicines at our 600 sq ft shop. For example, a calcium sachet that is sold at Rs 27 in most pharmacies is sold for Rs 7 at our shop, ” he says.
Himanshu, one of the customers at Jan Sewa Pharmacy, says, “The Chemist provides medicines at a very discounted price, from 20-70 per cent. Medical tests are also done here at discounted prices. Kidney Function Tests (KFT) and HBA1c (Sugar), which is done in the market at Rs 1,200, is priced at Rs 480 here.”
But how do they get the medicines at these costs, I ask again. Mahendra answers, “Our initial investment was to the tune of Rs 1 crore, an amount that all of us contributed and as donations from friends and family.”
“The one thing that distributors and manufacturers appreciate about our work is that we keep our bills and paperwork in order, pay the GST timely, and merely pass on the benefit to our customers.”
This encourages manufacturers to give us better discounts as well, where some even offer us 6-7 per cent discounts over and above the regular discount.”
He adds, “Of the sales, we keep aside 2.5 per cent to pay the rent of the shop, the salary of our employees, stationary and electricity expenses.”
If you are a resident of Delhi/NCR, do stop by this pharmacy next time you need to stock up on your monthly medicines. To know more, call them at 9899004255.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)