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Thane-based Arjun Deshpande comes across as a regular teenager who loves playing football and reading books. But what makes this 18-year-old unique is his mission to provide medicines to people at low rates.
“Medicines are a necessity today, and it is terrible that the common man needs to pay exorbitant prices to purchase them. My goal is to eliminate this basic yet fundamental problem by providing certified medicines at affordable rates,” says Arjun, who is the founder of Generic Aadhaar, to The Better India.
The startup purchases generic quality medicines from government-approved manufacturing units and sells at prices that are 80 per cent lower compared to the market. Arjun, who is presently awaiting his Class 12 board results, started the company last year with an investment of Rs 15 lakh from his parents.
Giving an insight into how his company works, Arjun says, “Pharmaceuticals in India put a brand name on generic medicines and sell at high prices. The customers bear the extra cost of branding or marketing. My company sell generic medicines directly to retailers who directly sell it to the end customer under our brand.”
Impressed by Arjun’s novel idea and determination, philanthropist Ratan Tata recently invested a token amount in his company to encourage expansion.
Editor’s Note: Since this article was published, some media agencies have claimed that Ratan Tata invested in 50% of the startup. Please note, as our article always stated, Tata made a minor investment and not 50%.
“It was very encouraging for me when sir, my biggest inspiration, came on board. His belief in my vision has motivated me to work harder and take this model across India.”
How It All Started
Arjun was all of 14 when the idea of starting a company like Generic Aadhaar struck him.
His mother works in a pharma company, and Arjun had accompanied her to several trade fairs in countries like Vietnam, Dubai, China and the United States. There, he discovered the real picture behind the sale of medicines.
“I learnt so much during these trips. To begin with, I found out that other countries purchased generic medicines from India and sold them at nominal rates. At the same time, Indian companies packaged the medicines under their respective brands only to sell them at higher rates. How is this fair when 60 per cent of people in the country cannot afford medicines? I knew I wanted to do something,” Arjun shares.
He also discovered how single-store chemist owners struggled to keep up with big market malls and the mounting popularity of online pharmacies. “When a chemist shuts, an entire family suffers. I started working on an ecosystem that would benefit all.”
For the next two years, the determined boy engaged himself in in-depth market research, interacted with health experts and learnt how to form a business model along with balancing his studies.
With the initial funding from his parents, Arjun approached WHO and GMP-approved manufacturing facilities and retail stores in Thane and Mumbai.
Being new in the market and considering his age, the initial days were hard. Establishing a strong and trusted network was his first priority. Once he convinced the manufacturers to procure the drugs directly, he physically visited pharmacies in his area. He gradually brought stores under his brand and formally launched the company in April 2019.
Today, Generic Aadhaar has tied up with four manufacturers and has 30 outlets spread across Mumbai, Thane, Bengaluru and Odisha.
As anticipated, the model has turned out to be a win-win for retailers and consumers. “The profit-sharing model has raised revenue of the stores by 20 per cent, and sales have doubled. Meanwhile, customers are paying 80 per cent lesser,” he adds.
“I used to worry whether the quality of generics would be the same as the [branded] medicines I used to buy. The staff here assured me that it was. They asked me to try generic medicines once and see what happens. I did so and realised they had the same effect. Now I only buy generic medicines. My monthly medical bill has come down by 50 per cent as a result,” Ashok Kulkarni, a diabetes patient told Forbes.
By gaining credibility in the market and support from Tata, Arjun is currently working on expanding the company across India and increasing the number of outlets to 200.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)