Reaching remote communities through e-commerce
Mukul Taparia remembers vividly the day he visited a surgery in rural India. He was struck by the conditions—unclean, undersupplied and unsafe. He was haunted by the contrast between rural and urban clinics in India. And he was determined to make a difference.
Through his travels he learned that disparities in quality were directly related to the supply chain breakdowns that prevented access to quality products in remote areas. As a senior leader at Pregna International, the world’s largest manufacturer of intrauterine devices, Mukul committed himself and his company to getting life-saving supplies into the hands of those who need them most.
In a country where e-commerce still remains a rarity, medical supply distributors maintain strong relationships with medical professionals and clinics.
To that end, Mukul and his team conceived of an innovative approach to delivering essential health supplies—consumables and essentials such as sterile gloves and gauze and contraceptives—to doctors in hard-to-reach areas across India. The idea was an online supplies portal they named Doctorstore.
In a country where e-commerce still remains a rarity, medical supply distributors maintain strong relationships with medical professionals and clinics. It was a challenge, therefore, for Mukul and his team to build confidence with the early users of Doctorstore. But this challenge was no match for Mukul’s dedication and passion.
With seed funding from the Coalition’s Innovation Fund, Doctorstore registered more than 1,800 verified doctors and delivered more than 170,000 products generating more than 150,000 couple years of protection and serving remote communities across India—far exceeding expectations. Mukul attributes this success to Doctorstore’s strong logistics systems, on-the-ground outreach team and its partnership with the national postal service. To date, more than half of all customers have re-ordered through the online portal and many have referred the site to colleagues as a trusted supplier of quality products.
Mukul is hopeful the online portal will expand across India. “Many rural doctors must still travel major distances to resupply their gynecological practices,” says Mukul, “… and sadly, these trips often take place at the expense of treating patients. Through Doctorstore, we hope to change that so doctors can spend more time with those who really need their help”.
As Doctorstore expands, women in the most remote parts of India, and potentially around the world, will have access to safe medical care and quality supplies. Mukul acknowledges the gamble both Pregna and the Innovation Fund took in backing his idea. But he takes comfort in knowing that because they did, the prospects today are brighter than ever for the health of rural women.
The availability of safe, affordable supplies that meet men’s and women’s RH needs. Supply availability is possible only when products feed into the supply chain and make their way to the point-of-distribution, where women and men can access them.