Online pharmacies go on a hiring spree

Most firms operating in the space claim that they have seen at least a two-fold rise in orders as compared to other times.

Hampered by an acute shortage of manpower, especially for last-mile delivery and managing warehouses, online pharmacies are looking to hire aggressively to cater to the rising demand, especially after the nationwide lockdown to contain spread of COVID-19 was extended till May 3.

Most firms operating in the space claim that they have seen at least a two-fold rise in orders as compared to other times.

Gurugram-based 1mg, for example, is looking to immediately hire 500 people and another 1,000 over the next 2-3 months.

Bengaluru-headquartered Medlife is working towards filling up 400 vacancies, mostly for last-mile deliveries and warehouse management.

PharmEasy, which claims to be running at 35-40 per cent lower capacity in terms of manpower, is also hiring people for last-mile deliveries.

The Mumbai-based company says it has seen at least a 50 per cent increase in demand recently.

“There’s an up to 200 per cent upsurge in the number of orders coming in, deliveries are still at 60-70 per cent of what we used to fulfil.

“Hence, we are hiring people and getting them trained to deliver more orders,” said Ananth Narayanan, co-founder and chief executive officer at Medlife.

Delivery executives at online pharmacies earn between Rs 50 and Rs 60 per order and fulfil up to 25 orders a day.

Medlife, which is handling about 20,000 orders a day, has also tied up with several non-essential services such as Uber, Yulu and Zoomcar to use their fleets for deliveries.

It has also partnered with other start-ups such as Bigbasket and MyGate to jointly drop essentials to customers located in COVID-19 hotspots, as part of a single order.

PharmEasy, which is currently managing orders on its own and has not opted for tie-ups, is also looking to hire staff.

“All our partner warehouses and retailers are struggling with manpower, so we are looking at filling in 1,500-2,000 positions,” said Dharmil Sheth, co-founder of PharmEasy.

While online medicine delivery, classified as an essential service, is returning to normal, firms fear that there could be another spell of confusion and restrictions if more hotspots are identified.

“We have been seeing positive signs in inter-state movement of medicines.

“However, all that could change given that new hotspots might emerge and things might get tough again,” said Tanmay Saksena, chief operating officer at 1mg.

1mg is operating with 70 per cent of its original manpower.

Saksena said the company is arranging transportation and curfew passes so that more staffers can return to work.

“We are currently experiencing an increase in demand of three to four times for hand sanitizers, masks, and immunity boosters.

“Hence, we will be hiring 500 people immediately and will need 1,000 more in the next 2-3 months to fulfil the rising demand and shortage of manpower,” said Saksena.

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