Asia News Aug 19

Reliance buys majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds

Pays about 6.2 billion rupees (about $83 million) in cash, days after e-commerce giant Amazon.com launched an online drug sales service in India

by Reuters
Reliance buys majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds
An employee leaves a store of Reliance Industries Ltd, controlled by Mukesh Ambani, one of India's richest men, at a market in Kolkata in September 2016. File photo: Rupak De Chowdhuri/ Reuters.

BENGALURU: Reliance Industries has acquired a majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds for about 6.2 billion rupees ($83.08 million) in cash, days after e-commerce giant Amazon.com launched an online drug sales service in India.

The oil-to-telecoms conglomerate said late on Tuesday its investment represents about 60% holding in Vitalic Health Pvt Ltd and 100% direct ownership of its subsidiaries.

Vitalic and its subsidiaries, collectively known as Netmeds, were incorporated in 2015.

Netmeds is a licensed e-pharma portal that offers authenticated prescription and over the counter (OTC) medicine along with other health products in India.

The Covid-19 crisis, which spurred a wave of online shopping, has led to increased competition between Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart, Reliance's upstart online grocery service, JioMart and a range of other smaller players for a share in the world's second most populous country.

India is yet to finalise regulations for online drug sales, or e-pharmacies, but growth of online sellers such as Medlife, Netmeds, Temasek-backed PharmEasy and Sequoia Capital-backed 1mg has threatened traditional drug stores.

Many trader groups are against e-pharmacies, saying they would lead to sale of medicines without proper verification.