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Retailing

Published on: Feb. 20, 2022, 8:43 p.m.
Growth through e-pill
  • E-commerce will help us in reaching smaller cities as well, says Kapadia

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

In the last two years, managing Covid has been a tough task. “While there is a general belief among people that, during Covid, pharmacies have made a lot of money, very few knew that overnight about 50 per cent of our staff had left for their villages,” explains Mihir Kapadia, 48, founder, Noble Plus MediChem, who has recently flagged off his e-commerce business. “Also, some were falling sick and could not travel from far-off locations, where they lived. In such times, there was a need to arrange transportation for them from far-off places and also arrange their meals. Their safety was our priority, ensured by sanitisation, immunity boosters and protective gear”.

In 2002, Kapadia got into real estate business, buying physical properties for his pharmaceutical outlets. Today, Noble Plus, with 890 employees, has both owned and rented stores. Out of its 42 outlets, nine are owned-stores – located around Mumbai and Pune.

He does not believe in giving out franchisees just to grow the tally of stores, as many others do. “We do not give franchises because people come to Noble Plus with confidence and they know what they will get is genuine and authentic. Customers believe that Noble Plus will store the medicines properly and ensure that they are in safe hands.

The founder’s vision encompasses building the Nobel Plus chain through owned and rented stores, consistently in a sustained manner. The stores have a robust infrastructure, with a product mix that includes 40 per cent non-pharma material. The average size of the stores varies from 500 sq ft to 1,500 sq ft.

The range of products encompasses a wide spectrum of nutraceuticals, naturals, health foods, supplements, pet care, body care, et al. “The prime focus is on all categories of skincare, dermo-cosmetics, natural and alternative skin and body care.”

“We deal in brands of supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals and others,” adds Kapadia, boasting that his warehouse has more than 20,000 sq ft space, and stretches out to their distribution centres and finally to their stores. “It is their centralised space, from where all their purchases for all stores are made, including pharma and non-pharma products, as there is no purchase taking place from any direct supplier. And, the warehouse meets stringent FDI norms.”

Interestingly, many brands have used Noble Plus stores to launch their brands in the Indian market. “We actually got GNC Nutrition, US, to Mumbai and also had an exclusive deal with it for a year,” says Kapadia. “The first brand it launched was Vichy, a L’Oréal product”.

Meanwhile, Noble Plus has undertaken many activities to enhance customer engagement over the years. The company also had a tie-up with Metropolis, where it used to have a collection centre at its stores; now, it has a similar tie-up with SRL, where it offers benefits to its customers. If the customers are registered with Noble Plus, they get a price benefit on SRL test charges for home collection.

Noble Plus has tie-ups with Indian Oil and Bharat Petroleum too, where they operate their pharmacies from their outlets – like in the case with ONGC (shared along with Apollo), Noble Plus supports over 6,000 employees of ONGC throughout the country.

  • Unlike typical e-commerce ventures focussing on cash-burn strategy, we want to maximise our return on investment in a planned, systematic, and organic way supported by proper marketing

The arrangement is such that, across all the locations, wherever they stay, the ONGC staff can come and purchase the medicines prescribed by ONGC doctors through any of the Noble Plus outlets. ONGC business was worth about Rs100 crore, spread over three years.

Besides adding new stores, Noble Plus has also started e-commerce. Its e-commerce portal is an interactive website, where one can even post his concerns – telling them about the issue. “E-commerce will help us in reaching smaller cities as well. Unlike typical e-commerce ventures focussing on cash-burn strategy, we want to maximise our return on investment in a planned, systematic, and organic way supported by proper marketing,” says Kapadia.

In the last five years, with the brick-and-mortar format Noble Plus has grown at 20 per cent per annum to touch Rs180 crore (March 2022) and is on a growth path eyeing a turnover of Rs500 crore in the next five years, adding more stores to the current tally of 40 stores – increasing the tally to 100 stores in the next five years.

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