Amazon has opened an online pharmacy in Bangalore, the capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, as the e-commerce group wants to spread its tentacles into more categories in one of its key overseas markets.
The company announced on Friday that its new service called Amazon Pharmacy in Bangalore is taking orders for over-the-counter and prescription drugs. (In India, antibiotics and various other drugs can often be bought from pharmacies without a prescription.)
Amazon Pharmacy also sells traditional herbal medicines and some health devices like blood glucose meters, nebulizers, and handheld massagers.
"This is especially important in this day and age as it helps customers meet their essential needs while staying safe at home," an Amazon spokesman said in a statement.
Selling drugs online in India, for which there are currently no clear regulations in New Delhi, presents another great opportunity for Amazon, which has invested more than $ 6.5 billion in its operations in India to date and with competes with Walmart's own Flipkart.
The pharmacy is not a new idea for Amazon. The company, which has hired several health professionals over the past few years, acquired online pharmacy startup PillPack for nearly $ 1 billion in 2018.
Numerous startups like 1 mg, Netmeds, Medlife and PharmEasy are currently selling drugs online in India and delivering them to most parts of the country. For example, 1 mg, which raised more than $ 170 million, ships orders in more than 1,000 cities across the country today.
Like any e-commerce provider, these startups offer customers tempting discounts on every order they place in order to increase their market share. In this context, Amazon says it offers discounts of up to 20% on all orders.
In the past few months, Amazon has expanded to a handful of new categories in India. In May, the company launched its grocery delivery service in parts of Bangalore, and a month later received approval to sell and deliver alcohol in the state of West Bengal.
Last month, the company began selling auto insurance in India and planned to expand its insurance service to include health, flight and taxi coverage in the future.
The expansion to other categories takes place as a Flipkart is also entering new spaces including the hyper-local deployment piloted in Bangalore late last month. Flipkart has teamed up with a startup supported by the giant Diageo to deliver alcohol in two Indian cities, Reuters reported on Friday, citing government letters.
Both companies now face a rising challenger: India's richest man. Mukesh Ambanis Reliance Retail, The largest retail chain in India started testing the e-commerce company JioMart late last year.
The service, which is now active in over 200 cities across India, sold more than 400,000 orders per day in the past month, surpassing the daily highs of the startups for grocery deliveries BigBasket and Grofers.
Local media have reported that Amazon has a billion dollar stake in Reliance Retail in its sights. Ambani's other company, telecommunications giant Jio Platforms, has raised around $ 20 billion from Facebook, Google, and eleven other high profile investors in the past few months. Ambani said last month that the company has completed the fundraiser for Jio Platforms and looks forward to "bringing global partners and investors to Reliance Retail over the next few quarters."