Award-winning pharma distribution marketplace thuocsi.vn became Vietnam’s third company to be included in Sequoia Capital’s Surge, a four-month accelerator program for early-stage startups in India and Southeast Asia.
Announcing a USD 2.5M pre-series A financing round led by Surge and Genesia Ventures, Peter Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of BuyMed, the startup behind thuocsi.vn, emphasized his company’s commitment to “supporting both pharmacies and pharmaceutical partners in times of a healthcare crisis.”
As online marketplaces like thuocsi.vn are becoming the new normal, BuyMed’s mission to improve the efficiency of the entire healthcare industry puts the company at the forefront of Vietnam’s pharma efforts to modernize the healthcare system.
The platform now serves thousands of pharmacies, clinics and hospitals across the country — a 250% growth in six months. BuyMed has also expanded its network of suppliers, distributors and manufacturers, working closely with hundreds of partners to ensure the products received by end users are delivered in a timely manner.
BuyMed aims to add other healthcare verticals including cosmetics, medical devices, supplements, and medical services to become a one-stop marketplace for healthcare practices in emerging markets.
Before the Surge announcement, Peter Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of BuyMed, gave Vietcetera an exclusive interview in which he detailed thuocsi.vn’s mission, business strategy and expansion plans.
What problems does thuocsi.vn solve in Vietnam?
In Vietnam and emerging markets globally, healthcare practitioners such as doctors and pharmacists spend a significant amount of their time navigating complex supply channels for pharmaceuticals, supplements and other products for their practices.
Many people assume that suppliers are eager to deliver to pharmacies and clinics, but that’s not the case. Small, independently owned, and remote practices outside Ho Chi Minh City are usually neglected by suppliers. They are usually subject to restrictive order terms such as high minimum order value or high prices, meaning practices have little choice but to rely on much more difficult channels to source products.
For example, a pharmacist outside Ho Chi Minh City would typically spend a day to travel to the city to visit their suppliers, negotiating and buying products, and driving back to their practice with supplies tied to their motorbike. That’s one less day of seeing patients.
How did your prior experience in improving transparency and sustainability of healthcare supply chains in other markets prepare you for this job?
My co-founder Hoang and I were healthcare consultants at various consulting firms working a variety of projects across all of South East and East Asia. It was this experience that drove us to consider ways to innovate and improve healthcare systems in emerging markets, starting with Vietnam.
The real turning point was when we met our third co-founder Vu who has direct relationships and internal knowledge within the healthcare industry after working for a variety of pharmaceutical companies and starting his own distribution company.
What is thuocsi.vn’s mission?
We build health ecosystems which no one else has dared to build — ecosystems designed to improve the health and wellbeing of practitioners and their patients by democratizing supply chains and technology; ecosystems which become a force of change where change is needed.
What are the core values of thuocsi.vn?
We believe in fair distribution of economic profits amongst all players in the healthcare ecosystem. We believe that if healthcare practitioners are economically successful, it will have a ripple effect throughout the health ecosystem leading to better health for all.
What makes thuocsi.vn a key player in the modern market of pharma distribution?
We have always believed in delivering an ordering and aggregating platform that prioritizes the needs of healthcare practitioners and we continue to innovate on this platform to launch features which the industry has never seen before.
We developed the first ever live pricing tracker which enables practitioners to track daily price changes of pharmaceuticals and supplements in the market, so practitioners can plan and lower their cost base resulting in cheaper medicine for patients.
We’ve created a technology-driven fulfillment network, on a scale never before achieved in many emerging markets, which gives pharmacies access to the wide variety of products they need to be able to deliver quality healthcare. We provide access to this network to even the smallest and most remote village pharmacies.
What are some of the benefits that thuocsi.vn offers to clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals in the network across the country?
We provide access to a wide variety of products without a minimum order requirement and ensure consistently affordable prices so practices can resell at an affordable price while still maintaining a healthy margin.
We offer delivery to all of South Vietnam, even to very remote areas previously underserved by suppliers.
With the coronavirus creating opportunities and challenges in equal measure, how do you manage to grow during this downturn?
Even before COVID-19, many practices were struggling to find a reliable source of supplies. This was compounded significantly during COVID-19 and many practices have struggled to resupply.
Our team made a commitment to stay operational during this period to fulfill as many orders as possible. Even with unstable supply channels and delayed delivery times, our customers have continued to stay with us through this period, both out of understanding and necessity, as they can’t order elsewhere.
Besides pharma distribution, what other areas in the healthcare market are ripe for disruption?
We believe in a holistic approach to healthcare, both vertically and horizontally, and this continues to guide our expansion plans.
We see a strong need to share data amongst the different health tech apps that are available out there, such as doctor booking apps like eDoctor, and to create a more streamlined patient/practitioner interaction with technology as an enabler.
We also see a strong trend for healthcare to be defined more holistically in Vietnam, to move from reactive care to preventive and holistic care. You see this trend in a growing number of fitness and yoga centers, beauty and health spas, and increased popularity of nutritional supplements. If these industries become early adopters of modernizing technology, we could encourage an overall shift from reactive to preventive care in Vietnam.
What are some of the tips for those building a high-growth company?
Start with the mission. Aspiring founders should find a mission that is worth dedicating the rest of their life to. It’s a dramatic statement but a true one.
Because such a mission means there are customers out there with existing and deep pain points seeking a solution — customer acquisition is made much easier.
Because such a mission with obvious pain points will make your product development decision-making a lot simpler – you can create products which solve the biggest pains points in the simplest way possible.
Because such a mission will attract top-tier talent that would trade high salaries, big titles, and fancy offices for a realistic impact to make a big change.
What’s next for thuocsi.vn?
In the near future we remain focused on continued delivery to our new and existing pharmacy and clinic customers so that they can continue to provide healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since many healthcare practices across the country don’t yet know a modern platform like ours exists, we are looking to grow and scale dramatically over the next quarters as we onboard new customers, as well as expanding to North Vietnam.
We are also doubling down on our technology to encourage digital transactions in the industry, which will benefit everyone working on COVID-19 containment. This includes improving on the quality and amount of data around each product on our platform so practitioners can make better informed decisions on the best products to recommend their patients.