Healthcare is often a tough sector for startups to crack but Nguyen Thi Ngoc Huyen believes her first-year startup Medlink, which connects pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies in Vietnam, has all the potential to grow.
“The cost to distribute medicines in Vietnam is very high and Medlink was born to close that gap in the market to help reduce costs,” Huyen, the founder and CEO of Medlink told KrAsia in an interview.
Before founding Medlink, Huyen used to work for a medical and pharmacy company. She realized that most pharmaceutical companies had to rely on a network of medical representatives to sell over-the-counter drugs to pharmacies. This time-consuming and costly process could take up to 35% of the pharmaceutical companies’ revenues, Huyen said.
Traditionally, medical representatives had to be personally present at the pharmacies to sell the drugs and stock orders were often placed through phone calls. To bypass the middlemen, Medlink brought the whole process online, allowing pharmacies to place orders from verified pharmaceutical companies on the Medlink website and app, where pharmaceutical companies can manage and track the status of all orders.
“We verify all of the pharmacies, the pharmaceutical companies, and their products. As well as validating all the accompanying proper paperwork,” Huyen said. “Medlink does not sell the drugs directly to pharmacies but serves as a platform to connect the pharmaceutical companies and the pharmacies.”
Medlink takes a commission from each transaction. For now, pharmacies also get to use for free a separate software developed by Medlink to optimize their inventory management. The startup targets small and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies in Vietnam that want to push for a better distribution network and wider market for their over-the-counter drugs to more pharmacies given that the sector is poised for steady growth.
Huyen said Medlink’s competitiveness comes from the fact that lower distribution costs, from the pharmaceutical companies’ ability to reduce their number of medical representatives, also means drugs are sold at better prices to pharmacies.
Despite starting operations only in September 2018, Huyen said Medlink has already partnered with 18 pharmaceutical companies and 4,000 pharmacies in Vietnam. Her plan is to extend the service to end-users, allowing individuals to place orders for their over-the-counter drugs using the app, as well as expanding into markets beyond Vietnam.
Huyen recently returned from the Techsauce Global Summit 2019 pitch competition in Bangkok, where Medlink was crowned startup winner of the event. The startup received THB 1 million in cash (USD 30,000) and a chance to participate in SOSV‘s Shanghai-based cross-border internet accelerator, Chinaccelerator. In 2018, Medlink was also chosen as one of the top three platforms at TechFest Vietnam, organized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in Southeast Asia.