What has been your biggest business challenge after COVID-19 Struck?
COVID has presented great challenges and opportunities. RocketHealth’s service delivery model depends on a virtual experience. There was a human resource capacity challenge as demand for health services increased during the lockdown. RocketHealth had to boost their logistical capabilities to meet demand. We also had to deal with cashflow
challenges and to renegotiate with suppliers. There were supply chain issues where importers could not bring in certain drugs.
What disruptions did you see in healthcare supply chains during Covid-19?
Most pharmaceutical supplies are imported and the scope of pharmaceutical inventory is so wide. Majority of these supplies have expiry dates. Supply chains were heavily disrupted during COVID-19. This affected the pricing and availability of certain medicines. The pharmaceutical industry was faced with supply chain issues where importers could not bring certain drugs into the country. There is a need for a diversification of the existing supply chains, especially for critical drugs.
Which businesses do you think are the current winners due to the pandemic?
RocketHealth has been one of the winners due to the pandemic. Demand shot up when mobility was restricted due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Demand for online services grew. This meant that RocketHealth had to operate and scale almost instantly. Volumes increased by up to 500%. Our e-commerce shop saw an increase in visitors from 150 to 800 per day.
Due to COVID and the need to maintain hygiene and sanitation, demand for some particular products increased such as sanitizers, antibacterials, vitamin C, PPE etc.
As a result of the user journey on the RocketHealth platform, consumers
discovered other supplements or products such as first-aid kits. There was also an increase in demand for sexual reproductive health products. However, the highest increase in demand was seen in vaccination programs – mothers would frequently book vaccinations for their children at home.
What do you think are the factors that might affect how people purchase goods – particularly healthcare products going forward?
Crisis drives change more than it creates opportunity. There is a need for data analytics to better understand the customer. The turnaround time for patients to access services has to be as short as possible. Building consumer trust is vital and starts with the value of the brand. RocketHealth aims to be recognised for safety, quality and positive
outcomes. The key is translating that to an online experience.
On our website, all our branding is visible and shows that we are qualified and licensed. Terms and conditions info is readily available as well as return information.
What technologies do you think are helping / will help retailers get ahead?
Technologies which create an all-inclusive online retail experience. This may be through a mobile app, website and lower in the technology ladder even as basic as Whatsapp or a phone call. The customer journey should be standardised across all these platforms whether it’s a phone in, or an online chat.
RocketHealth has for example reconfigured our chatbots to support remote patients. On RocketHealth’s website, the user interface is as simple and as high quality as possible. The customer journey needs to be short to ensure the best chance of a sale. We provide multiple payment options for consumers including bank cards, visa and MasterCard, mobile money, cash on delivery, etc.
Do you think traditional retail in Uganda is dead or is dying? Why or why not? And what is the future of online retail in Uganda and Africa?
Online retail will complement the physical traditional retail experience. Due to the benefits of online retail such as saving on time, there will be a centralisation of a few physical stores. Retail spaces and fulfilment centres will become one and the same thing.
Online retail will be tailored to an Afrocentric experience due to the adoption of a generation of tech-savvy young people in Africa. This bodes well for e-commerce retail in the next 5 to 10 years.
What do you see as the future of logistics for the retail industry?
Logistical distribution is a key part of e-commerce. The future of pharmaceutical retail will be an online shared inventory of stock between different players in the sector with a dedicated logistics network. There is already a high adoption of motorcycles in Uganda for personal and product delivery.
RocketHealth has adopted a hybrid approach to logistics. We own our own fleet of motorbikes, brand them and have staff to operate them. We use 3rd party courier deliveries too – if it is a low-level product. If it is a high-level situation that needs a medical professional, we use our own fleet and staff.
TMCG and Rockethealth have set up in Kenya and Nigeria. What is your experience like?
I see it as a learning opportunity in more commercially viable countries. There is a lot of competition and a broader scope. There is however a greater demand on logistics as consumers are willing to spend more. Therefore, the quality of service needs to be competitive on price. Ultimately, it’s a great opportunity to build our commercial profitability and to carry positive lessons from there into other markets.