Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jun 22, 2005
Industry & Economy
Homeo clinics not allergic to selling on Net
P.T. Jyothi Datta
Mumbai , June 21
INTERNET pharmacies may be a strict no-no for prescription allopathic medicines. But when it comes to an alternative medicine like homeopathy, the Net may in fact be a good option.
"Our cyber clinic has between seven and 10 lakh hits per month and we give online consultation to about 4.75 lakh patients from 86 countries," says Dr Mukesh Batra, Chairman and Managing Director of Dr Batra's Positive Health Clinic Private Ltd.
Dr Batra's chain of retail homeopathy clinics across the country also supports a cyber clinic, listed this year in the Limca Book of Records for the highest number of patients treated online by a single institution.
Only recently an Ernst & Young report had pointed out that Internet pharmacies were a major worry for pharma companies, as they hawked prescription medicines online.
But Dr Batra points out that since homeopathic medicines do not have side-effects, the Internet is not just a safe but also a good option. "Patients discuss their history and symptoms with our doctors and we courier the medicines to them. The payment is made online," he said.
This is Dr Batra's second consecutive mention in the Limca Book of Records. In 2001, another homeopath from Mumbai, Dr Rajesh Shah of the Homeopathy India Foundation, had been recognised for treating the most number of patients. He too had used the Internet as an avenue to counsel patients.
Using the Net to support a 200-year old science may seem like bringing two different generations together. But the acceptance of homeopathy has changed significantly over the last three decades of his professional career, says Dr Batra.
"In 1992, when I started my clinic, institutional loans available to doctors were not given to homeopaths. I borrowed funds from friends at 36 per cent per annum. And my generation had it easier than my father's generation, who had to move against the stream. Homeopathy was not recognised as a science in India till 1973," he points out.
Times have changed and the step-motherly treatment is less now, he admits and funding agencies are evincing interest in homeopathy companies.
Consequently, Dr Batra is "revisiting" the option to offload equity in the family-run outfit. Unwilling to divulge details, he expects to decide by the end of this year.
Homeopathy is a Rs 630-crore market in India, growing at 25 per cent, as compared to pharmaceuticals that is growing at 10 per cent, he points out. Globally too, the alternative health market, including homeopathy, is an estimated Rs 85,000-crore market, growing at 25 per cent, he says.
Like other alternative medicines, homeopathy is increasingly becoming an option, as allopathic medicines lose confidence of their consumers due to side effects and product recalls, observes Dr Batra.
To meet this burgeoning demand for homeopathy, he is expanding his network in the country to 45 clinics in the metros and mini-metros. The estimated Rs 39-crore company looks to close the current financial year between Rs 60-100 crore, he said.
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