In an era of consumerism where marketing is accompanied by huge discounts, co-branding and freebies, the medical sector alone cannot choose to remain aloof. So, if we had hospitals offering free ECG on World Heart Day and discounts for complete health check up for the softer sex on World Women's Day; now it is the turn of pharmacies to woo the customer.
Of course, there are hundreds of medical shops that offer to deliver medicines free at the doorsteps of patients. But Apollo Pharmacy, a unit of the corporate Apollo Hospitals, has come up with a new concept that is likely to be adopted in different forms by competitors soon.
Apollo has introduced Any Time Medicine (ATM) cards in the market. This ATM certainly does not deliver crisp currency notes but it promises free medicines for Rs 500.
"All that a customer has to do is get an ATM card from any of our chain of pharmacies in Chennai or other cities and buy medicines worth Rs 6,000 within a year. We would reward the customer loyalty by giving away Rs 500 discount on further medicine purchases," said a spokesperson of Apollo Pharmacy.
"The ATM service benefits both doctors and patients enabling them improve doctor-patient relationships and foster feelings of trust and dependence. There are no extra charges for this service to either doctor or patient," she added.
The customer must produce the ATM card each time a purchase is made so that the ATM's unique number can be entered into the computerised billing system. "The transactions will be automatically updated and when the purchase crosses the Rs 6,000 limit the customer become eligible for the discount," she said.
Apollo too stands to gain in this loyalty programme as the customer would naturally buy medicines only from its branches.
The ATM facility was first launched in Hyderabad by Apollo Hospitals Group executive director Shobana Kamineni. In Hyderabad, ATM cardholders were also entitled to utilise the Rs 500 discount for any Outpatient services or treatment at Apollo Hospitals or opt for a free health insurance of Rs 20,000.
"In Chennai, we offer just the discount," a spokesperson said. The facility is likely to be extended across the country soon. Apollo Pharmacy, which currently has over 500 outlets in India, is expected to open at least 750 new outlets in two years time.