Why e-commerce is the need of the hour for the Indian dental industry
We have some of the best minds in India working at PinkBlue.in today. The management team comes from some of the most premium engineering and management institutes of the country including IITs, IIMs, IIFT, NMIMS and more. Several of them have worked at some of the largest companies including ITC, Marico and Amazon, and have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, Operations and Technology. There is a 30 member professional team working relentlessly to create India’s largest dental e-commerce platform, in double-quick time. But, is it just business? Are we in it just for the revenues and profits, which can come out of it?
PinkBlue.in is a true blue start-up, in the sense that we have started building everything from scratch, with very little background in the dental industry. Such start-ups cannot be built with only an economical objective. There has to be an underlying purpose for something of this sort to work, as the passion needed to build something ground up is much more. And, that purpose is to solve a grave underlying problem in the industry.
- A company like 3M ESPE, which works with a few thousand products in the US, has around 500 products in its Indian catalogue, with a higher focus on 50 products for the Indian market. So, even the best of dentists in India, located in the metro cities, still have to work with an abridged set of products. Or, go through the pains of getting it imported directly. This is almost the same with every other dental brand in the country.
- A dentist put up in a tier-2 city like Madurai or Ranchi, having a very well-run practice, wants the best of materials, but is dependent on an Expodent or a nearby small-time dealer to access the best of products. The limited options not only cuts one out from the newer advances in the dental world, but also puts one at the risk of overstocking or stock-outs.
On the other side:
- For a manufacturer/importer with around 500 products in his catalogue, there is never an opportunity to showcase all the products to his potential customers. He doesn’t really have any idea as to who those 1000 dentists who are interested in his niche products are, as they are spread across the country. And, hence he plays it safe at the conferences and the sales visits, to just focus on the most common products to increase the potential sales. The focus continues to remain on the top 50 products or even lesser.
- Since there are multiple layers in the supply network, a manufacturer/importer loses his visibility on how fast his products are getting used by the end customers. This is a critical input which is necessary to maintain the right stock of all products at the manufacturer’s warehouse. But, today the manufacturer/importer doesn’t even get visibility into its direct distributor’s warehouse. This makes it impossible for them to manage inventory for non-fast-moving products.
The entire ecosystem is built towards a compromise thus. Work with the fast moving products and don’t bother about anything else. If you want a B4 shade, better plan weeks in advance. If you want a premium putty, be ready to pay a very premium price. Because, you are the outlier. Almost all dentists want to be outliers at some point in time, but are reined in by the industry’s inefficiencies. The best anyone has got to till now is to make a rare product as their favourite, and get pulled back by the fact that it is so rare he/she can’t get it the next time. And, thus the entire industry works towards managing a few 100 products well, but nothing more.
This all could have worked very well, but for one factor. At last count, we have covered 10,000 products and are working now on onboarding the next 10,000 products on to PinkBlue.in. And, we are only getting started. Dental industry has over a 100,000 products in use, in most other countries. Half of it is available in India, as India grows on to become one of the larger dental markets in the world. As the industry matures, the preferences of our dentists have matured as well. We want to be the platform that enables dentists choose exactly the specific product which they want to use, not some compromised version of it.
We are not doing that by building a giant warehouse with 20,000 products in it. It is economically unviable to do that. We are doing quite the opposite. We are trying to connect every manufacturer/importer to every dentist in the country through the platform, so that the information and products from the manufacturer flows to every dentist seamlessly.
In a way, we are weaving a technology based virtual network, which will consolidate the 500 plus manufacturer/importer warehouses across the country into one single entity for our customers, and similarly magically weaving a 100,000+ dental clinics into one consolidated entity for our manufacturers/importers.
By doing the same, we are not only creating efficiencies which will make the industry capable of handling millions of products as against the hundreds right now, but are also ensuring that the manufacturer’s prices and offers reach every dental clinic in the country. That takes us to our primary value proposition.
Enable every dental clinic in India to get the right product at the right price, at the right time
How far are we on this journey? Not very far really. We are just getting started. We are putting the building blocks together. There is a team which is creating the best catalogue for every dental brand in the country, there is a team which is trying to build the best of technology for materials management in the dental industry, there is a team trying hard to ensure every customer of ours gets a great buying experience, and there is a team managing the inventories for some of the best dental clinics in the country in a managed inventory model, and there is yet another team which helps us to reach 80,000 dentists every month with our communications. But, these are just the building blocks.
We still have quite a bit of hiccups, as we still work in a largely inefficient system. 20% of the orders are at risk of not getting fulfilled, because the manufacturer/importer doesn’t have stock. We are creating processes right now to mitigate these issues and help manufacturers/importers get visibility into customer consumption patterns, to enable them to plan better. We have made several mistakes in the process and are learning continuously about how to do this better. We are nowhere close to perfection yet, but we will get there soon.
Being the leader in the space, we are taking it upon ourselves to correct the inefficiencies, without being bogged down by it. The easier solution is to just work with the 1000 fast-moving products and do a great job. But, that would defeat the purpose. And, unless we stick to our purpose, we will become just another dealer, albeit a bit more glorified. Our heart is elsewhere. We have not brought together a 30-member high quality professional team to become another dealer (no offense, that’s just a very different business model).
We see the solution to this problem in building great technology and great processes, which we are pursuing and which we will continue to pursue relentlessly till we reach our goal, of enabling every clinic to choose the right product for their need, without worrying about price and service reliability.
Apart from this, we are working on making equipment buying easier and less stressful for dentists. We are working on minimizing expiries inside dental clinics, by building technology for the same and on a lot more areas. Everything, with the simple aim of making materials management more efficient and seamless for the dental industry. More details around that later.
We are grateful to the thousands of clinics and hundreds of manufacturers/importers who have been supporting us in this challenging journey in this short span of time. We are even more grateful to those who are fans of PinkBlue.in’s purpose and have recommended PinkBlue.in to quite a few of their friends. We would like to request all the progressive thinking dentists across the country to join us in this journey, to help us make it a wee bit easier for the Indian dentists to run their clinics. Here’s to one of the fastest growing dental industries in the world!
About the Author
An MBA from IIM Kozhikode and Engineer from College of Engineering Guindy, Chennai, Valli worked as a Management Consultant for over 25 Corporates including Fortune 500 companies and Indian SMEs, before PinkBlue.in. Comes with over 10 years experience across supply chain management, operational efficiency improvement, corporate strategy and change management.
Valli and Varun started PinkBlue.in in 2014, with 6 brands and 800 products. Currently, PinKBlue covers over 10,000 products from 150+ brands and is on its way to add every single dental product available in India within the next few months. PinkBlue’s reach has increased from a few 100 dentists in 2014, to over a 100,000 in this period, making it attractive for every dentist and manufacturer/importer to be part of the PinkBlue family.