The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the need for a robust health care infrastructure in the country. To help combat the pandemic, Medikabazaar, a B2B marketplace for medical equipment, has signed a contract with Zipline, an on-demand drone delivery service. The partnership—likely to become operational by end of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021—will cut down delivery time of medicines to 30 minutes. "Using drones to deliver medical supplies will introduce the model of just-in-time delivery to the current supply chain system, and will result in a smart inventory management with zero stock outs and expiries," says Asaad Joubran, head of Zipline’s business development efforts in India. Using drones could make delivery of critical products, especially to remote areas, more accessible and faster. “Tier III and IV cities can now reap the benefit of products that are usually not available at their locations due to supply chain inefficiencies," says Vivek Tiwari, founder and CEO of Medikabazaar, adding that the trade-off might be marginally higher cost as drones would be a premium service. “However, in the near future, as the number of flights increase, economies of scale can be achieved, providing a strong challenge to terrestrial supply chains." In the next six months, the plan is to on-board over 100 hospitals that Zipline will serve from Medikabazaar's two distribution centres in Pune and Nandurbar districts in Maharashtra. “We thought it was most pragmatic to start by serving Medikabazaar customers in Maharashtra, where Zipline has tied up with the state government and the Serum Institute of India to construct its first two distribution centres in Asia," adds Joubran. Other states have shown interest too. “Some of the key challenges,” Tiwari explains, “include a detailed understanding of the regulatory aspects of drone delivery in India which are still being formulated by the ministry of aviation.”
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