Franchising is ready to take off in pharmacy retail with brands like Guardian Lifecare having taken franchise route for expansion. In an interview Ashutosh Garg, Chairman and MD, Guardian Lifecare shares his company’s aspirations from franchising.
Abha Garyali (AG): Shed some light on the inception, growth and success of ‘Guardian Lifecare’ as a pharmacy brand.
Ashutosh Garg (AG): Guardian Lifecare is India’s fastest growing chain of health, wellness and beauty stores with over 250 stores across India and is adding two new stores every week. Built on a strong platform of reliability and service to the consumer, the company has presence in 20 cities and is expanding across India. It is an ISO 9001:2008 certified pharmacy chain since 2005. The Guardian mission is to offer its customers the best and most reliable pharmacy in India and build a modern healthcare retail organisation upon honesty, trust and commitment using contemporary technology. Positioned as a friendly neighbourhood pharmacy Guardian serves 7.5 million customers each year.
AG: When and what motivated you to take the franchise route for expansion of Guardian Lifecare?
AG: Guardian started franchising in December 2010. We embarked upon franchising as a means to expand the coverage of our brand into a larger geography.
AG: The concept of franchising a pharmacy retail chain is comparatively new and unique concept. Do you think there is tremendous scope for aspirants in this business? What can you say about its future success in the country?
AG: Franchising in the pharmacy space is new and untested. However, given the robustness of this format and large market coupled with a largely unorganised market, Guardian is well positioned to grow its brand presence through franchising. We believe our franchisees will be able to earn ‘better than normal’ margins as well as get access to a large number of Guardian private label products. I am sure that a franchise model in the format will grow rapidly in the years to come.
AG: What is the USP of Guardian Lifecare’?
AG: Guardian Lifecare is a retail chain of health, wellness and beauty stores. Our USP is reliability and service to our consumers.
AG: Do you face competition from the unorganised pharmacy outlets? What strategies have you employed for handling competition?
AG: Unorganised pharmacy outlets or chemists dominate the Indian pharmacy segment. The sector has over 750,000 chemist shops and it handles revenue of more than Rs 90,000 crore, which includes medicine sales of approximately Rs 45,000 crore. Therefore organised pharma retail chains have to concentrate on the service, value-adds, reliability of medicines and ambience to handle competition. Our strategy is to offer the customer genuine medicines under one roof and our loyalty program offers customers redeemable points. The loyalty card also helps the customer get discounts at health and diagnostic centres.
AG: How many franchisees do you have presently? What are your future expansion plans?
AG: Currently, we have nine franchisees. However, by 2012 we plan to take our number to 40.
AG: What are the qualities and qualifications that you seek for in your franchisees?
AG: It is essential for a franchisee to understand the business and the financial commitment required. An alliance with a strong brand will help in pulling customers into the store but retaining customers can only be done at the store and through excellent service.
AG: How does the company support and train the franchisees?
AG: Guardian Pharmacy hand holds franchisees through the initial stage of transition. The franchisees can benefit from our domain experience as well as marketing offerings like Guardian XtraValu and Guardian Senior Citizen Card.