How SwipeRx is Scaling Impact in Asia.

Jun 21, 2023

GIF investee SwipeRx stands today as the largest digital pharmacy network in Southeast Asia, connecting one third of all pharmacists across Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia, and working towards improving health outcomes for millions who lack access to adequate healthcare.

The Centre for Impact Investing and Practices (CIIP), in collaboration with Singapore Management University and Accenture, has produced a case study of SwipeRx’s growth and impact in conjunction with a research paper titled ‘Scaling Impact in Asia: Achieving Purpose and Profit’. Here are three key learnings from what SwipeRx has achieved so far.

1) Connecting communities achieves on-the-ground change

SwipeRx’s pharmaceutical network model aims to improve the quality of care available to people in developing countries. Because there is a shortage of professional physicians, communities in these countries rely heavily on pharmaceutical care for basic clinical activities. But pharmacists are often unable to provide the necessary level of care, lacking knowledge about best practices. This is the result of a fragmented industry, composed of small, independently owned businesses, where information is difficult to access.

SwipeRx addresses this problem by connecting communities via its SwipeRx app, enabling pharmacists to share best practices, enhance collaboration, and deepen knowledge. SwipeRx has built a digital avenue to knowledge, which translates to improvements in the quality of local patient care.

GIF has invested a total of $3 million in SwipeRx to support them in connecting even more pharmacists to the network. This will help to grow on-the-ground impact on target beneficiaries. Our partnership is also creating valuable evidence about what a large digital community can achieve in development.

2) Digitisation improves efficiency, maximising impact

Pharmacies in Southeast Asia are often challenged by operational inefficiencies, for instance in financing and supply chain management. This is because the majority are small, family-owned businesses, with limited credit, and therefore limited ability to procure the variety and quantity of drugs necessary to adequately treat patients.

SwipeRx combats such inefficiencies by making bulk purchases on behalf of its network, enabling pharmacies to purchase drugs at the most competitive prices possible. In order to ensure an adequate supply of common pharmaceuticals, bulk purchases are informed through the collection and analysis of drug consumption data across SwipeRx’s network. The collection and analysis of data is made more efficient through digitisation.

By joining SwipeRx’s digital network, pharmacies do not only save through competitive prices, but also in terms of labour costs, since, without the aid of SwipeRx, pharmacies have no choice but to contact multiple distributors and wholesalers to compare prices, payment terms, and delivery dates before making procurement decisions.

SwipeRx digitally brings these time, labour and money-saving benefits directly to each and every one of the pharmacies in its network. Digitisation of critical processes and delivery to beneficiary pharmacies improves efficiency, which helps to maximise resource-efficiency and therefore impact.

3) Mobilising commercial capital achieves outsized impact

SwipeRx is focused on combining profit with purpose. “The better we do as a business, the better patients do. The more the business grows, the more our impact grows”, says Farouk Meralli, Founder & CEO of SwipeRx. To achieve this simultaneous growth in profit and impact, SwipeRx has, from the beginning, taken advantage of the unique benefits of both private and impact capital.

Commercial capital provided the advantage of early validation of the business model, and served to affirm the commercial focus of the company, enabling aggressive expansion of the pharmacy network. Commercial investors were also best placed to provide operational and strategic guidance as the company rapidly expanded. Impact capital, such as that provided by GIF, served as a vital tie to SwipeRx’s core mission of improving healthcare outcomes for target beneficiaries. It provided ‘patient’ capital, enabling time for the early-stage company to refine its business model.

Meralli sees this two-pronged approach to capital as the best approach to realising impact at scale, since early-stage growth calls for ‘patient’ capital, whereas later-stage growth often requires the ability to crowd in larger sums of private capital. The key takeaway is that impact and commercial capital can work together to achieve rapid growth, and therefore outsized impact.