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15 January 2022

Konstantin Tiunov: Unipharma and Rosapteca are getting closer to customers

Text: Anastasia Valagina

Konstantin Tiunov, Director of Commercial Affairs at pharmacy chains Unifarma and Rosapteka

In a pandemic, the crisis has affected almost all areas of business. But some market players have not only maintained their positions, but strengthened them. Of course, we are talking about pharmacies. After all, in «COVID times», medicines have become a commodity of prime necessity for many of us. Konstantin Tiunov, Director of Commercial Affairs at pharmacy chains Unifarma and Rosapteka, spoke about the current development trends in the pharmacy business.

— Many believe, pharmacy chains should do better during the pandemic than before. Do you agree with this statement?
— This is a common misconception and the statement is only partly true. The pandemic affects the economy and income of citizens negatively, lockdowns disrupt behavioral patterns, and changes in consumption patterns, including the pharmacy range. Prices rise and shortages emerge. If we are talking about a specific short period, such as March-April 2020, then there were indeed record revenues, directly related to the rush of demand, confusion and panic, when most citizens were buying medicines and buying them in advance. But beyond that, we saw a gradual decline. With persistent high demand for certain commodity categories, such as personal protective and antiseptic products, antibiotics, vitamins and minerals, anticoagulants and antivirals. On a separate note, as a socially oriented business, pharmacies are a going concern and continue to operate during any restrictions, subject to the requirements of the regulator, and there has also recently been legislation to allow over-the-counter delivery of medicines.

— What is the development path for your pharmacy chains now?
— 2021 was a pivotal year for us in a good way. We realized the usefulness, made a decision and started opening new pharmacies. This is due to the demand for formats from both premium pharmacies with exceptional Unipharma service and assortment and Rosapteca neighborhood pharmacies. There are currently 35 pharmacies in the Unipharma and Rosapteca chains. Our main news is that we plan to open up to 10 more pharmacies in the near future through optimization. We haven't had an increase of almost a third in the number of pharmacies since the launch.

Государственный сегмент - драйвер роста фармацевтического рынка

— And you're telling me that expansion is not related to the pandemic?
— Not directly. Rather, it has more to do with our overall operations and the economic situation. On the one hand, we have been able to improve the efficiency of business processes related to procurement, marketing and commercial work, and on the other hand, customer demand for our pharmacy formats has increased. Here, they can receive competent advice, deal with disease prevention and rehabilitation, and generally meet demand. There have also been some changes in the rental market. For a pharmacy, the right location is a key, determining factor. In 2020 and before, it was more difficult to find premises that suited our requirements, to negotiate terms and conditions. The pandemic has catalyzed the process, and businesses that cannot cope with the challenges of the times are leaving and vacating the premises. The landlords themselves also realize that our pharmacy is a higher priority for them than even a fast food outlet, café or barbershop. You could say that the conditions are favorable this year. But, of course, the key factor in the decision to expand our number of pharmacies was the goodwill of the shareholder, who saw prospects in developing the retail pharmacy business.


— Do you plan to develop online sales?
— And this is our second big news. In 2021, we launched a single digital platform that combined three of our resources at once: unifarma.ru, rosapteka.online and the new project of the pharmaceutical marketplace tuta24.ru. In addition, we successfully negotiate and expand our work with large online marketplaces: we work with uteka.ru, megapteka.ru, and do customization with Yandex.Market. I think it is important to note that the speed of development with which we have launched our digital projects is due to several factors. Firstly, our own software puts us on a par with the leaders in the retail pharmaceutical market.

2021 was a pivotal year for us in a good way. Our Unipharma and Rosapteca formats were in demand

And secondly, with the efficient distribution of tasks within the office and the delegation of some tasks to development, design, SEO-optimization and promotion partners. Our digital projects are greatly supported by the staff of the Unident Group. Thanks to our well-coordinated work and absence of unnecessary bureaucracy, we work according to a flexible methodology for developing and implementing new functionality.

— Did you have to hire new specialists to handle online orders?
— We did not expand our staff, although we conducted more than three dozen interviews with various candidates for the e-commerce director position. Instead, we have allocated roles within the group of companies, where everyone feels responsible for the outcome. In both retail pharmacies and the Internet, the customer, their problems and expectations come first. We have already come into a highly competitive environment, so we have to be smart. For example, our team sees all orders in the Telegram bot, while individual requests from the website go directly to the responsible employees' emails. If someone doesn't respond, we always remind each other of that. In addition, we aim to set our own deadlines for tasks, not to be guided by averages or contractors. That is, we are looking for opportunities to be faster, trying to dictate terms to our partners ourselves. In this way, in the digital segment as well, we are fulfilling our original idea of the best possible service for the benefit of the customer.

структура фармацевтического бизнеса России

— Which service functions are you planning to automate?
— For example, we will automatically order a product from a supplier that is running out, i.e. it is in the nomenclature, but it is no longer in the stock. This will give purchasers a clear waiting time for a particular medicine. It also took a lot of effort to tidy up the medicine book. And there is still website promotion and support, further development of delivery and express delivery services, testing and implementation of e-prescribing, improved data processing speed and reduced exchange time between the office, websites and pharmacies, etc. Most importantly, we have the fervour, drive and resources to challenge the whole market in the digital arena for customer attention, and that is what motivates us to continue. We are not afraid to try, even if we don't succeed the first time, we keep trying. Our level of experience increases every time, which means the distance to a successful outcome is shorter.

— What are the benefits of having your own software in the pharmacy business?
— Our own accounting system offers key advantages: speed and accuracy of business transactions, independence, data security, and the ability to develop automation. The accounting system serves and integrates pharmacies and the office. There is no point in describing the functionality in detail, except to say that we solve most problems faster and better than other participants in the retail pharma market. This is a fact, because we often take part in industry conferences and discussions and understand where we are better and where we are not. Speed and limitless possibilities are perhaps the key factors in this process. From specific examples: we have fully automated purchasing and pricing, marketing, we have relatively quickly implemented new requirements for working with labelled goods, we have our own API, and if required, we adjust to our partners' APIs. Thanks to automation, the current office will be able to manage a hundred pharmacies just as efficiently, or even better, with the new functionality in place.

розничный аптечный рынок России

— Would you say that your networks have limitless prospects for development?
— I would like to think so. We have begun to develop, we want to grow and we see opportunities and potential for this. We have a team, we have automation, we have the support of a major medical holding company, our partners: distributors and manufacturers. There is an enquiry from consumers who like our pharmacy formats. We also believe that the time of discounters is passing, or rather, it has not even started, because this format is inherently harmful, especially in such a regulated and socially responsible business as pharmacy. Prices in pharmacies need to be fair and in line with the level of service, and the pharmacy business itself needs to make enough profit to meet customer demands and grow. Here it is important to be able to provide security, speed and the best service in general.

— How are you going to cater for online orders if there are significantly more of them?
— We are ready for it. After all, we have de facto been operating in an e-commerce format for many years, giving our customers the opportunity to find and book any medication on the website so that they can then pick it up at the pharmacy (prescription drugs — ed.). We also cooperate with the largest service apteka.ru and other similar services. The office and pharmacy staff have the necessary instructions, we are prepared to cope with multiples of orders and we understand what and how much we need to do from a managerial point of view in order to keep up with the given quality of work.

— What formats do Unipharma and Rosapteca operate in?  How do they differ?
— Unipharma is a premium pharmacy where we create a unique experience. Everything is well-thought-out and starts with a convenient location, usually with the possibility of parking or by the metro entrance, exclusive interior design, expensive renovations, and cleanliness. Our pharmacies have an extensive range of prevention and beauty products and, most importantly, professional and attentive specialists, mainly pharmacists with a pharmaceutical degree. Here you will see almost no annoying advertising material. And if they are present, they play more of an informational or a functional role. For example, allow you to identify a specific product group on the counter.
Rosapteka is the «neighborhood pharmacy», or the favorite pharmacy near your home. Here we strive to provide the best prices on the most popular products, while offering customers an extended range of dietary supplements, cosmetics and medical devices, including rare products not available at the usual pharmacies around. In these pharmacies, we also keep an open format and pay a lot of attention to display, cleanliness and convenience. There are equally competent specialists working here.

премиальные аптеки Юнифарма

— How do you hire staff at pharmacies? Is the pharmacist's qualification important in this case?
— The Unifarm and Rosopteka staff is our pride. We do a careful selection. In order to get to the «first table», a candidate has to go through at least three interviews. First, the HR department conducts basic knowledge tests, then the person is interviewed regarding work experience, and there they try to find out how active, communicative, etc. And finally, each employee is interviewed by the CEO. As a result, we choose the best ones. The vast majority of our employees are pharmacists with a university degree. In addition, we continuously train our employees in our own training center and strive to improve their qualifications through digital learning methods, for example, a number of employees have various certificates confirming their competence.

— What promotions are going on in the pharmacy chain right now that you can be proud of?
— We come up with something every month with both suppliers and manufacturers. The worst idea is just to let someone in a good place stand for money. We are interested in doing motivating promotions for the consumer, working with price: either giving discounts on the second/third pack, or special prices on some product, reimbursing discounts with the help of manufacturers. Our pharmacy chains are preparing to take part in the e-prescription experiment. When doctors write online prescriptions that allow you to buy and book prescription drugs at the pharmacy and, in the near future, also order their delivery. There is no prescription drug delivery now, by the way, which is a key limitation in the development of e-pharmacy.

еженедельная динамика аптечных продаж лекарств

The pandemic has changed the way people think about themselves. Many people have started to think about health and disease prevention. And this can be considered a positive development, even in such difficult circumstances

— What is the principle behind your choice of suppliers?
— We work with the largest and most established companies that cover 60−70% of our needs. It is very important that the supplier provides certain standards of price and quality, service, storage conditions and shelf life. Our purchasing department is staffed by professionals with many years of experience, who monitor this carefully and on a daily basis. We also have many direct contracts with manufacturers. We do not impose barriers and we welcome the development of our range, and we are prepared to buy directly from even the smallest suppliers, as long as the goods are of excellent quality and in demand by our customers.

— What medicines and commodities are in maximum demand in your pharmacies during the pandemic?
— The demand for the groups of antibiotics, anticoagulants and antivirals has increased and continues to increase significantly. Also a few years ago, no one would have thought that antiseptics, masks and PPE would be in such high demand. Consumption of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, has increased many times over, because people have learnt that it restores the body during and after acute respiratory viral infections. It's the same with vitamin D3. When word got out about the introduction of the treatment recommendations, there was a surge in demand. At the same time, the demand for weight-loss products and decorative cosmetics has dropped. But in general, the pandemic has certainly changed people's attitudes. Many people have started to think about health and disease prevention. And this can be considered a positive development, even in such difficult circumstances.

аптека Юнифарма

Unipharma is a premium pharmacy where everything is thoughtfully designed: a convenient location, usually with parking or a metro entrance, an exclusive interior design and, of course, an extended range of products


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