In the heart of Khordha, a bustling town on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India, Manoranjan is standing behind the counter of his pharmacy when a motorbike pulls up. A mother and father are bringing their sick toddler to his shop for medical care. Manoranjan listens closely as the parents describe her symptoms, takes the child’s temperature, dispenses medication to reduce fever to the grateful family, and asks them to visit the doctor as soon as possible.
Soon after, a man experiencing knee pain arrives. After an initial examination, Manoranjan prescribes him over-the-counter pain medication and offers the man a glass of water to take the first dose. His warm smile and friendly demeanor make customers feel at ease. He is a passionate healthcare professional who stands out even further as a young, ambitious, and tech-savvy entrepreneur.
At just 27 years old, Manoranjan is the face of Mahavir Health Care, a pharmacy that serves as a lifeline for many in the neighborhood. His journey to become a trusted medical advisor and a thriving entrepreneur is a testament to the power of young Indians like him to create economic opportunities where they are needed most. Manoranjan’s day begins early at 7:30 a.m., and from that moment on, he dedicates himself to providing essential medical care to his customers.
“I sell everything and have many customers coming here. They’re satisfied,” says the pharmacist and entrepreneur. “I sell all types of medicine, prescription and over-the-counter. I sell FMCG products [fast-moving consumer goods] and baby products.” Around half of his customers battle chronic conditions like diabetes, relying on him to provide the medications prescribed by their doctors. The other half have acute needs, like infections that require antibiotics. He dispenses drugs that doctors prescribe, offers recommendations, and draws blood for lab tests.
Entrepreneurship is a pathway for young Indians like Manoranjan to find economic opportunities in their communities. Two-thirds of the country’s population is under the age of 35, but as these young people enter the workforce, they experience high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Many take work in the informal economy to make ends meet. Manoranjan was fortunate to work in pharmaceutical marketing for a few years. When he decided to open his own pharmacy, he was able to self-fund the space for his shop but needed capital to stock the shelves. That’s when he turned to Annapurna Finance Pvt Ltd., a microfinance institution in India and longtime partner of Accion, for the capital he needed. He received his first-ever loan from Annapurna and opened his pharmacy’s doors in April 2022.
“Annapurna is the best,” he says. Annapurna Finance was established in 2009 and has grown to provide microloans, insurance, and other financial services. Their target customers are financially excluded individuals, households, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) like Mahavir Health Care. Their meticulous cashflow analysis ensures that loans are granted responsibly, resulting in a remarkable repayment rate of over 99 percent.
“The service is excellent. All the staff are excellent,” says Manoranjan. “I’m very happy working with them. My business is already growing with [this loan], and in the future, I hope to grow more.”
Annapurna is also evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy market. In recent years, they have worked with Accion on their own digital transformation, which appeals to customers like Manoranjan. For the pharmacist, technology is part of his day-to-day routine: he uses his phone to make payments to the bank and accept payments from customers. From his computer, he manages his stock, bills customers, and orders inventory. He uses Annapurna’s Customer Engagement Platform to communicate with the provider: “I receive voice messages from my loan officer with updates about my loan. They tell me that payment is coming soon and prepare for that payment.”
Annapurna’s Customer Engagement Platform simplifies communication, allowing small business owners to receive updates about their loans effortlessly. The platform leverages existing channels like WhatsApp that are already familiar to customers. This makes it easy for Manoranjan and other customers who already have the app on their phones and use it regularly. They can interact with the institution when they want and without the learning curve associated with a new platform. With support from Accion and funding from the Swiss Capacity Building Facility, Annapurna is further enhancing its Customer Engagement Platform to cater to product, service, and information requests of its customer base. Their goal is to encourage more customers to embrace digital channels, making financial services more convenient and accessible.
Accion supports Annapurna in its efforts to provide innovative financial services that can reach small businesses and individuals across India. Digital products meet customers where they are, bringing more people into the formal financial system and fostering growth in communities that need it most — businesses like Manoranjan’s.
When asked about his aspirations for his business, the driven entrepreneur says, “I hope to open more locations in the future.” With his attention to customers, technical savvy, and access to the financing he’ll need, growth is within reach.