This Chinese startup is hoping to create an unmanned pharmacy

The unmanned store is an ongoing hype in China. And if you only can think of its application in the convenience store, then you probably have a very limited imagination.

Today, whether you are a large brand, retail chain or supermarket, the sure step to showcase your digital transformation journey or innovation mentality, is by launching an automated, checkout-less brick&mortar.

So many startups arrive into the scene to offer you the whole solution package.

For instance, a Shanghai-based startup Cloudpick, which was mentioned in our blog in March last year, just received Series A+ funding from Intel Capital. See its video demo below: 

Also located in Shanghai, another rival startup Pandacube offering a similar service as Cloudpick, is hoping to expand into verticals like beauty, maternity&baby-care, or even building materials&tools. The company said they are working on a pilot project for Michelin’s TyrePlus, basically, help the brand set up a few unmanned stores of selling auto&tire accessories.

Pandacube usually charges between RMB50K~150K per store (typical like below), which is not cheap but reasonable for traditional retailers just to roll out one or two in order to catch up the bandwagon and get some PR praise.

Pandacube also intends to foray into the sector of unmanned smart pharmacy, adding hardware like medical consultation KIOSK, e-prescription dispenser machine. The startup said it is in talks with a large pharmacy chain, but the prospect might remain flaky. Few standalone experiments of unmanned pharmacy in China more or less ended up in unprofitable failures.

Experts believe only juggernaut like Alibaba can implement such concept at large scale, which is already working in progress.

Alibaba is even pushing the idea of the unmanned vending machine for medicine, and the costs of building an ATM machine for pills should be much lower than a fully functional smart pharmacy.

By: Cecilia Wu