Antwork: a timely pivot into medical supplies drone delivery

Strategy in Action is an inherently fluid and real-time approach to strategy. In essence, it means evaluating conditions, identifying opportunities and risks, determining how to generate value within them, identifying needed capabilities, and launching catalytic actions. The actions activate the strategy, which is always evolving in response to conditions. Here, we explore a business or organization embodying this responsive strategic style.

Across the COVID Economy, there are many start-ups and newly pivoted businesses who are operating in synch with the complex conditions this pandemic has created. One example is Antwork, a Chinese drone company delivering small parcels of emergency medical supplies.

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Antwork uses drone delivery network for medical service | Source: Antwork Robotics

When the company launched in 2015, it was meant to be a food delivery service, like SkipTheDishes with drones. The first company of its kind in China, it enjoyed success delivering takeout and groceries to suburbanites.

But in early 2019, Antwork laid the groundwork for a significant pivot. The idea was to capitalize on China’s $287.3 Billion pharmaceutical market, 10% of which constitutes medical supply delivery costs. First, they became China’s first company to secure official approval conduct commercial drone deliveries in highly-populated urban areas. Next, they obtained the required paperwork to make medically hygienic deliveries, and began testing their service with hospitals.

Then, on February 6th, 2020, at 9 am, Antwork launched the first “urban air transportation channel”. They delivered supplies from the People’s Hospital of Xinchang County to the disease control center of Xinchang County, one of COVID-19’s hardest-hit regions in China. Antwork’s capabilities could not have come together at a more optimal time for meeting the urgent, complex logistical needs the pandemic created.

Antwork drone carries medical supplies between critical locations in China
Antwork drone carries medical supplies between critical locations in China

Based on Antwork’s experience, the advantages of medical drone delivery are now clear. As an automatic service, it minimizes contact opportunities between supplies and people, making delivers more hygienic. It frees up human resources and emergency vehicles in emergency situations. It also reportedly increases delivery efficiency by more than 50% compared to road transportation.

Currently, medical services supply forms the core of Antwork’s business. According to Nikkei Asian Review, the company’s “primary revenue sources are selling drones and other hardware to hospitals, and charging annual flight and service fees.”

Unsurprisingly, Antwork now has the attention of the world’s business elite. At the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, CEO Zhang Lei was a panel presenter. Alongside companies like their WEF co-presenters Zipline, Antwork is educating the world about the life-saving potential of drone delivery.

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