ENTREPRENEUR: PharmaGo founder Raees Carim
Covid accelerated pharmacies’ interest in Carim’s delivery app because some could not keep up with phone orders in the lockdown
A new home-grown app, PharmaGo, was launched on March 1 to facilitate free same-day and next-day deliveries for essential and over-the-counter medication.
PharmaGo was created by Raees Carim, now 22, while he was a student at Wits. He was 20 at the time, doing a BSc in construction. He has since done his honours in quantity surveying and graduated in 2020.
He came up with the idea when an immune-compromised relative needed medication.
"Our family found it challenging to find a 24-hour pharmacy or an option to order medication online for delivery," says Carim. "I realised that my relative was probably one of many people facing the same issue, and it was here that the seed of PharmaGo was planted." Creating the app took two years as he researched pharmacy and software processes and user journeys through the app, and developed a back-end system suited for pharmacies.
"The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns allowed me more time on PharmaGo as university classes were being conducted online," he says.
Many pharmacies rejected him in the initial phase. "Many would walk me out the door before I had the chance to pitch PharmaGo to them."
A few pharmacies did want an online infrastructure and once demos were done they were sold on the idea. "I leveraged these sign-ups to get more from other pharmacies."
Delivery time depends on how close the nearest participating pharmacy is to the user. PharmaGo passes the customer’s prescriptions, uploaded on the app, to a "pharmacy panel" available only to the pharmacist filling the prescription. This ensures information security and discretion and is exclusive to PharmaGo, he says. Payment is via credit or debit card and is sent direct to the medical aid.
At launch, PharmaGo had a nationwide footprint, with 73 pharmacies on board, and claims to be the only service that delivers medical essentials free of charge within a 20km-50km radius, depending on location. It uses existing distribution networks for deliveries, along with pharmacies that employ drivers to deliver. If they don’t, PharmaGo sends drivers to them. "We do not make use of driver partners or outsource to any company."
He says Covid accelerated pharmacies’ interest in the app because many could not keep up with phone orders and online infrastructure.
He says the app is easy to use, and his team have had good feedback from users and pharmacies. They’re adding new pharmacies and categories and plan to have 24/7 facilities.
Carim is a quantity surveyor by profession and his start-up is still a "side hustle", with no funding, yet. He’ll focus on it full-time in due course.
He believes it is an untapped market and aims to expand into health, wellness and beauty.
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