Getting medicines is a tedious task, isn’t it? Going all the way to your trusted pharmacy and (if bad luck is with you) finding out they don’t have one in stock, or it’s from a different brand. What if you could just get them delivered to your doorstep from a reliable source? That’s exactly what a Karachi-based startup, Dawaai.pk is offering.
Dawaai is an online pharmacy that lets you purchase all your drugs/medical equipment using the Internet. All you have to do is go to their website/app, select the items you want to buy, attach (or Whatsapp) the prescription (if required) and choose your payment mode. Their team will then vet your order, verify the details, and if authentic, process the order. For prescription drugs, the company does express delivery within two to three hours in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. For over-the-counter medicines and the rest of the country, they take between 24-48 hours.
The company started by holding its own inventory but now has partnered up with pharmacies and hospitals across the country which ensure Dawaai’s supply. At the moment they have 6 pharmacies and a couple of hospitals on board across the country.
But since their supply comes from partner pharmacies anyway, the question is, why won’t a customer just go for the vendors in the first place? Some big pharmacies in Karachi have already gone online and delivered the drugs for you while Punjab has quite a few pharma chains of its own, again offering delivery. So what exactly is unique about Dawaai?
“It’s not just about selling and delivering the drugs. We do a lot of price comparisons as well and often provide details about cheaper brands for the same formula so the customer knows possible alternatives when making the purchase and with their doctor’s permission, can switch even,” CEO Furquan Kidwai says. And not just the information about generics, Dawaai also goes into other details about the drugs: their side effects, dosage instructions, precautions, storage, etc.
But Kidwai is not concerned about the competition, from Sehat or the wider tech startup scene in general. “The more players we have, the more the market will open up which is what we need now,” he says.
While in theory the entire thing can be done through tech, it’s not exactly the case here. “The serious nature of the industry we work in requires human oversight, given how easy it is to forge prescriptions in Pakistan. So we have a team of six pharmacists going through all the orders, our customer service agent calling the buyer to inquire further details and if it seems genuine, only then the order is approved. It might sound like a holier-than-thou approach but we don’t want to hurt the brand image through recklessness,” says Kidwai. So far the company hasn’t entered the schedule X drugs (medicines that cannot be purchased without a doctor’s prescription) either.
Kidwai was working as a financial trader in London before venturing into the startup world. “I had this bug to come back to Pakistan and started looking for potential areas where there’s juice. It had to be within the consumer market and not luxury goods, and healthcare was something there was a lot of scope,” he recalls.
The business model is simple: on every sale, there is a certain commission charged to the supplier plus a delivery fee below a minimum order (Rs500). There are a number of payment options available, from cash on delivery to bank transfers. There is also an in-built Dawaai wallet on the app, quite similar to what Careem has, where you can leave your change and use it for subsequent transactions.
Initial money worth $150,000 was put in by Kidwai and a few angel investors in March 2014 and in 2016, the startup raised a million dollars in a seed round, led by Planet N — a Karachi-based holding company. And now Dawaai is looking for the next round of funding, ideally from a foreign investor with experience in this industry.
The startup has lately entered into other verticals as well, as seems to be the norm in the local health tech space. A year or so ago, they launched a lab test service where you can simply go choose a laboratory, test and get them done at your home. And just last week, the company started online consultations where people can go and ask a doctor their health-related questions and get an immediate response for free.
With just the pharma market estimated at over $3 billion in Pakistan, the potential gains are immense and Kidwai already has done his calculations: a mere three percent of it represents almost a $100 million company.