How a young entrepreneur developed a medicine delivery app to help others

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Raees began working on the app just two years ago, while completing his studies at Wits. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)
Raees began working on the app just two years ago, while completing his studies at Wits. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

Thinking of starting a side hustle? You might want to take a page out of this young man’s book.  

It took Raees Carim (22) just two years to start his own business and develop a medication-delivery app to help his fellow South Africans.

“I worked at my dream at my own pace,” he says, after seeing a need and wanting to make a difference.  

His app, which is free on the Google Play store and the Apple App Store, is called PharmaGo and allows users to get same-day and next-day deliveries of prescription and over-the-counter medication in a few clicks.  

The entrepreneur from Johannesburg, who recently completed his BSc honours in quantity surveying at Wits University, says the idea came to him during his third year of studies when a family member fell ill.  “An immunocompromised relative needed medication at different times of the day and sometimes after hours,” he tells YOU.

“We found it challenging to find a 24-hour pharmacy or to get the medication online and have it delivered. It was at that point I realised my relative wasn’t the only one – there are many South Africans out there experiencing the same thing.”  

Raees says he started working on the idea for his app in the middle of 2019, in between his studies.  He did some market research to find a gap for his service and after networking with people in the tech industry who could do the coding, he was able to make his idea a reality.  

“I never thought I’d go into app development, especially something that was linked to pharmaceuticals. Even though going into software was an option at the end of matric, it wasn’t something I was comfortable doing at the time,” the Joburg resident says.  

Although he doesn’t do coding, every colour, design, button and function was chosen and approved by the young entrepreneur.  “I went in with the idea that if I make it work that’s great but I didn’t want it to interfere with my studies. Thankfully I managed to get the help and support from relevant contributors and here we are.” 

However, challenges came when many of the pharmacies he approached weren’t too keen to revolutionise the way they did business.  

“Initially some of them assumed I was a pharmacy rep and didn’t bother to give me the time of day,” he says. “With PharmaGo we basically just wanted to give pharmacies, some even with their own drivers, the infrastructure to connect them with their consumers.”  

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Once downloaded onto a mobile device, the app is simple enough to follow and steps include signing up, finding a pharmacy closest to you, uploading your script and having a pharmacy panel review it. A pharmacy panel connects users with a pharmacy and allows that specific pharmacy to pick up and dispense the order. Background checks are done by pharmacies and orders can be rejected if users details or scripts seem suspicious.

It works like order-in online food services: if, for instance, you order something from a restaurant online, the restaurant sees your order come through on an iPad and either accepts or declines your order. 

As Raees explains, information security and discretion are ensured. “Only the pharmacist fulfilling that script has access to it and payments can either be processed through medical aid or via credit or debit card.”  

In a space of a few months, his app has grown and the young business owner has learnt a lot, including understanding the legalities involved with script medication to collecting the correct information. He did extensive research online to make sure their systems are in accordance with how they go about their business.  

“It was really daunting at first, convincing pharmacies because processes are so regulated but we managed to find out so much and hope to tackle the issue of urgency, convenience and express delivery with online shopping in the country with PharmaGo.”

Raees now works with a developer and team of four that handle admin and payments and monitor orders. His company has an advantage over bigger brands as they work on a “no-order-is-too small” basis, don’t charge delivery fees and guarantee quick delivery. 

He charges a small service fee for processing a script and a small transaction fee on meds dispensed.

However, as a startup, he is more focused on growth and expanding his user base than making big bucks right now. Small service fee – it’s what the customer pays on the app to cover your admin costs. So your service fee is built in to your order. When a pharmacy dispenses meds, he makes a little off every medication dispensed.  

Raees says growth has been remarkable. “One pharmacy became five, five became 10 and now we’re working with 87 pharmacies countrywide, and it continues to grow. Now we’re interested at looking at ways to expand our offering in terms of health, wellness and beauty.” 

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