Teniola Adedeji has ten years of experience as a pharmacist and pharmacy operations manager; she has also worked at the National Food and Drug Commission.
For her, although the pharmacy business is lucrative, it is relatively small, with many outlets facing limitations due to space constraints, making it practically impossible for any single pharmacy to maintain a comprehensive stock of all medicines readily available.
Her passion to solve this problem grew more in 2021. However, Adedeji knew she couldn’t handle it on her own, and requested Funmilola Aderemi, who has been her friend for 20 years and who at the time was a senior product manager at a mobility tech company, MAX, to co-found a health startup.
“‘Pharmarun’ started as a labour of love, as a Nigerian Uber in the pharma sector. For us, it was more of a community where different stores can be accessed in one place with just a click,” she said.
For Adedeji, who is the CEO, Pharmarun is no different from Jumia, as users can simply place an order and have medications delivered to their doorsteps. “This is why logistics is a very important part of our process. We have encountered a few challenges in the past where the delivery partners on our platform faced bike-related issues while delivering medication.”
She added: “We’ve now carefully chosen our preferred partners, eliminating future logistical issues. Delivery time goal is 3 hours from payment in active states, like Lagos, and 24 hours for interstates, while air transport is used occasionally for faster service.
“With our technology, our platform is designed in such a way that an average user doesn’t necessarily need to know where the medication they requested on the portal is coming from. From the backend, our system makes the necessary verification and locates the multiple pharmacies with the medications requested in one order, then connects with the logistic partner who delivers them promptly to you.
“July this year made us two years; we have about 28,000 individuals accessing our platform. On the business side, Pharmaun has about 15 formalised relationships, consisting of other health companies that deliver medication to their users.”
To instill confidence in potential clients, the website was designed to include features such as ‘Speak to a pharmacist’, to assure users that real people were behind the platform. Pharmarun’s customer base has expanded to include individuals, hospitals that need to send refills of prescriptions to their patients, as well as insurance companies seeking to ensure timely refills for their policyholders.
“Despite the challenges, Pharmarun has grown from its humble beginnings with Teniola and I to a team of 15 dedicated staff members,” Aderemi said.
Also, Pharmarun has onboarded 100 registered pharmacies on its platform and is active in about 20 states in Nigeria but with a significant presence in cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and Uyo. It is working on partnering with more pharmacies, Aderemi, who oversees the product offering, said.
“These pharmacists generate revenue for us through commission. Similar to other portal-based businesses, we connect these pharmacies with increased customers, and in return, we receive a percentage of the business generated for them,” she said.
Adedeji said: “No business can survive without funding; for us at Pharmarun, we’ve raised $150,000 in funding, and are currently raising our pre-seed round.
“This funding was used to establish our product market fit and build the first version of our technology while acquiring the partners we have. The first fund, I would say, was very instrumental in giving us the Pharmarun we have today to have an active product and validate the product which has been used by over 28,000 people. We saw the revenue it brought to us, so we know that it works.”
“Also, the fund we are currently raising, we are looking to use it to scale our product. Our goal is to acquire 1,000 pharmacists within the next six to 12 months amidst expanding our coverage areas.”
Both co-founders believe that Pharmarun needs to be more than a drug store. “If people know where to find a drug but do not have any money to buy it, they still lack access to medication.”
Through embedded buy-now-pay-later (BPNL) services, and partnerships with some BNPL companies, customers who are out of cash to pay can still access medication.
“I’m a pharmacist, and this is my passion,” Adedeji said.