By Mohamed Alaa Eldin
Ahmed Shabana founds e-commerce business with self-funding
The idea behind creating an online pharmacy came as a result of the nature of his job and studies – in addition to owning two pharmacies – according to Ahmed Shabana, founder and director of Agzakhana.com. The service was completely new and unprecedented before the website’s official website, he claimed.
Shabana says that the website’s services were launched in 2008 through self-funding. The website plays the role of the mediator, displaying medical products such as medicines and cosmetics. After the customer requests the product they needs, it will be sent to them from the nearest located contracted pharmacy. Online sales are the natural evolution of traditional sales operations, Shabana said.
He added that Agzakhana.com offers a variety of services to the customer, from pharmaceutical services to cosmetics and consultations with specialists available on both a hotline and e-mail account open 24-hours to respond to customer inquiries.
Shabana added that, when the customer visits the website, they can easily access products. Medicines are sorted into categories such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease to facilitate the process for the customer. The website offers technical support by doctors to provide assistance on a regular basis. After the customer chooses a product, they can pay online or choose the cash-on-delivery option and receive the product from the nearest pharmacy. He explained that the website has contracts with Alisimage, Aly and Aly, and Seif pharmacies.
According to Shabana, the site received funding from the Vodafone Ventures investment fund, which purchased up to 30% of the company’s shares last year. The company used the funds to implement its investment plan.
On the subject of these plans, Shabana revealed the company’s intention is to export to other countries in the region, especially since the size of the domestic pharmaceutical industry is up to EGP 80bn annually. Shabana hopes to acquire 1% of the total volume of the drug trade annually, and pointed out that locally manufactured medicines, which are unavailable in a number of Arab countries, are in demand abroad. The company intends to purchase medicines and provide its own stores and pharmacies in order to offer its products through the website.
Shabana said that company growth rates have increased 20% per month since the beginning of 2014.
As for ensuring the customer receives the requested product, especially if it is of a special nature, Shabana explained that a system has been set up with contracted pharmacies to send the product requested by the customer to the branch closest to them in order to guarantee no mistakes occur.
He added that the company has included a system that illustrates how various medicines react with one another on its website and warns the customer if they purchase medicines that are at odds with one another, suggesting alternatives. As for expanding abroad, the company aims to export to Saudi Arabia and Sudan since these two countries face various issues importing medicines due to government restrictions.
Weight-loss products top the list of most popular items with customers, followed by supplements, erotic drugs, and cosmetics. Website users range from 24-60 years-old, with young people forming the largest share of customers. Female customers represent 60% of site users.
Bekam: The company born out of an online search for Steve Jobs’s book
We’re seeking a new round of investments next month, says Abdel Fattah
Bekam.com began offering its services through a trial version in February 2012. Its founder Mahmoud Abdel Fattah was an employee at E-Space and the trial version was prepared in just one week.
Abdel Fattah explained that the concept for the site came to him while searching online for the Steve Jobs’s book. He found that many bookstores were selling the product at various prices, and he was struck with the idea to create a website that searches for prices of various products from e-commerce websites and traditional stores and compares them to facilitate the selection process for the customers.
Abdel Fattah converted his idea into an action plan and participated in a IT competition in Bahrain. He walked away with third place and, following this, it was decided that he would work as a partner on the project with E-Space since implementation required sophisticated technology that is not offered by many local companies. He turned to E-Space as it is the developer for the Akhbarak.net website.
Abdel Fattah said that the site began providing actual services in October 2012 through the presenting the prices and locations of more than 250,000 products on over 80 e-commerce websites. Later, the website began offering its services through smartphone applications on Android and IOS operating systems, and the company participated in a competition organised by Vodafone for advanced mobile applications. Bekam earned third place, which created more opportunities for the website to provide its services on the local market.
The company then opened a branch in Dubai before receiving funding from Jordan’s Jabbar Internet Group, which acquired a stake of under 25% in Bekam.com.
According to Abdel Fattah, the company opened a new branch in Saudi Arabia to offer its services in the three major markets of Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Bekam seeks to introduce new services such as identifying prices via barcodes so that a customer can enter any shopping mall, scan the barcode, and compare the price of the same product sold in different outlets to help them make a purchase decision.
The most well known e-commerce websites for which Bekam.com provides price services are Souq.com, Nafsak.com, E3050.com, Diwan Bookstore, Jumia.com, and Agzakhana.com. Price information is inputted daily via a programme that accesses various e-commerce websites and then the products are presented on the website. Products from traditional stores are included as well, including B.Tech, Berskha, Appliance, Mobile Shop, Computer Shop, CompuMe, Nas Store, Rizkallah, and Trade Line.
As for the products that have gained most attention from Egyptian customers, Abdel Fattah explained that cosmetics products are the most popular, with electronics coming in second. Mobile phones and accessories ranked third, clothing fourth, and computers and accessories fifth.
Abdel Fattah revealed that the company is now ready for a new round of investments to support the launch of new services in existing markets, and expects this to take place in the coming months.