Pharmacies are found in almost every community in East Africa, however the way in which they are currently operating leaves a lot of room for improvement

The business is largely run from pen, paper and phone meaning shop owners don’t have the visibility on how everything is run.

Beyond this though, there is a huge potential to drive change in the medical space through formalising the way in which medicine is delivered across the region.

In this episode Jess Vernon, CEO of Maisha Meds and I discuss how her technology company is using data to improve how local pharmacies are run and their ambitions to transform the broader industry.


Moved to Kenya 8 years ago

This has been my goal for nearly a decade. I went back to the US for medical school before returning to work on improving private sector health

It’s a Point of Sale system for pharmacies

We collect data on everything there is to do pharmacies. This helps them with their supply chain operations.

There are 6,000 licensed pharmacies

MM operates in Western Kenya where half the population lives. Currently there are 100 pharmacies signed up by our operational team.

Credit is biggest feature

that pharmacies request. Almost all of them do it, but MM now has this as part of the software. Pharmacies are now able to track the credit they give.

We take $100 downpayment

Most people pay between $100-200 to set up.

The owner is away

And so the main use case is being able to see, at a glance, what is happening with their pharmacy. Visibility is key.

Medication packages

This is our main focus for 2018 – helping them grow their business through the insights we collect.

Most medicine is made in India and China

MM is plugging into existing supply chains. There are usually 3/4 touch points to get to the pharmacy and so we’re looking to move up the chain.

“Maisha means life in Swahili”

It used to be a name about trees, but that had connotations with witch craft/ herbal medicine.

“We leverage the data across the supply chain”

As opposed to other POS systems that just track the movement of stock etc. This is the part which makes us relevant in the health sector.

Strategy is to get usage

And so we focus on getting in pharmacies around the region. For this, we partner with the Gates Foundation, GIZ and other grant funders.

A great product is driving growth

As a result of having a stellar software developer who can run the process.

There’s seasonality

It depends on when people receive throughout the year, as well as at the beginning/ end of the month

“During harvest time, our sales go up”

People have more money around this time which trickles through society, including a spike at Christmas once city family go home.

“We compete with a Whatsapp group of pharmacy suppliers”

Currently pharmacies make orders are made over the phone, with prices being quoted on a case by case basis.

MM can drive what pharmacies sell

We can shift towards having evidence based medicine in pharmacies as well as diagnostic tests.

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TechCrunch article on market networks (which are like Maisha Meds)