CEO of Vezeeta Amir Barsoum said that digital healthcare in this part of the world is still in its nascent stages and has plenty of room to grow, adding that Vezeeta believes that Egypt is a powerhouse of creating phenomenal companies that could grow globally.
What growth opportunities or challenges do you see in the digital healthcare services sector, especially after the pandemic?
Digital healthcare in this part of the world is still in its nascent stages and has plenty of room to grow. Even though companies like Vezeeta came to play in 2012, digital healthcare solutions still have a long way to go before becoming mainstream practices for patients to access healthcare.
Despite seeing great success in patient adoption, digital capabilities on the providers’ side for key healthcare delivery tools, such as remote consultation, teleradiology, and similar advancements, as well as in online medication ordering and delivery remain low. This continues to be a barrier to growth in the sector.
In terms of regulations and laws surrounding digital healthcare, the landscape has been quite encouraging and has helped foster strong innovative solutions in the past two years. I believe that by driving public discussions and dialogues about the impact of such verticals in digital healthcare, led by public entities, our government and leadership will help the sector prevail.
According to reports, the healthcare sector is one of the sectors that witnessed growth in attracting investments during the coronavirus pandemic. What is your take on that?
This is all because of changes in industry dynamics. In the past, technology used to be a profitable industry on its own, but today, technology is an integral part of every business vertical, most notably in education, finance, transportation, and healthcare.
In the past three years, health-tech investments have evolved alongside the industry, as products and business models got more innovative, and digital capabilities became a hallmark of sustainable growth.
In Egypt specifically, investors are increasingly seeing the value in supporting the sector that deals with the health of over 105 million people in a nation where the current leadership and government is making massive strides in fostering strong development and advancements, which has increased the sector’s appeal.
I believe the intersection of the three stakeholders makes for a very exciting and positive atmosphere for growth. This is most clearly demonstrated by the government’s incredible push for the Universal Health Insurance Initiative, which is one of the most pivotal health-tech initiatives of this century and a massive attraction for investments.
Vezeeta is one of the largest providers of digital healthcare services in the region. What is your vision for future growth opportunities?
We believe that Egypt is a powerhouse for creating phenomenal companies that could grow globally, not only regionally.
Vezeeta is setting itself for the same endeavour. We will continue operating in different markets in the region across the Middle East and Africa and find opportunities to scale globally and continue to focus on our patients to help them access healthcare in a better, easier, and delightful manner. We will also continue driving our full services in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, as well as eye expansion in Pakistan.
To create new growth opportunities, we are heavily investing in the tech talent of Egypt as well as hiring top-notch customer support and pharmacists to back our online pharmacy operations within Egypt and beyond.
What new services does your company intend to launch?
Our focus is purely to help patients access healthcare, and this is covered by the doctor consultation solutions, and the medication delivery and management solution, with major emphasis on ensuring chronic patients gain access to affordable care and are compliant with the healthcare visits and labs and medication dosages.
Each next step and new launch will try to achieve these goals and help reduce hospitalisation and improve the overall quality of care and outcomes for our patients.
What is the market value of the company and when will it become a Unicorn?
I think in the next 12 to 18 months we would be close to reaching Unicorn status. We’re on a solid trajectory towards that goal, with the ongoing product and geographical expansions, as well as the very strong value proposition of the products that we’re currently providing.
What are your plans to attract new funding during the current period? Have you received offers to acquire from other companies and what is your position on these offers, if any?
Funding in itself is never the objective for us. Our main objective is growth and sustainability. We plan to start conversations around funding very soon, but again, we’re taking it step by step just to make sure that we’re doing it the right way.
On the topic of acquisition, we’re the ones looking to acquire, not the other way around. We are looking at other players for potential acquisition or mergers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Columbia. Our focus is on acquiring and expanding our product offerings.
I think Vezeeta is running a very healthy P&L and we believe we have the potential to go public on our own.
What is the total investment that the company has attracted since the beginning of its operation?
We have attracted $73m in investment since the beginning of operation.
Vezeeta launched from Egypt and expanded before moving its headquarters to Dubai. What is the reason for moving to the UAE?
Our headquarters have been and will always be in Egypt as the country is core to our operations. We’re a company built by Egyptians and powered by Egyptian brains and talent that we are leveraging to build our world-class products.
We do have other offices in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria for operational purposes, and an office in Dubai, the UAE to recruit specialised groups of talents.
What challenges does the company see in the digital healthcare services market in Egypt and the Middle East?
There are two types of challenges.
The first is navigating the immense brain drain of spectacular talents. For example, Vezeeta loses almost 12 to 15% of its technology talent to Europe every year, which is a major challenge because we usually lose our best to other countries.
The second is the slow adoption of technology by our stakeholders. Even with the ongoing pandemic, the adoption of health technology is slower than what you would see in other sectors.
For instance, what a successful logistics company would achieve in 7 to 8 years, a healthcare player achieves in almost 12 to 13 years. This is due to the time needed to adopt advanced technology and due to the complexity of the industry itself.
Different players and stakeholders rarely have aligned objectives or interests, and to overcome this barrier, we need to continue innovating at every vertical of the industry so we can tap the opportunities related to these stakeholders.
Does the company cooperate with the Egyptian government to improve healthcare services through digital transformation?
We have built a longstanding relationship with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population and continue to work very closely with them.
We are also in talks with the Egyptian Drug Authority to help Pharma companies leverage our platform to educate doctors. We have continually supported and worked with the General Authority for Healthcare Accreditation and Regulation to drive awareness of the implementation and accreditation of the Universal Health Insurance framework among healthcare providers.
We’re also working with the Universal Health Insurance Agency to explore different options to embed and integrate digital healthcare solutions for the initiative. Moreover, we’re in talks with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to build a more encouraging landscape for the health-tech space and have partnered with the Information Technology Industry Development Agency to find and nurture the tech talent pool in Egypt.
Most recently, we have been an active participant in the ‘Shabab Balad’ UN initiative that puts youths at the heart of Egypt’s 2030 Vision and provides them with the necessary skills to go beyond the traditional education system and thrive in the future, seamlessly transitioning from learning to earning.
How did Vezeeta develop its services in the field of medicines and pharmacies?
We have a network of licensed pharmacies that we supply from.
Using the Vezeeta app, patients can place an order for their medication that goes straight to the closest pharmacy within our network of pharmacies that are managed and operated by licensed pharmacists, which will then dispense medications and deliver it to the patient.
The patient will receive a receipt that has the name of the pharmacy with its address and phone number as well as have the information for their drugs. Patients can order these drugs by either uploading their prescription or manually selecting them on the website.