BD start-up Arogga to expand healthcare affordability
In the run-up to International Women's Day on March 8, Salaam Gateway will feature stories about women entrepreneurs and leaders tied to the global Islamic economy.
These women have one thing in common - they all #ChooseToChallenge, reflecting IWD's 2021 theme. The International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, according to a statement.
Rosina Mazumder is a consummate entrepreneur. The Brit gave up a career in investment banking to set up her own publishing business and now heads a health tech start-up in her family's native Bangladesh.
"I've always wanted to do something that creates a social impact," Mazumder told Salaam Gateway.
She is now CEO of digital pharmacy and healthcare start-up Arogga whose app lets patients manage, order, and track the delivery of medication and healthcare products in and around the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka.
Mazumder can focus on Arogga that her ten-year-old publishing business "sort of runs itself by now". Her Cake Masters Magazine, whose hundredth edition dropped in January, is one of the largest publications in the world in its sector, and has close to a million followers on Facebook and 125,000 on Instagram.
What turned Mazumder's head to the completely different venture was a Harvard University online course about entrepreneurial markets and opportunities in emerging economies that she took during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. The course showed her a number of case studies on India's health tech sector.
"That course changed everything," she said.
Not long after, she joined fledgling start-up Arogga in November and a month later, she and co-founders, her husband Yawar Mehboob, Fahad Hossain, and Shamim Hasan, re-launched the app.
According to Mazumder, medicines are expensive in Bangladesh, where the International Monetary Fund estimates income per capita GDP to be $1,888 in 2020.
Bangladesh has a long way to go with regards to public policy on medicines-related issues, including affordability, according to the World Health Organization that estimates nearly 70% of total out-of-pocket spending on healthcare there is on medicines.
Free medicines are available at public facilities but their supplies are limited whereas they have to be paid out-of-pocket at private pharmacies.
Tackling these twin issues of affordability and availability, Arogga, meaning 'cure' in Bangla, buys in bulk, passes on to its clients a percentage of the manufacturer's discount, and sells below the recommended retail price.
But the start-up and its app face more industry issues. According to a July 2020 article in the Bangladesh Pharmaceutical Journal, there are approximately 125,000 pharmacies in the country but many business owners fail to employ at least one diploma pharmacist or pharmacy technician, which is required to set up a drugstore.
To exacerbate matters, the sector has not been fully developed due to improper management of drugs, sale of substandard drugs, and the lack of adequate patient counselling.
"There's a huge problem with fake medicines and expired medicines that are in circulation and sold," Mazumder confirmed the issue. She also points out pharmacies are very independent, but not well stocked.
"Someone with a prescription often has to go to four or five different pharmacies to get all the medicines on that prescription," said the CEO. Patients often resort to different brands of the same or similar medicines if they can't find their prescribed ones. -Salaam Gateway