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Thursday, 24 September 2020

My Morning Routine: Karim Khashaba, CEO of Yodawy

Karim Khashaba, CEO of Yodawy: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions for fun. Speaking to us this week is Karim Khashaba, CEO of Yodawy, Egypt’s largest pharmacy delivery app.

I'm Karim Khashaba, CEO of Yodawy, a pharmacy benefits platform that launched in 2018 aiming to restructure the medication supply chain in Egypt. We work on 1) building a medication ordering and delivery experience for our customers; and 2) rewiring the medical ecosystem by connecting medical providers and insurance companies.

I’m a family man. My morning routine has always involved waking around 6am. Before covid-19, I would start the day by making breakfast and taking my five-year-old son to the bus. Now his schedule has shifted and he’s doing online classes, so I take care of him until his classes begin while my wife looks after our newborn.

But in the mornings I also take some time for myself, doing some light, news-focused reading over a coffee … or two or three. I start with Enterprise and the BBC, and then Crunchbase and other startup forums. I usually do an hour of sport every morning as well. During lockdown I went running and lifted weights, but now that things are opening up I usually play squash. Then my workday usually starts between 9 and 10am.

My family and I spent a lot of the covid-19 lockdown period in a family home outside Cairo. I used to go cycling during the day, and we were all able to spend lots of time outdoors. In the house, I created a work space by setting up a room with a desk.

Yodawy shifted to work from home (WFH) two weeks before lockdown. We made a checklist of everything that had to be in order for us to work efficiently, and then distributed it to the team. We had to rethink some of our internal processes and how to reinforce certain roles to help streamline work, but it was a good step.

And WFH turned out to be a really good development for us. Our product development and tech team actually performed better during WFH, so they’ll continue remote work permanently and just come to the office once every week or two. From a rent perspective, this is beneficial because we grew significantly in the last six months and would have needed extra office space if we hadn’t learned that they could work very efficiently from home. With the operations team, we gave them autonomy rather than trying to enforce anything, so they could come to the office if they needed to be here. They did come quite often — even during lockdown — but they tried to optimize their work time without much management involvement.

We’re lucky enough to have a team that operates well autonomously. But with this dynamic and hardworking culture, people sometimes ended up overworked because they never switched off. I think the way to overcome this is better general planning. There will always be spikes in a work environment, but we don't have to overload people by design.

I agree with Enterprise that a company’s culture is ultimately made in the office. The toughest thing about WFH has been figuring out how to onboard new recruits. That informal office culture is so important for a team.

Now I’m back in the office three or four days a week. I enjoy it, and it’s a chance for me to catch up with different people who may need to sit with me to get things done. On the days where the product and development team are in, the office is about 60% full, and on other days it’s probably 10-15% full. Each team can decide for itself whether it needs to be there or not.

Yodawy saw huge growth because of covid-19. From the consumer side, there was a clear multiplied effect, so we almost reached our end-of-year targets during lockdown. But the most interesting thing was to see the awareness raised among our B2B stakeholders. We work with a lot of payers and insurance companies, and many are historically very traditional, risk-averse, and resistant to change. Now when we meet new clients, there’s no debate over the value of digital service. This marks a very positive shift in Egypt’s healthcare sector, which will accelerate the rate of change and open people up to new strategies.

Now I’m anticipating very interesting developments, especially in medtech and digitization. Medtech will start to become more prominent in the startup ecosystem. I’d expect to see 5-10 new medtech startups each year delivering something new and interesting. We’ll see more digitization among medical providers, and digitizing medical records will gain traction, opening up new services that weren’t possible when everything was paper-based. Insurance companies are starting to have a more customer-centric approach, and we can see that being implemented. I’m even seeing healthcare brands and pharma companies starting to restructure internally for this change, bringing more sales online. So the change has really been ignited.

As a new parent, there isn’t much time to disconnect and unwind — but when I do, I like to watch Netflix with my wife. I recently watched Cobra Kai, the sequel to The Karate Kid, and found it really entertaining. Sometimes you just need to watch something not too serious. I’m also a big fan of going to the beach and just spending the day there enjoying nature.

What have the last six months taught me? If you give people some space and autonomy, you’ll often be positively surprised by what they can do. I saw this with my team. It was really fun to watch and I’m very proud of what they achieved.

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