Businesses & Financial News

Kenyan Startup changing lives one insulin at a time

By Steve Umidha

Healthcare access is still elusive for majority of Kenyans, primarily due to the acute scarcity of resources, and inadequate resource allocation by the national government.

In the past few decades for instance, the out- of-pocket (OOP) expenditure has been increasing since the introduction of user fees in the health sector.

As a result it is now feared that the situation is getting dire for those battling non-communicable diseases such as Diabetes among other diseases owing to the high-associated costs for such treatments.

This is part of what informs Diabetes Management Medical Center, Pharmacy & Laboratory (DMMC) – a local based online Pharmacy and Diabetes Care Center, whose goal is to empower diabetic patients in accessing Diabetes drugs and medicines to households through reduced prices.

“The idea is not to make crazy profits from our facility, rather the catch here is to increase accessibility of these drugs to those that desperately need them, and we do so at a relatively cheaper cots compared to market cost brackets,” discloses Duncan Motanya, a director at DMMC.

You’d probably recognize Motanya as one of the most identifiable faces in the fintech space, but besides managing a mobile lending firm, Zenka, he’s also the founding partner at DMMC– a medical facility which opened its doors to diabetic patients last year.

But the idea was first mooted in 2014, when Motanya embarked on a rare journey, a mind-numbing business expedition that had been motivated by the demise of his father from the deadly disease a year earlier.

“His death was one of my lowest moment in life as an adult since we were very close. This pushed me to research more on Diabetes and the more I read about the disease, the more I discovered that there is more to it than just the treatment facet of it, information and how to manage the disease were the missing ingredient,” opens up the 36 year old during an interview.

During that year, the young entrepreneur who is also a certified diabetes educator started a private support group called Diabetes and Hypertension Support Group Kenya which garnered over 13,000 members and an online page which he named the Kenya Diabetes Management Center and Pharmacy which has more than 101,000 followers to date.

The social venture was under incubation, operating in a dingy room in Ruiru as a community based organization.

It was until late 2019 and early 2020 that Motanya teamed up with a former school mate, a laboratory specialist and a cousin, a registered clinical medical officer, that the idea was fully hatched and steered into motion several weeks later.

“We approached a faith-based organisation called Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS) with the idea who understood our approach and offered us medicines at affordable prices,” says Motanya, adding that, this was made possible from their own personal savings and bank loans as seed capital to commence the facility’s operations.

And while the facility has gained traction since its inception, Motanya is quick to acknowledge the impact of social media and chiefly the six WhatsApp groups created by the institution for the milestones achieved thus far – barely two years since they began operations.

Presently DMMC has six active WhatsApp groups where Diabetic patients share their life experiences with their medical experts which goes a long way in mitigating humiliation associated with the disease.

It is also the platform Motanya says, patients readily get information related to their conditions. “Here patient information is safe guarded, no outsiders,” he says.

An instant messaging application like WhatsApp can, he says help businesses have a more significant impact on customer satisfaction, saying that it has helped the medical centre expand its reach, improve message deliverability rate, have secure conversations with their customers, increase conversions, and has also achieved some of their critical business goals.

His entrepreneurial advice to young budding businesspersons is to maintain a high level of integrity while handling customers

“No matter what course you have pursued, if you get an opportunity to work in any institution, take it regardless of how little it pays. Give it your 100 percent and strive to learn from the senior colleagues or executives on improving and doing better on any work assignments entrusted to you,” he advises.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the prevalence of diabetes in Kenya at 3.3 percent and predicts a rise to 4.5 percent by 2025. However, two-thirds of diabetics may be undiagnosed.

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes spend an average of Sh53, 907 a year out-of-pocket for health care or about Sh8, 000 monthly but insulin isn’t always the biggest expense, according to Motanya, who reckons that the facility charges almost half of that.

And as the world readies to mark, World Diabetes Day and Diabetes Awareness Month in November, Motanya is also urging the government to extend tax incentives to Kenyan companies in order to make costs of treatment attainable.

High cost of doing business and taxation pose the biggest threat to operations in most sectors, healthcare included and dwarfing the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent CBK survey for instance found that although most business leaders projected a substantial economic rebound in the second quarter of the current fiscal year on improving orders and sales, a challenging business environment posed the biggest threat to progression.

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