By Deena Douara Karim
Between them, Pilly‘s three founders have four young kids, including one with autism and one with asthma and allergies. This means a lot of time spent – wasted – waiting around in pharmacies and clinics any time a child gets ill or a puffer needs refilling.
It was another one of those nights: Ahmad Elkalza realized their seven-year-old’s Epipen had expired the night before a field trip to the zoo. So he found one of few 24-hour pharmacies not-so-nearby, drove over, and waited for the prescription to be filled. In some cases it’s been worse – waiting over an hour for a prescription to be transferred from one pharmacy location to another.
“There has to be a better way,” Elkalza says he thought at the time, nerves frayed. “None of this makes any sense.”
And the better way was delivery.
Elkalza acknowledges, of course, that many places offer pharmaceutical delivery, but he says Pilly is different in a number of ways. He believes the most apparent appeal is that delivery is free, every time, regardless of quantity or price point.
They've also simplified the process – just take a photo of the prescription (or medication in the case of refill requests), and send it over through their secure website or app. Where eligible, Pilly will charge insurance directly.
Understanding acutely the importance of availability, the team offers same-day deliveries across the GTA, Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., to your home or an alternate address and at the customer’s preferred time frame.
“It’s all about convenience,” says Elkalza. “We wanted to make it super easy.”
He says the fact it is a delivery-based model means great service is key. For this reason, pharmacists are always on-hand to communicate with customers, whether through text, email, phone or even Facebook chat. Because it’s a mobile service, customers can more easily have all their prescriptions in one place, which Elkalza points out is what health practitioners always recommend, and Pilly's pharmacists are even proactive about reminding customers about refills.
Elkalza says more than half their customers have made repeat orders and users tell them the service has been valuable for their busy lives.
Pilly is not Elkalza's first business idea, or first business. Even as a kid, he remembers travelling between Egypt and Toronto dreaming up all sorts of ventures to bring over or take with him. Bubble tea in Cairo, anyone?
His first short-term but successful business started while he was still completing his Schulich MBA, which gave him the confidence and excitement for entrepreneurship. Co-founder and colleague Orabi Abouali was also keen and together they decided the concept for Pilly was the most natural and needed service they could provide. Elkalza knew pharmacist Mina Tadrous from university and together the three churned out a “beta” in three months that was already very functional and refined.
While the team currently focuses on medications, they say their scope is even broader:
“What we really envision is that you walk out of a doctor’s office and … you can place an order for anything and you have someone on the other end facilitating that for you, whether it’s a crutch or a wheelchair or whatever it is.”
That includes, of course, late-night Epipens.