Introduce yourself to us and tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Omar Sakr. I am a pharmaceutical scientist with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical science from the University of Geneva and a masters in business administration from Hall University in London. I love sports. I played squash professionally for 8 years. I am also a family man, with 3 daughters and 1 son.
What does entrepreneurship mean for you?
For me, entrepreneurship is solving problems for your community while making profits on the side. Solving problems has to come first. If you start a business with the intention of making money first, you will try to invent a problem to solve. But if you start by solving a problem, eventually profits follow and usually the bigger the problem you are solving, the bigger the impact.
What do you do at Nawah scientific?
Nawah is the first private scientific hub in Egypt that has state of the art scientific equipment. We offer services online and on-demand. Clients log onto our platform, they select the tests they want to be done, fill in a few questions and submit. We then send a courier to them to pick up samples from them, we do the tests and email the results to them. The beauty of what we do is regardless of your location or the equipment that you have in your own laboratory you are still able to do advanced tests.
What is Nawah Scientific doing to aid in the fight against COVID-19 in the continent?
We have come up with 2 solutions; The first, we are offering sample pick-up services for free to support the scientific ecosystem. Secondly, we have come up with a skin-friendly hand sanitiser. We recently identified a problem with the continuous use of alcohol to disinfect your hands. The problem is that alcohol causes dehydration therefore, frequent use causes your hands to become dry and scaly. As a result, our brilliant formulation team has come up with a formula that does the sterilisation with natural extracts that keeps the moisture of the skin.
How has COVID-19 affected your work dynamic?
Unfortunately, our business has been negatively affected by the pandemic. The reason is that most of our industrial clients who were sending samples to us have been forced to close down due to the lockdown. However, we are finding new ways to survive. Through the new hand sanitiser, we have been able to create a new revenue stream for now.
What advice would you give to African entrepreneurs to ensure they survive this crisis?
These are tough times for everyone however, tough times call for tough measures. I would advise entrepreneurs to try and cut costs as much as possible. Also, this is not the time to let go of your co-founders and employees but instead, you can try to implement salary cuts for everyone. We did this at Nawah. I assembled the whole team and we all agreed as a family that we will do 80% of our job and receive 80% of our salaries. If things get worse, we will go down to 60% and then 40%. I would also advise entrepreneurs to try and be flexible with their revenue streams. They need to start thinking of other services that they can provide in the meantime to stay afloat.
Did it ever occur to you that you will be among the top 3 finalists for the Africa Netpreneur Prize competition last year?
No! I was sure I would make it to the top 10 but not the top 3. Regardless I was very excited and humbled to be among the top 3. I always say that I couldn’t have done it without my team. All I did was represent them but they are behind all the good work that we do.
How did the ANPI experience impact both you and the business?
I learned that it is important to always stay grounded regardless of your status in society. Business-wise, the prize gave us a lot of visibility. I did a lot of TV interviews when I got back. I was also invited by the Egyptian president to give a talk at the biggest annual conference in Egypt called Invest in Africa Forum. The cash price helped us to expand into new markets and acquire state of the art equipment for our lab.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking forward to applying for the prize in the coming years?
To be themselves. There is no need to tell huge stories. The words I got from Jack Ma, allow me to quote were, “ Local win Global vision” the stories that will make it to the finals are startups solving problems within their communities and have the potential to scale.