The state of the Nigerian health sector heavily influences Tobechukwu Obikili’s story. The CEO of AirMed is contributing his quota to fixing its deplorable state that continues to give individuals life-changing experiences.
Tobechukwu Obikili is the son of a pharmacist who almost gave birth to him while attending to her pharmacy’s needs in the market square. Having earned his initial degree in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering Technology from Niagara College in Canada, her influence and other personal experiences, which include the painful loss of a child, had a significant impact on his decision to deviate into the medical field.
He describes himself as an entrepreneur trying to make a change and impact lives even amid numerous issues affecting Nigeria. He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Ontario Tech University in Canada.
The Lagos-born entrepreneur and engineer loves spending time with his family and playing sports, having played football in college. He also likes discussing important socioeconomic issues that affect him with colleagues and friends.
“One of the most important things for me is being able to achieve any thing I dream. I dream about a lot of things and doing these things even though I might not know so much about it, trying new things and watching my children grow, interests me.”Tobechukwu Obikili, Airmed Founder
In addition to losing his child, Tobechukwu cites the demise of a close relative and other shortcomings across the healthcare system as motivations for using cutting-edge technology to improve healthcare services in the nation.
His quote: “Don’t be afraid to fail. In failure comes wisdom. No matter how many times you fail, one success outshines your previous failures.”
In this instalment of our Founders Spotlight series, Tobechukwu Obikili shares his experiences, dreams, and aspirations with Airmed and his wanting to make an impact in his country of birth.
Read also: Adeola Ayoola discusses Famasi Africa, Nigeria’s health sector, saving lives with tech
What’s the inspiration behind Airmed
Nigeria’s healthcare sector has failed to impress when providing essential services, given its population of over 215 million people. Although it has the second highest density of medical doctors among West African countries, this is still very low compared to the actual need for such a populous nation.
Tobechukwu Obikili, an engineer by training, was motivated to take a deviation into the healthcare services industry to reduce this gap in access and speed to necessary services.
“I would say it’s destiny. Although my mom was a pharmacist, while I was young, I heard stories about my birth. At one point of my mom doing her pharmacy business in Surulere, trying to purchase products from the market, I was almost given birth to in the market square.”
He decided to take on the responsibility of improving the mom’s business in a more sophisticated manner. The decision to relocate to Nigeria after receiving his degree in Canada and accepting positions where jobs are scarce also influenced the choice.
“Along the line, I realized that there was a gap in the sector because I was a victim of the gap. I lost a child due to a lack of quality healthcare – a lack of access to certain medications and professionals.
“On getting there, they didn’t know how to inject him or revive him, because they couldn’t locate his vein, and also the oxygen available was for adults, not kids, So all of that didn’t help at the end of the day, and we lost the child”, he adds.
Another death, that of a very close family friend who had reached out to him during the pandemic to help get medications which would keep them alive, was another factor that inspired him through pain.
He said that “he tried everything to get the medications requested, but it was late at the end; they had already died.” He claims these experiences are things he had never really gotten over but decided to channel into positives.”
What does Airmed do?
Undoubtedly, experiences shape a person’s course in life, but learning from past mistakes helps prevent future ones. Tobechukwu Obikili started conversations with his close associates to find solutions to all the problems he had faced and observed.
He noted that Airmed is trying to solve a problem that most Nigerians are unaware of, the recent japa syndrome of medical personnel, which is creating a scarcity of qualified professionals to attend to our medical needs.
“In trying to address issues relating to medical collapse in the country, we are investing in its restoration by placing premium on offering quality healthcare services”, Tobechukwu Obikili told Ripples in an interview.
He cited a moment when he was unable to reach a medical facility because of traffic on the Island section of Lagos and had to instead go to the closest hospital as evidence that for him, the issue of accessibility has always been one of how to fix it.
“We saw the difficulties experienced by people as a result of the new challenge, especially in the area of accessing pharmacies to purchase drugs prescribed by medical doctors.
“We thought of ways to address the challenge and Airmed was born through an initiative to use technology to connect pharmacies and make them accessible online for people to place orders from the comfort of their homes.”
How he maintains a work-life balance
Living your best life and being there for the people you love differs from striving to save the world. For most successful people, juggling work, passion, and family have never been simple, which may not be unrelated to the fact that success is not cheap.
For Tobe, this fact remains. He claims balancing what he does with creating time out for things and people he loves is not an easy task.
“To be quite frank, it’s very hard, in fact, extremely hard. It takes focus to let the distractions pass you by and focus on the goal, which is your dream and vision, even while creating out time for family.”Tobechukwu Obikili
People that inspire him
Several factors have played a role in getting Tobe to do what he does, but at the core of these is his mom (a pharmacist), who continues to be the bedrock of his drive and deviation into the healthcare sector.
Aside from this, He claims several other persons have inspired him in the industry.
“My family is a family of medical doctors. My uncle, Emeritus Professor Emmanuel Obikili is Medical Doctor, he has lectured so many students and most of the times I’m associated to him merely seeing my last name. Also, I have another Uncle who has worked so many years in Saudi Arabia as an Optometrist.”Tobechukwu Obikili
“In the pharmaceutical industry though, there is MedPlus, and top manufacturing companies like Emzor…so many of them”, he adds.
Vision 2023: Dear President, before you stand down
Tobechukwu Obikili engages in conversations that facilitate impact and ideas, and he loves to express his opinions through writing. In 2020, he penned a column for the Guardian, where he highlights issues that President Muhammadu Buhari must address before the end of his tenure.
He claims his passion for Nigeria inspired the article, which talked about how Nigerians can make Nigeria better themselves.
“The article is a call to action for Nigerian. It was directed the the President to get things right before he leaves office. It is a plea for thing to be done right at least for the younger generation coming up.”Tobechukwu Obikili
For him, one of the most challenging things as a Nigerian is being able to start a business and succeed due to the lack of support and infrastructure. Hence the need for the government to do right by the citizens.
What’s to be expected in the future
There is no end to innovation and improvement in product delivery and procedure in the quest to remain prominent and relevant. According to most business owners, this is what ensures the life of any company.
For Tobechukwu Obikili, continuous improvement on the platform and trying to solve problems remain his focus. The infusion of technology to bring these medical consultations and medications to people is what he wants to build on continually.
“For me, I want to continue to improve the platform and find ways to use technology to bring consultation and medications closer to people. Constant building and constant solving of problems.”Tobechukwu Obikili
Advice to founders
Sheer determination and commitment to what one does can be a lever for improvement and continuity. Consistency, they say, is the mother of mastery. This applies to every aspect of life.
In his advice to founders like him, Tobechukwu Obikili advises that they keep moving whilst facing challenges and problems.
“Keep doing what you do, don’t give up no matter how slow. The idea for Airmed was founded in 2020, and after several procedures, trials and process we are here. To any potential entrepreneur, just keep moving and don’t give up.”
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