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It took a brave relocation to regional NSW to kick-start Fawaz Khodary’s pharmacy career. Today, it’s paid off handsomely as he and his three pharmacist siblings grow their Your Discount Pharmacy brand.
When Fawaz Khodary gained his degree in pharmacy he feared he’d made a big mistake.
“All pharmacists need to work as a supervised intern before they can be registered but, in 1991, jobs were hard to find,” he says. “I approached 50 or 60 Sydney pharmacies without success.”
The sense of having erred in his choice of career was particularly poignant for Fawaz. His Egyptian father and Lebanese mother immigrated to Australia when he was nine months old, and he was the first in the family to go to university.
“They just didn’t think of it as a possibility,” he says. “I wanted to be a good example.”
Eventually, Fawaz accepted the offer of an internship in the regional NSW town of Coonabarabran, a six-hour drive from his home.
“I hadn’t even heard of it,” he says. “My plan was to go back to Sydney as soon as I was registered, but I ended up staying there for 20 years. I got married, had six children and bought the pharmacy where I got my first job.”
In the meantime, Fawaz’s three younger brothers also studied pharmacy. Working together, the siblings have built Your Discount Pharmacy, a business that’s grown to achieve revenue of $75 million last financial year.
“My brother Said and I set up the structure of the business,” Fawaz says. “As CEO I focus on the financial side while Said controls product and pricing. Ibrahim is in charge of operations and Hamdy, the youngest, is head of our website. Now there’s also a second generation: my two oldest children are pharmacists and both have a store.”
Of the 13 pharmacies in the group, two are in Canberra and one is in Sydney. The remainder serve NSW regional areas, mainly on the Mid North Coast.
“We used to holiday in Port Macquarie; when a pharmacy popped up for sale there, my brothers and I decided to invest,” Fawaz says. “That was the first step in our expansion and, eventually, we decided to move there. Now most of our stores are within a two-hour drive.”
In 2010, the brothers decided to augment their physical stores with online sales.
“We wanted to broaden our customer base by taking discount prices to more Australians, particularly rural communities where people can miss out on lower prices and special offers,” Fawaz says.
“We launched our website in November 2010 and our online revenue topped $5 million for the first time in the last financial year. It’s still a small percentage, but the online business is growing faster than our pharmacies. We advertise through eight or nine third parties including Amazon, Catch and eBay rather than rely on organic searches.”
In mid-September, the brothers opened a new warehouse in Port Macquarie.
“We were operating from the back of a store and losing sales because of limited stock,” Fawaz says. “Now we have stock worth over $1.5 million in the warehouse. It was a big investment, but we’ll be able to keep up with demand, including the Christmas rush.”
The online business also led to a change in branding.
“We started out as Khodary’s Pharmacy, with the tagline ‘Your Discount Chemist’,” Fawaz explains. “On the website we dropped the Khodary Pharmacy because the name meant nothing to customers outside our local areas. But it wasn’t until 2013 that we also dropped it from our stores. We’re all proud of the family name, but Your Discount Chemist makes business sense; it says what we offer up front.”
When Fawaz moved to Port Macquarie, he took out a home loan with NAB. This led to discussions about the specialist banking and finance solutions NAB provides for healthcare professionals and businesses, including those tailored for pharmacies.
On top of NAB’s pharmacy expertise, Fawaz also learned of the bank’s Islamic finance product after attending a community event. The offering enables customers to finance business growth while complying with the requirements of Islamic law.
“Having a product that aligns with our values and beliefs was definitely a game changer for us,” Fawaz says.
Your Discount Pharmacy was one of the first businesses to take up the opportunity with NAB.
“It took a while to develop a product within the regulatory environment that worked for the bank, the Shariah advisers and our customers,” explains Dr Imran Lum, NAB’s Head of Islamic Finance. “We finally settled on commercial property financing for acquisition and construction via an ijarah muntahia bit-tamleek, a type of lease-to-own structure.”
Dr Lum adds that NAB has been a specialist in pharmacy banking for decades. “It always means a lot to us to see our customers innovate and grow,” he says. “It’s great to know we’re playing a part in their continuing success.”
For Fawaz and his brothers, building further on their success is at the heart of their strategy.
“We’re always looking for ways to innovate, and that means we’re constantly investing in the business,” Fawaz says. “
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