Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Altrui Foundation was co-founded in March of 2020 by Shreya Kavuru, Rahul Kavuru, and Sourish Jasti. This non-profit seeks to serve those in need through various initiatives. The current initiatives are Altrui Rx and Altrui Education for which they are committed to serving and changing the lives of communities in need, slowly bridging gaps in the pharmaceutical industry and education system.
Altrui Rx works as a conduit between large pharmaceutical manufacturers and charitable organizations to supply essential mediations to victims in disaster areas, uninsured patients in the US, and low-income communities across the world. Within just a few months, Altrui Rx facilitated the redirection of 45,424,711 extended medication units with an estimated month-end worth of over $15 million.
Altrui Rx’s team of young entrepreneurs is addressing an incredibly prevalent issue that has tolled the healthcare industry for decades. Every year, $5 billion worth of excess medications are destroyed by pharmaceutical manufacturers, while millions of patients across the world are still struggling to access those vital medications for their health and well-being. Unused medications are extremely expensive to destroy, costing up to $3-5 per pound and additional significant operational costs. This in turn has the potential for creating a multibillion-dollar industry.
Altrui Rx’s current pharmaceutical partners include Aurobindo, Rising, Camber Pharmaceuticals, Ingenus, Camber, Hetero, and Ascent which redirect medications to charitable groups such as Kingsway Charities, MAP, SIRUM, and CitiHope. Via Altrui Rx, pharmaceutical manufacturers can upload their inventory lists onto a proprietary platform and receive donation requests from reputable organizations representing impoverished patients across the globe– all at no cost and without Altrui Rx ever touching the products.
Altrui Foundation’s second initiative, Altrui Education, is a mentoring program for students coming from disadvantaged communities. In response to racial justice movements that have taken place earlier this year, the Altrui team was propelled to show solidarity in a feasible and valuable way. Students who sign up for mentoring will be matched based on best interest to successful college mentors who serve as guides with resume building, the application process, and planning future academic goals. As strong advocates for postsecondary education and the ideals of equal education opportune, Altrui hopes to contribute to the progression of breaking down barriers of systemic oppression, poverty, and addiction in low-resourced communities.
For the first year of Altrui Edu’s launch, there was onboarding of 16 mentors who went to 10 different colleges, and pursued 22 majors and were each assigned to 8 mentees.
During the early stages of building and starting Altrui Foundation, Altrui’s Co-Founders paid great attention to creating a professional Advisory Board which they felt would best fit with the Foundation’s core mission. After endless hours of idea-pitching and networking, they created a dynamic Advisory Board with visionaries: Tyler Wry, an entrepreneurship and social impact Wharton School professors; Frank Altman, CEO of Community Reinvestment Fund; Jennifer Schneider, a Principal at numerous companies providing life science regulatory compliance services; and Gopichand Katragadda, CEO and Founder of Myelin Foundry. Under the tutelage of the Advisory Board, the Altrui Team hopes to grow as better leaders, team-workers, and mentors.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After long hours of discussion, planning, and team recruiting, the journey of Altrui Foundation had begun. Six months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and disproportionality affected certain groups of people in underprivileged situations, the team knew that there was no better time to launch Altrui Foundation – a non-profit social venture with two main initiatives: Altrui Rx and Altrui Education.
It’s very helpful to hear advice from professionals in the field, especially if they span a wide range of knowledge and experience; it could potentially save you the trouble of trying to write your own legal documents and could help with finding new networking connections.
Sourish and Rahul both have a lot of exposure to social impact through their involvement in JCWI which provides water filtration systems to impoverished communities in India that lack access to clean water.
Additionally, Rahul worked at a local pharmacy in New York lower east side where he had to look at the dating of products and go through all the near expired medications to flag and then eventually throw away – that was when he realized the number of medications that would end up being thrown out by the end of each shift. Shreya brought in her own experience of social impact after a research project and leading a community service club at her school.
Fast forward to covid-19, Rahul, Shreya, and Sourish were having dinner and on the TV pops up a headline about supply chain disruptions for a product called "Hydroxychloroquine" for pharmacies, manufacturers and the terrible effects for patients who were skipping doses, but not of their own choice. In that discussion, the puzzle pieces clicked together and the infant-stage idea of Altrui Rx was born.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
From our website development team, including Justin Zhang, Tom Sui, Daniel Yuan, Dhvani Mistry, and Daniel Tobengauz: We designed the 2L in hopes of creating an easy and standardized system of moving short-dated medication from manufacturer warehouses to charitable organizations. This market is not the most appealing to manufacturers -- they would rather destroy the medications and be done with the process than spend weeks going back-and-forth with NGOs, making a minimal profit along the way.
To that end, we wanted to make the manufacturer experience as amazing as possible to lure more of them into the market and facilitate even more medication to those who truly need it. To better attract manufacturers, we provide them with transparency of the whole process, easy-to-access legal documentation of all charitable organizations that they donate to, data on their donation impact (donation worth, pills donated, weight, etc.), and we provided them a well-designed, simplistic, and intuitive interface for uploading their inventory lists and packing slips.
Our initial prototyping involved a basic HTML version of the platform. Under this version, we worked to perfect our medication allocation algorithm and data-calculation scripts and were very happy with the results. Subsequently, we had our design and frontend team draft up new interfaces for our users that accommodated easy-to-use functionality as well as a pleasurable user experience.
We wanted to make the user experience as amazing as possible, which is why we created an easy-to-use dashboard, which essentially acts as a to-do list for both parties. This way, manufacturers and organizations can keep track of exactly what they have to do, and when they have to do it.
This alleviates a lot of time pressure and efficiency problems that were experienced via email, as one can easily lose track of what they have to do in the clutter of spam and hefty email chains. Moreover, we provide an order-history feature, which stores exactly how much medication was donated, when, and all data on every order done through Altrui.
We are essentially turning the 2L into the ultimate platform for short-dated medication donation, making it as easy and efficient as possible. Our process is easily navigable, and we detail to our partners exactly what to do at each phase of the order, making their lives easier and grating them with greater efficiency using a smaller amount of time.
We faced enormous challenges in the process since we were never introduced to web development before this project. Designing the project was hard enough, but as novels to the field, we also had to learn about internet protocols and modern website-building procedures. We faced extremely late nights, long hours of reading up on documentation, but in the end, we had a solid understanding of APIs, code deployment, the model-view-controller design pattern, and more. The more we learned about these topics, the more we had to adjust our backend design to create a more efficient implementation of our codebase.
Tying the frontend and backend was also a challenge for us. We had to understand internet policies such as CORS, CSRF, and whatnot to safely connect our website to our API. Security is an important issue that we had to address, and so we made sure to understand all of the protocols for building a robust and secure connection between our frontend and backend.
In the end, after numerous hours on Zoom calls working it all out, we tied all of the parts together to create the 2L platform -- the one-stop-shop for manufacturers and organizations to place and facilitate short-dated medication so that they can be directed to communities in need, uninsured patients, and disaster areas.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
With a talented team of young students and professional advisors, Altrui strives to build lasting experiences and knowledge in philanthropy, technology, healthcare, mentorship, and much more. Altrui Foundation started with a vision of making a change in local communities, but the team is continually inspired to spread more altruistic actions globally shortly. They also hope to expand their social media presence on various platforms to bring more attention to the initiative.
With the launch of our new platform, we hope to make a more streamlined and efficient process with which we can bring on more manufacturers and charitable organizations as partners. Our long-term goal is to create a vast network of all our partners to facilitate as many donations as we can to make the largest impact in the $5 billion industry of unused and excess medications going to waste.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our main communication platform is Slack for main generic team channels, but also have sub-channels with specific groups like marketing, Rx team, Edu team, research team, grant writing team, etc.
We use Notion to assign tasks within the team and as we make progress with them, we can update the Notion to let the other team members know as well; this ensures that everyone is staying up to date with their tasks and working efficiently.
Social media tools: working the most with Insta and partially with Facebook through ads and Youtube.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If you have an idea, don’t let anyone shut it down and give up after hearing something bad; not every single part of the journey will be the best.
We had to speak to so many potential partners and especially in the beginning, not everyone wanted to work with us; given our age, they didn’t think we were super reliant; instead of letting that deter us, we continued to reach out to people; it’s all about persistence and believing in yourself.
I would also say to put together an advisory board; it’s very helpful to hear advice from professionals in the field, especially if they span a wide range of knowledge and experience; it could potentially save you the trouble of trying to write your own legal documents and could help with finding new networking connections.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking for someone to work with our partners for the 2L platform; as we launch it, it’s in its beginning stages, meaning we will be working closely with manus and orgs to take and implement their feedback. We are looking for someone to work with our partners through the help center on the platform to make sure we are taking their advice and feedback and actually implementing it.
We are also looking for more software development people for the website, platform, etc.
As of now, unpaid, but we are looking to start paying our team members in the near future
Where can we go to learn more?
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