SWISS PHARMA, India is a WHO certified pharmaceutical organisation, with over 26 years of manufacturing experience. With global presence in 22 countries spread across five continents, they provide a wide range of speciality products with the expertise of formulating a full range of more than 550, including Oral Solids & Sterile Preparations. Recently the Managing Director Mr. Darshan Shah was in the country on a courtesy visit to friends, and associates in the pharmaceutical industry. Here in a chart with the crew of Pharma Times, the Editor – MORGAN NWANGUMA and Staff Reporter – VICTORIA HARUNA, he paints a vivid picture of his company’s partnering approach to doing business with Nigerians.
What business brings you to Nigeria?
Basically we are here to see and meet some of our friends that we do business with in Nigeria; we are here to see our business colleagues. We have been doing business in Nigeria for the past fourteen years; we have been operating as SWISS PHARMA, India, but we have been mainly involved in contract manufacturing. We have also been doing business in Nigeria with some of the biggest names in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry.
There is a popular international pharmaceutical giant that is operating here in Nigeria with headquarters in Switzerland- Swipha; are you related to this organisation by any means?
No, I have actually heard of that organisation, but I must say it is just an interesting coincidence; SWISS PHARMA has been in operation now for 27 years running, and I am a third generation Managing Director taking care of the company. My grandfather started this company; he handed over to my father who is currently the chairman of the company, while I currently head the organisation.
What do you really intend doing in Nigeria during this visit?
I am just here in Nigeria to see my friends; we are here to also meet with some of the people we are doing business with.
How is your relationship with Nigerian companies; how did you come to relate with Nigerian businesses?
We have met with a number of Nigerian business people; we usually discuss how we can collaborate in pharmaceutical product manufacturing. I guess many of them get to see some of our products somehow. I think they like the quality of our medicines. We have done so much with them; in fact we are the biggest glucose manufacturers in India if not the whole world and we produce this for some of our partners in Nigeria. And I can proudly say that about 80 per cent of the glucose you find in Nigeria is produced by Swiss Pharma. As a matter of fact we have so many more products that are yet to come from us to some of these companies; many of these products are already undergoing registration.
How do you see the drug market here as compared to what you have in India?
It is not really all that different except for the fact that here in Nigeria there is no price control from what I can see. But in India the price of medicines are controlled; you cannot sell your products arbitrarily. There we have what is called MRP i.e. maximum retail price, and so you cannot sell at any price or beyond the required price range set for each product. And so at every stage of say – retailing, the price is controlled by the government authorities responsible for price control. And of course India is 1.27 billion people – it is a very huge market compared to Nigeria’s 170 or so million people which is just about two or three states in India.
Like how many companies are you partnering with in Nigeria?
We actually have up to 22 different companies that we are relating with right now in Nigeria. Some of them are some of the big and older pharmaceutical companies, while others are newly formed young companies. And we get a lot of enquiries still coming from Nigeria because SWISS PHARMA is a big and quality conscious pharmaceutical company.
India has benefitted a lot from Nigeria through what is referred to as medical tourism whereby many Nigerians on a yearly basis troop to India for medical attention due to the high standards of medical healthcare in India. What is your opinion on this development?
Yes, I am aware of that, and in fact we even have a company that is into health tourism; my father is actually a medical practitioner; he is a radiologist – one of the most senior radiologists in the state where we operate. We have had quite a number of patients come to this company from Nigeria.
So what does this company do?
It does a number of things; for instance it owns a diagnostic centre; it is not really a hospital per se. You know my father is a radiologist; he does not believe in having everything under one roof and so we have specialised departments operating separately under that company. For patients coming to this centre, we first ask them to send us their medical reports so that the doctors can decide ahead of time what they will do for them when they arrive in India. The patients will be told their situation of health including the cost implications. And if the patient thinks this is fine, then they will be asked to come to India, and by the grace of God we have always recorded great successes as none of our patients has ever returned from India unsatisfied.
Undoubtedly India has garnered worldwide reputation over the years in medical health science making your country grab a huge chunk of our foreign exchange. What is your reaction? Yes, but it is a global market out there; and these days no country has the power to take over anything from another because the world has kind of become small. It is almost like one country or one state where everybody is free to do business as they wish. It is a global world and anybody is free to go anywhere in the world to do business; all they need to do is make sure they stay within the legal framework and that is it.
So far you have experienced a bit of Nigeria; what is your take on how the business of pharmacy and health practice is carried out in the country?
I have experienced business in Nigeria for Just a little above four years and so far I have not seen much of the shift. Honestly speaking I have not seen a very big shift, but what I have seen is a NAFDAC that is doing a very amazing work – just executing what it is set up to do. NAFDAC is doing a very good job and it has been very impressive, and so we are happy because ultimately that helps the citizenry.
Regarding companies that are currently manufacturing from abroad like India and looking to setting up production plants in Nigeria, what kind of support or suggestions can you input?
I think it is a very good and bold step by any company embarking on such arrangements; it will certainly help to reduce unemployment in the country. But the problem especially in Nigeria is the issue of inadequate electricity which is a critical aspect of pharmaceutical manufacturing anywhere. It is an internal big problem and the manufacturing sector is quite different from the training sector or the marketing sector. Manufacturing has its pluses and minuses: here you are dealing with people, products and also, you are dealing with machines. It is really a good thing for people to come up with ideas to establish their own plants; I know about two or three people who are trying to set up their own manufacturing plants in Nigeria right now. And of course SWISS PHARMA is still looking forward to having more partners in Nigeria so we can expand further as well.
In Nigeria right now there is a national policy in place which cuts across the West African Sub-region; it places a zero percent tariff on finished imported drugs. What is your opinion on this? Any policy that benefits the consumers I think is a good policy. It is good if it will help the patients; whatever happens, the benefits should ultimately be passed on to the consumers. I see nothing wrong with it.
What about the local manufacturers in Nigeria – how does such a policy impact on them?
I feel that if any local manufacturer is producing genuine, high quality products, no matter what benefits there are or lack of it, they can never be at a disadvantage. This is because invariably it is always cheaper to manufacture locally in that you will not have to pay for the freight; you will have no need to pay for demurrage at the port and clearing charges no matter how small. And again, the market is here because let’s face it, Africa is the next destination of the world; Africa is about one-third the population of the world, and that is a huge potential coupled with a cheaper labour cost. Manufacturing here is better and I do not think such an import duty can affect it too much in the negative. Of course in the short term it will definitely affect but if you have the kind of knowledge required to run a pharmaceutical industry, in the long run it will not be a big deal. I am optimistic, more so I also believe that everybody needs to seek to coexist in a mutually benefitting environment; we all need each other.
As you go back to India what will be your expectation of the industry here in Nigeria for the nearest future?
My expectations will be that the naira exchange value will greatly appreciate and remain stable also; I hope something will be done about it. Also one of my biggest expectations is the tremendous hope and optimism I have in the new government in Nigeria; people have been talking too that they will do very well and I am very hopeful too that they will with the man at the centre. The same thing has also happened in my country – India. In the last one decade things had really gone bad, and now we have a new man in the saddle and we are having the same kind of hopes as well.