In year 2000, malaria was identified as one of the biggest impediments to global development, and so it was selected as a critical global target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). KCH Consumer Healthcare Ltd, a fast rising indigenous pharmaceutical company is leaving no stones unturned in its bid to make the desired impact. In this interview with PharmaTimes Reporter, SALLY AHMED, Head of Public Communications & New Media of KCH, Morgan Nwanguma says the company is making medicine accessibility easy. He sheds light on this as well as the company’s doggedness to sustain growth in spite of the daunting macroeconomic environment and peculiar industry challenges.
KCH appears passionate about malaria; what’s the special interest?
You will agree with me that malaria is a serious health concern in Nigeria. Estimates show that everybody in the country is at risk because it is an endemic problem. Malaria according to World Health Organisation (WHO) can kill within 24 hours of symptom onset! I’m sure that is news to you. As a responsible pharmaceutical organisation, we therefore have a role to play in the fight against this killer disease. We just have to be at the forefront of that fight because we care about the health of the citizenry.
Where does KCH come in as a pharmaceutical company?
Like I have just told you, we have the basic responsibility to ensure the provision and distribution of high quality anti-malarial at cost effective prices. We recognise that there is a direct link between poverty and vulnerability to incidence of malaria. Therefore, cost of therapy must be affordable for patients to reduce the economic burden of malaria on them.
But how does KCH aim to achieve this?
Our flagship anti-malarial brand – ZeramalQS is an ACT based product, carefully formulated after extensive research. The frequency of dosage is very convenient for patients. We know that when frequency of dosing is too high, patients tend to skip doses. This act usually increases the chance of the malaria parasite developing resistance to the drug in the long term. Our flagship brands are easy to administer and comply with prescriptions. From our survey we discovered that many Nigerians have developed preference for Zeramal brands and they are getting the desired result. KCH is determined to reduce the number of malaria associated deaths in the country. Currently, we are reaching out to rural dwellers across the country with our efficacious and high quality Zeramal brands at affordable prices, and the reception of the brands has increased considerably.
What are KCH’s expectations for patterns of consumption?
We want to expand into the future of Nigeria. The country has a population of about 180 million, with over 70% of the population living below the poverty line; many Nigerians live on a daily wage of about $1 per day. With $1 per day they would cater for their needs such as shelter, healthcare, and other sundry necessities. As a company, we are committed to expanding access to a greater percentage of the population, bearing in mind that people who earn $1 per day should be able to access our products and we are already doing that. One of our key philosophies is to provide access to medicines to all classes of people by actively seeking new ways of delivering healthcare and making our products more available and affordable to those who need them, wherever they live and their ability to pay. With this in mind, our aspiration is to expand access to 80% of the Nigerian population by 2025, and we will be leveraging our local production capacity to achieve that.
The prevailing economic recession in the country adversely affected many pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria. How is KCH coping with the challenging times?
Like you rightly pointed out, it has been very tough doing business in Nigeria in recent times. However, through the grace of God, due diligence, dedication and commitment of management and staff as well as the support of our esteemed customers we have been able to contend with the prevailing challenges. And I must give credit to management for remaining resolute and loyal even in these challenging times. What I have learned from management is that in dire situations there are also opportunities. We have remained focused and consciously avoided the temptation of pessimism. We also strengthened our marketing strategy through creativity to sustain customer satisfaction and also deployed technological tools to increase our customer base. By the way, Nigeria is fast pulling out of recession, and so we foresee even a brighter near future.
How would you assess the growth rate of KCH?
Like I said earlier, it has been tough doing business in the country because of a number of factors among which is weak infrastructural base, lack of access to funds and lots more. However, KCH has been leveraging goodwill from its overseas partners to make considerable progress. The company attracted foreign direct investment recently and that has given rise to the construction of our manufacturing plant in Lagos. The new factory, when operational will boost the organisation’s competitive advantage and resilience – to ensure that the company sustains growth in spite of tough macroeconomic environment and peculiar industry challenges prevalent in the country at the moment.
How large is your manufacturing footprint in Nigeria?
KCH Laboratories is at the moment in the final stages of completion and will soon commence operations in Lagos. It will be starting as a world class manufacturing plant with a facility dedicated to the manufacturing and packaging of a wide range of formulations. The target is to manufacture all our products locally and gradually exit from importation. Our aspiration has always been to manufacture products locally and, following the improving business climate in the country we decided to set up.
What would you consider critical factors for business success?
I think the number one thing is that you need a lot of discipline. From my experience, if you are not disciplined, there’s a tendency that you will expose the organisation to a lot of danger. A lot of discipline, patriotism and a whole lot of focus and prayers are critical to business success.
What can government do differently to help the industry?
There’s a lot the government can do to encourage local manufacturers grow their businesses. Let’s take a cue from what is currently going on in Ghana for example: If you are a manufacturer, all your inputs – raw and packaging materials among others attract zero import duty, whereas if you are importing finished goods, you pay import duty of not less than 10%. This is to encourage local manufacturing. At this point in time the federal government ought to increase restriction to importation of drugs that can be manufactured here in Nigeria, so that capacity utilisation can go up and all our inputs should attract zero import duty. A country that relies too much on imports is highly prone to discouraging local investments and the economy of the nation suffers. However, the incumbent administration deserves commendation for making conscious efforts to identify with local manufactures of pharmaceutical products in other to encourage them.
What is the unique selling point of KCH Consumer Healthcare?
Our strategy is to venture into areas where we will have competitive advantage; we look for gaps in the supply chain and bridge them. Our products are readily available, of high quality and also affordable. With a strong, competent and dedicated professionals and staff, our activities are felt all over Nigeria and in sub-regional markets.
Taking a peep into the future, what projections can you make for the company?
Just like every human being will like to grow and move forward, so also every viable organisation will like to grow in terms of volume, profitability and service delivery from time to time. We also hope that in future, we will venture into production of some of the ingredients we import. We had hoped that the petrochemical industries in Nigeria will develop so that the molecules for making the active ingredients can be sourced locally but sadly, the petrochemical industries are yet to take off after several decades. We should by now not be importing things like petroleum jelly. India for example, closed her borders to pharmaceutical imports and they were able to develop their local capacity. Today India occupies a vantage position in global ranking in pharmaceutical market – exporting to countries all over the world.