Shalina Healthcare, which has African roots, has grown into one of the biggest and most successful pharmaceutical companies operating in Africa. Tom Collins talks to the dynamic brother and sister CEOs on how this has been achieved.
Shalina Healthcare has been in Africa for 34 years – how did it begin?
Shalina Healthcare was started when we spotted a dire need for quality pharmaceuticals at an affordable price in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The business started with a small range of essential medicines and has expanded to where we are today, covering 11 countries, with more than 300 products, supported by 250 trained delegates, ongoing continuous medical education, world-class IT systems and our own WHO approved factory.
Shalina operates in some of the most remote places. How do you overcome structural obstacles to set up in these places?
We always ensure that we have trusted African nationals as part of our teams to help us navigate the country where we are setting up operations. As we are providing much-needed medicines, we get a lot of support from the local communities and government and this helps us to operate even in remote places.
What criteria do you look for when scoping out new places to set up?
The most important consideration when scoping new places to set up is the availability for quality pharmaceuticals. Our mission statement is to ensure our medicines are available to those who need them most, so we set up new depots in locations that are otherwise days away or impossible to reach from any of our existing depots.
Do you consider yourself an African company?
Absolutely. Our family is East African Indian, so our roots and our future are firmly in Africa.
How have you grown the business so successfully over the past 8 years since you and Abbas have been running it?
We have an excellent team across the globe, which is motivated and passionate about our mission statement. Our people want to make a di erence in Africa. We give them the exibility to manage the businesses locally while providing support and direction on the future of the business.
Bloomberg aired a documentary about your work in Angola and part of it showed your involvement in a Church mission. Can you describe this?
In all of our countries, we support NGOs on the ground. You are referring to a Missionary-led Mother and Child Clinic in Angola. is clinic is non-profit, supported by international donations and sees hundreds of women and children daily, at a nominal cost (approx. $3).
We regularly provide them with a range of medicines needed by pregnant women and young children – including antibiotics, anti-malarials, pain medicines, hematinics and cough syrups. e clinic credits their ability to see so many patients at such a low price, to our a ordable pharmaceuticals. Before we entered the market, the most they could afford to buy with their donations was basic rehydration salts.
Where do you see Shalina going in the future?
Our history is in Africa and we will remain dedicated to the continent in the future. Our products are currently registered in 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and we have direct distribution in seven of them.
Going forward, we will continue working on attaining a deeper penetration of our direct distribution across these countries so that we will be able to quickly serve more and more Africans with quality pharmaceuticals. We are also expanding our product portfolio
to cater to new and crucial therapy areas, including CVD and diabetes, as these diseases become more prevalent across Africa.
How do you think Africa can best reach good levels of healthcare?
The best way to reach good levels of healthcare is through public-private partnership. In our markets, we’ve seen governments place increasing importance on provision of health- care including putting in place regulations to support the industry. For example, registration protocols have become markedly stricter over the last 10 years – a move that we welcome, as it ensures that low-quality unscrupulous players are driven out of the market. Private players like Shalina Healthcare can contribute to reaching good levels of healthcare as we are e ciently able to deliver low prices to healthcare providers, while ensuring quality.
Why are the majority of your factories in India and China and not in Africa?
Our mission is to provide quality pharmaceuticals and this is a prerequisite for us. All of our medicines come from WHO approved plants. Historically, we have focused on India and China due to their established pharmaceutical industries and know-how.
However, we have plans to establish a plant in Africa in the near future, where we will bring in best practice and train our national workforce to the highest standards.
Have you ever had any institutional or governmental opposition to setting up in Africa?
The opposite. We are warmly welcomed by local institutions and government, as we are providing a much-needed service for their populations.
How do you respond to large crises like Ebola and Malaria?
We have a team of over 250 delegates working in Africa, across our countries. Every week, our teams conduct screening camps and continuous medical education for the ongoing crisis of malaria, targeted at doctors, nurses and end consumers. We also have a large range of medicines targeted towards malaria.
Who are your main competitors?
Although many of the multinationals are in our markets, they are not our competition, as our products are often one tenth of their prices.
Our target market is the mass market, which is unable to afford expensive medicines. We are the only pharmaceutical company with a presence across all of our markets – so our competitors di er by market, but vary from local pharmaceutical companies to Indian and Chinese players.
Where are your largest markets and investments?
We started our business in Central Africa, but are now investing heavily in both West and East Africa.