Managing drugs supplies is an easy shot

December 18, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 –Nitzan Ziv runs a company that is the biggest supplier of generic medicines for treating cancer in Kenya – Assia Pharmaceuticals.
Assia is little known outside its field, but 51-year-old Mr Ziv controls the company that supplies such medicines to most of the major hospitals in the country.
“This pharmaceutical company is a subsidiary of TEVA, an Israeli corporation that is the biggest generic drugs manufacturer in the world. It trades in the NASDAQ and has a global workforce of 20,000,” he lays it out on the table.
TEVA was formed in the 1920s and about five decades later made its way into Kenya and Nigeria, he says.
Fighting the prevalence of cancer is not their biggest cash-cow, however, it accounts for only 25 percent of their business – with the rest being the reserve of the veterinary business – also generic.
“It’s the best generic medicine you can find. We focus on quality and sometimes this is not as affordable as most might imagine. But,” he says, raising his hands up, “our customers know we have good products and they are never disappointed.”
The Assia team is 50-man strong, 35 in the office and 15 out in the field, across the major regions of the country that they have divided into five territories; Rift Valley, Western, Mt Kenya, Nairobi and the Coast.
“We have a very personalised approach based on the structure of the Kenyan market, which is mainly made up of small scale farmers. Our product categories are anti-cancer, paracetamols, anti-biotics, dewormers, actoparasites and albendazol,” says Mr Ziv.
The very small units of farmer operations are very challenging, he says, forcing them to look at ways of making the load even cheaper for farmers, so that their animals live longer, are free from disease and give high yield.
“This subsistence farming is accompanied by inadequacy in terms of capacity – monetary and information. To cut costs, farmers compromise the health of their animals. So we have set aside field days in several areas where we train farmers on how to use our products and how to keep their flock healthy. We try to do this once a month and make it as wide as possible.”
He adds that there is a market perception that high quality drugs are too costly and unnecessary, and goes on to say that the training is also meant to counter this mind-set.
Mr Ziv, who believes his role as boss is to keep his employees motivated and a part of the company-family, is relieved that they are less exposed to the damaging global financial crisis that is hurting several economies.
“We are dealing with products serving very basic industries, which produce meat, milk, and poultry products. Those are basic food needs that will be little affected by the global slowdown,” he elucidates.
The General Manager’s style of management is giving a free rein to departmental heads, but keeping a tight fist on the overall successes of each segment.
One of his employees imparted to me; “He is an easy guy to get along with and is not pretentious. He gives the department heads a free hand and they report to him about the daily happening, but most of the time he seems to be way ahead of us. He is futuristic and we have made more plans for the year 2009 then we have ever made for any other year. Or maybe it’s because he included us in the planning.”
Good luck Mr Ziv!


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