Firm blazes phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal trail

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

WHILE Le­sotho is known for its tex­tile and gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing prow­ess, lo­cal en­ter­prise Tripharm Agen­cies is de­ter­mined to es­tab­lish an­other sec­tor to the coun­try’s man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­file; cos­metic and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pro­duc­tion.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing and sup­ply­ing a wide range of cos­metic prod­ucts and ready­made phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs for the lo­cal mar­ket, Tripharm has made re­mark­able in­roads in main­stream­ing the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor while con­tribut­ing to the coun­try’s de­vel­op­men­tal needs.

The Maseru West-based com­pany em­ploys 56 peo­ple and sup­plies ma­jor su­per­mar­ket chains, Shoprite and Pick n Pay, as well as other re­tail out­lets. It is also look­ing be­yond Le­sotho’s bor­ders to the South African and south­ern African mar­kets.

Ac­cord­ing to Tripharm Agen­cies di­rec­tors, Craig Smith and Maud Boikanyo, the com- pany started off in 1990 as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal whole­saler for lo­cal health cen­tres and phar­ma­cies.

“This busi­ness was es­tab­lished around 1990 with phar­macy and whole­sal­ing as the orig­i­nal busi­nesses. Other than the gov­ern­ment med­i­cal store and a few In­dian out­lets, there was no re­li­able sup­plier of med­i­ca­tion in Le­sotho dur­ing those days. All the drugs in the mar­ket came from South Africa,” said Mr Smith, who is also the com­pany’s fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor.

He said there were many chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with im­port­ing drugs from the then apartheid South Africa.

“Due to the apartheid regime, there were a lot of chal­lenges that made it dif­fi­cult to im­port drugs into Le­sotho when they were needed,” Mr Smith said.

“So our com­pany re­ceived a lot of sup­port from Ba­sotho and had to in­crease its ca­pac­ity in order to meet the grow­ing de­mand.”

He added: “We were out of space in our ini­tial build­ing in no time, and by 1995, it was far too small to ac­com­mo­date our op­er­a­tions. So, we had to look for al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion, and the LNDC (Le­sotho Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion) of­fered us the space where we are op­er­at­ing from, which we later bought.”

The clo­sure of one of Tripharm Agen­cies’ South African sup­plier came with a sil­ver lin­ing, as the com­pany then di­ver­si­fied into man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“We re­alised back in 1995 that we needed to di­ver­sify, and de­cided to look at ven­tur­ing into man­u­fac­tur­ing,” said Mr Smith.

“Dur­ing that time, one of the com­pa­nies that was sup­ply­ing us in South Africa closed down. So we bought all their pro­duc­tion for­mu­la­tions although we could not man­u­fac­ture the whole range of prod­ucts due to limited fa­cil­i­ties.”

From then on, he said, their fo­cus was on man­u­fac­tur­ing. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal whole­sal­ing di­vi­sion is still op­er­a­tional, although it now ac­counted for a small part of the busi­ness.

While the com­pany’s ca­pac­ity had de­vel­oped ex­po­nen­tially over the years, it had not kept pace with the ever grow­ing mar­ket de­mand.

Mr Smith said space con­straints were now hold­ing the com­pany back although they were ex­plor­ing some op­tions to ad­dress the chal­lenge.

“We are con­sid­er­ing some av­enues to ad­dress this chal­lenge, like con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing in South Africa to help us in­crease our ca­pac­ity. “As it is, this fac­tory is not able to meet the lo­cal de­mand. The Shoprite group is keen to sell our cos­metic prod­ucts in the Free State re­gion, so we would need 10 times the ca­pac­ity we cur­rently have.”

He con­tin­ued: “If Shoprite says we want 100 boxes to­day, and we don’t sup­ply them, they will take their busi­ness else­where. So, we are ac­tively ex­plor­ing other av­enues, in­clud­ing con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing, where we would ap­proach a rep­utable man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in South Africa with the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce the right qual­ity and quan­tity of our prod­ucts.”

How­ever, Ms Boikanyo was quick to em­pha­sise that the con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing would be a mere stop­gap mea­sure while the com­pany in­creased its ca­pac­ity.

“It would be a tem­po­rary mea­sure while we sort our­selves out. The con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing would also af­ford us the op­por­tu­nity to learn fur­ther how we can meet South African qual­ity stan­dards.”

She added that their prod­ucts were do­ing so well in the mar­ket due to ad­her­ence to qual­ity stan­dards.

“Tripharm Agen­cies has an in-house test­ing lab­o­ra­tory which en­sures that our prod­ucts meet the right stan­dards be­fore be­ing dis­trib­uted to the mar­ket,” said Ms Boikanyo.

“We are proud that our prod­ucts are sold in Shoprite and Pick n Pay stores which is not an easy thing to do. It is due to our ad­her­ence to qual­ity stan­dards. We also send our prod­ucts to the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Le­sotho for fur­ther test­ing.”

Mr Smith chipped in say­ing their prod­ucts had made such a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion to the Shoprite group that in 2015 they won a re­gional award for up-and-com­ing sup­pli­ers dur­ing the group’s Big Brand com­pe­ti­tion.

“We were shocked and could not be­lieve that we won such an award. We never imag­ined that there was a re­mote pos­si­bil­ity of us win­ning the award for up-and-com­ing sup­pli­ers from the north­ern Free State prov­ince and Le­sotho re­gion,” he said.

“We were also nom­i­nated for a na­tional award although the ac­co­lade was even­tu­ally won by a South African com­pany.”

The firm’s ex­pan­sion plans, Mr Smith said, were no longer con­fined to South Africa, but the south­ern Africa re­gion.

“We re­ceive con­stant calls from re­tail­ers around the south­ern Africa re­gion who want to sell our prod­ucts in their stores.

“The re­tail­ers are from such coun­tries as Namibia, Botswana, Kenya and Zim­babwe among oth­ers.

“So, there is a re­ally huge po­ten­tial for us out there. But, as we have al­ready al­luded, our first tar­get is to make in­roads in South Africa and then the rest will fol­low.”

He said they were also in the process of de­mol­ish­ing their build­ing to con­struct a two-story struc­ture that would have more space.

“We came to a de­ci­sion to ex­pand this build­ing by adding floors on top of the cur­rent struc­ture. This is a very old build­ing which we es­ti­mate to be around 50-years old and there­fore it is very dif­fi­cult to ren­o­vate,” said Mr Smith.

“So, the best way is to build two sto­ries on the cur­rent site. There­after, we will com­plete the up­stairs floor first and then move op­er­a­tions there in order to knock the walls down­stairs and build afresh.”

He added that af­ter the ex­pan­sion, the com­pany in­tended to man­u­fac­ture more prod­ucts such as cough mix­tures and other drugs.

Tripharm agen­cies Fi­na­cial Di­rec­tor Craig Smith in the com­pany’s phar­macy.

Some of the work­ers in the cam­pany’s pack­ag­ing room.

Tripharm co-di­rec­tor maud Boikanyo.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.