For Sopharma Trading, a member of the Sopharma AD Group, entering the Serbian market is the first phase of expansion in the Balkans and part of a strategy to expand international business. Serbia is a country with great potential and a deep long-term potential for company expansion
According to director Miloš Ristić, the strength and distinction of Sopharma Trading lies in its culture of company values and people who are dedicated to building a strong and recognizable regional group.
Was the arrival of Sopharma Trading in Serbia a good business move? Has the investment paid off?
Our results so far are excellent compared to plans. In 2020, we achieved record business growth as a result of investment and setting up the organizational structure of the company, and we are ready to multiply our revenue many times in the next few years. Besides our shareholders and staff, our business partners and clients are also satisfied with a reliable and stable long-term partner.
As an innovator and pioneer in doing business in Bulgaria, has Sopharma introduced new technologies and practices to the Serbian market?
After we acquired the Serbian company Lekovit, we introduced a successful business practice that we had been developing for years on the Bulgarian market. We set up an organizational company design and structure that has great potential for business and revenue growth, we implemented a new ERP system and selected SAP, with all the modules and adaptation tailored to a pharmaceutical company. As the first in Serbia, we installed the Hybris business platform, part of SAP’s B2B communication software; we expanded the capacity of the Šabac distribution centre; built a completely new distribution centre in Pukovac to provide maximum coverage of southern Serbia; increased the speed of deliveries and almost doubled their number compared to three years ago.
Our task is to ensure everyday availability of all products on the market, and in times of crisis, preserving the health of the population is the dominant interest
You once announced that your goal is to become market leader in Serbia and then use that development model as the basis for regional expansion. How is that going?
We’re doing really well. By the end of this year, we will almost have tripled our operating revenue, compared to the time before the acquisition of Lekovit. Besides revenue growth and overall business, we have also worked on the development of our entire organization and distribution capacity. We regularly supply almost all pharmacies and hospitals in Serbia and we are improving cooperation and increasing business volume by the day.
You acquired Lekovit, you opened a distribution centre in the village of Pukovac near Doljevac, you became the first healthcare company in Serbia to invest heavily in digital services. What are your further plans?
Our further plans are connected to developing a new, fully automated distribution centre in Stara Pazova, developing marketing support to manufacturers to promote their products, registering new drugs and modern therapies that will be the future in the modern healthcare system, cooperating vertically in marketing, distribution, regulatory activities and product development with our production company in the Sopharma AD group and with our partner manufacturers. The technology we are using and will install at our new distribution centre is the last word in technology globally.
Accumulated debts in health institutions and pharmacies, bureaucracy, lack of medicines and health services are some of the biggest problems in Serbian healthcare. You are a member of NALED’s Healthcare Alliance, what solutions does it propose?
The Healthcare Alliance has achieved a lot and we are proud of our membership of NALED. The results achieved in debt collection, regulation of the economic framework, regulatory solutions in the healthcare system, constant efforts to improve services in the overall healthcare system and product availability have been key goals of the Alliance. Business transparency, a sustainable healthcare system, support and partnership between private and public sectors are key conditions for the functioning of a country’s healthcare system. Together we are building a modern healthcare system that will respond to all challenges. During the pandemic, members of the Healthcare Alliance showed unity and responsibility and assured the functioning and supply of the entire healthcare system in difficult conditions.
The Healthcare Association has achieved considerable results, so we are proud of our membership of NALED
How can we make healthcare more competitive, effective and attractive? How to improve the availability and efficiency of healthcare?
The crucial conditions for competitiveness and effectiveness are free trade, transparency, openness of the healthcare system, modern therapies in accordance with global trends and respect for the laws of free competition on the market. Liberalization of business and greater competition, especially from foreign companies, removes some of the existing barriers to fair and free market supply, as opposed to exclusive agreements between suppliers and one or a small number of distributers.
That process is still slow in Serbia, but it’s changing every day. We are continuing to invest in the Serbian market because we see the perspective of European business standards, with great future potential for the growth of the entire healthcare sector.
It seems that despite daunting administrative obstacles, we have coped well during the pandemic. How do you explain that?
The healthcare system in Serbia is quite well set up and the protection of people’s health during the pandemic was undoubtedly a high priority for the Government. The degree of adaptability and flexibility of the entire healthcare sector was confirmed by the quick reaction of all participants.
Our task is to take care of the everyday availability of all products on the market. In times of crisis, preserving the health of the population is the dominant interest, so it is our social obligation to place all our resources at the disposal of the healthcare system. In difficult conditions of limited movement, limited working hours of pharmacies, special work regimes for Covid dispensaries and hospitals, we have found ways to deliver all the necessary drugs, medical devices and other products in line with the needs of pharmacies and hospitals, and for the benefit of end users.
Night work, overtime work, daily disinfection of all warehouses and transport vehicles, protective equipment for all staff, prevention and full compliance with government measures to combat the spread of the pandemic have been the axioms of our company’s sustainability, and at the same time a contribution to maintaining and preserving the smooth functioning of the healthcare system.