Read the Conversation
EF: Could you tell us a bit about Grupo Rasch?
GT: We are a 25-year-old Mexican company which has invested a lot in infrastructure, in processes, and in certifying ISO 9015. We believe it is time to promote a customized company focused on processes and people -we are not about grabbing an opportunity and making quick money regardless- we are aligned with the industry, promoting and investing in the company and in Mexico. Grupo Rasch is formed by five companies:
1. Representation of brands that provide machinery for pharmaceuticals.
2. The construction of factory sites with our modular systems which we bring from Europe building factories from scratch and adapting the facilities for production.
3. A workshop which complements the machinery proposal with local products, mainly small components which are too expensive to bring from Europe which we manufacture in the workshop using the right standards, quality and with recognition of the brand.
4. Our newest business, both unique and creative, is giving customized punching maintenance. Punches are tools that are used to make the tablets and we extend the punches useful life about 30%. We have an innovative model laboratory bringing the service into the customer’s factory which means there is no risk of parts being stolen or copied while providing maintenance to other equipment if necessary. We developed this business some years ago and it has worked very well both for the customer and for us, making us leaders in the market.
5. Our last business line, an independent company since last year, is a decontamination business and it devotes itself to the sanitation and decontamination of viruses, bacteria, etc. We created the company and hired a highly respected person to run the business and we are very happy with the results especially as nowadays the business is very much in demand as many of our customers, public hospitals included, need our service and happily, we have a large capacity to comply.
EF: How do you see your company products and services evolving in terms of strategic relevance?
GT: We are constantly looking for new and different solutions. Both my partner, Federico Scharrer and I, are very dynamic people and we can’t seem to stay still, we are constantly trying to grow the business and as we cannot represent our customers in other countries as they already have representatives, we look for improved solutions by developing niches inside our companies and give them an identity making it a separate business. We have done this with other units developing them inwards and when we see an opportunity for them to have a complete identity, we move ahead and create a company. We have been partners for a long time, Federico created the company 25 years ago and I joined 21 years ago and we work very well together.
EF: Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur?
GT: Yes, I think I fit that description. I like taking opportunities and creating from them. The long-standing association with my partner and the combination of our skills is, I think, the reason for our continued success over the last 20 years as we complement each other very well. He is very enthusiastic and leans to PR whereas I am more strategic and analytic and this is one of our strengths when facing competition.
EF: How do you choose the technologies and the companies you represent?
GT: We look for companies we want to represent and we work in a market where we already know most of the managers in the sector. Basically, we look for companies that are leaders, companies that don’t compete with a brand we already represent, and we look to be their exclusive representative for Mexico, offering our sales force, our after-sales service support, and we train our technicians with them so we aim to create a bond with the company - a long term relationship - and over the years, we have constructed a friendship as well as an excellent business relationship based on trust and mutual confidence. When needed, we have reduced our commission and profit, the cards have always been on the table.
EF: How does the training of the technicians work?
GT: Most of the people in our sales team have been with us for at least 10 years. We have a person in Monterey and a person in Guadalajara and two salespeople in Mexico City, each looks to the local brands we have in each market. Normally when we close a deal with a company, my partner or I visit the company and set a work basis. We then introduce the salesperson that will be handling the client and begin the training either by phone or by quotation or visits –which today are not possible- but we stand by the customers through all the phases. When new machinery comes in, we assign one of our technicians to work full time with the European technician that has travelled for the machine startup. Our technician travels to Europe before the machine arrives for the factory´s acceptance test, and from time to time will go back for update courses, and more and more our customers trust our technicians to have the FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) which allows the technician to locally support the client. We certify our technicians at the factories so they can do interventions on the machinery in the Mexican factories. This is our model, and we follow up with the sale of spare parts and sales service. We have a sales team and an engineering team that follow through the project till the moment the machine starts working, then the after-sales service team takes over so we offer the customer a full logistics chain which is articulated and sophisticated.
EF: What would be your advice to other general managers in regards to navigating times of transition?
GT: The way to sell in the industry has changed. More than ten years ago a commercial relationship was based on confidence, knowing or having some connection between companies or company owners, which would be then passed to the second management tier, the general managers, to follow up on operations. There were a lot of different interests involved in the negotiations whereas now, it is a process where companies, mainly transnational, but more and more national companies, are moving to a fair process of selection. Added value must be offered instead of a very cheap price; I tell my customers, we are probably not the cheapest option but we are the option which will support them through all the processes. We offer an excellent backup and companies that are pursuing registrations and certifications should expect the same certifications from their suppliers and this is what we are betting on and where we are investing. Next month, two of our companies will be certified ISO 9015 companies and we have sanitization certification from the competent authorities. So my advice would be to expect the same sort of certifications from their suppliers as this will make for a fairer business.
EF: You work with big multinationals and big local players, so what, in your opinion, are the transferable skills from working with these two very different pharma players?
GT: Our business grows mainly thanks to the national companies because the transnational companies tend to have a bunch of people working on each project and when a machine arrives, they have an electrical, mechanical and logistics person and it was not easy to deal with so many people. We are very grateful for the trust national companies have had in our Group, although the good thing of working with international groups is that they work by the book and the money will always come in. They are completely different markets and we are good suppliers for Takeda, Bayer, and quite a few others. I think that there are no good or bad customers, it is basically about adapting to how they want to work to make the partnership successful.
EF: Are you integrating IOT or software or technology into the process to be more efficient and if doing so, how are you going about it?
GT: Technology is used worldwide but it will suffer changes in the future as it will become more difficult to move people. Chile is trying to promote the concept of a biological passport in order to bring technicians directly to the machine´s location, but viruses spread worldwide with people moving around -as with COVID19- so restrictions will be put in place to avoid this and this will affect technology. The future will be about accessing the machine remotely which will be good for the companies as it will save on flights, hotels, and time. Most, if not all, processes and technology will be done through automation. For the worldwide well-known brands, it will be simple enough as they don’t have software that is exclusive to each country so the value will be in how the information is put into the software. The companies that really focus on this service will be the ones to move ahead of changing technology completely. Machinery collecting data components and equipment functions will change the way business is done and those who can better manage this are the ones that will go ahead.
EF: The Mexican pharma sector attracts investments and interest, how would you encourage and increase investments?
GT: That was before the change of administration. From 2017 to 2019 there was a lot of investment in Mexico but with the change of government, the investments slowed down and were using what there was already in the pipeline but as from last year, the investments have stopped and now with COVID, even more so. We are looking for opportunities of course, and Chinoin and Liomont would be great opportunities as they will look to invest in medicines once this crisis is over. I am sure companies like Psicofarma, Chinoin, Liomont, Pisa, and Ultra will all eventually continue investing. They are reference companies and want a piece of the market, although it might take two or three years before they start investing again.
EF: Is there any final message you would like to share with our readers on the role that Grupo Rasch has in the Mexican pharmaceutical market?
GT: Only that our company has faith in Mexico and in our people, we are strong enough to continue giving service, we are proud of what we do, and we will continue investing in Mexico. We have another company based in Belgium which sells BENELUX products to the Latin American market catering to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. E-LATINA is our international division and this project offers international solutions to Latin America staffed mostly by Mexican personnel that work in our office in Belgium. I strongly believe in Mexico and its people, I have assemblers that we deploy to do projects outside of Mexico (Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina) with excellent results and our customers recognize our people work hard and well. But a lot of projects are on hold or delayed at the moment due to the effects of COVID-19 and when it is over, we will restart as there is no way we can sell through internet. We are a business based on confidence and personal face to face contact is absolutely essential.