Read the Conversation

EF: How do you and Benavides view this year as a challenge or an opportunity?

MI: In 2023, Benavides encountered challenges, particularly concerning the country's health situation and the dynamics of healthcare in the market. However, amidst these challenges, we've discovered numerous opportunities. The increased demand for clinical services and medicines has created a favorable environment for growth. With strategic planning, Benavides has positioned itself to capitalize on these opportunities, specifically targeting chronic disease management. Our focus on this segment has driven significant growth in Mexico.

Navigating the government's agenda, including healthcare benefits changes, is essential. Additionally, managing inflation and cost increases from commercial partners and suppliers is a priority. While we face strong competition in existing and new markets, we have embraced this as an opportunity to revolutionize our approach and operations in Mexico.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly presented a significant upheaval for many industries, and we are no exception. As we move towards normalization after the pandemic, we find ourselves motivated to reinvent ourselves and explore new business prospects. Despite the challenges, our determination to succeed remains unwavering. We view the future with optimism and enthusiasm, confident that Benavides will continue to thrive in the ever-changing healthcare landscape.

EF: Can you provide context on Benavides' footprint in Mexico and your role in the country's health system?

MI: Over the past three years, we've identified market gaps and potential areas for growth. Our expansion plan has evolved, featuring three distinct formats tailored to our customer's needs: flagship, neighborhood, and express stores. This year's focus has been on ensuring the quality of our stores rather than sheer quantity, setting us apart from competitors.

We continue strengthening our presence in both main and secondary cities, responding to demographic growth and reaching out to underserved rural populations. As we venture into new territories, we approach expansion thoughtfully, investing in various products and prioritizing service and quality. This commitment allows us to offer accessible healthcare options to Mexican families, bridging gaps in access and ensuring their well-being.

Expanding to new territories, from Yucatan to Los Cabos, is a strategic move, not just an experiment. We invest significantly in products, supply, and service quality to ensure the success and profitability of our stores. We recently celebrated 106 years as Benavides in Mexico, reflecting our wealth of experience serving the country. Our continued dedication to growth and customer satisfaction drives us forward with confidence and pride.

EF: How is Farmacias Benavides acting as a key access point to healthcare in Mexico? How does healthcare access in Mexico compare to a country you know, such as Chile?

MI: In a highly competitive market like Mexico, Benavides stands out as the go-to access point, offering top-notch quality products at fair prices, including our brand. We have been creating our brands since before Benavides was acquired by WBA, and now, our focus on providing patients in Mexico with high-standard products sets us apart.

Leveraging our experience with the Almus brand in Europe, we are transitioning to the Benavides brand as our flagship pharmacy brand. While home brands are uncommon in the Chilean market, we are pioneering the launch of our brands there, further establishing our commitment to excellence and innovation.

Loyalty programs play a crucial role for patients, offering them the best options and promotions in the market. These programs are widely utilized in Chile, requiring a single ID for all retailers. In Mexico, however, each retailer has its own approach to loyalty programs. For Benavides, it's about keeping patients loyal and supporting them throughout their treatments to ensure adherence and positive outcomes. The focus is on helping patients rather than retaining them in the program.

The latest initiative from Benavides includes two types of clinics: GP and Benamedics. These clinics are attached to pharmacies, offering quality clinical services valued by patients despite the symbolic cost. Both countries have key access points to healthcare compared to Chile, but the advantage lies in retailers adhering to this opportunity. However, misuse can occur, as some people exploit the benefits meant for others.

EF: Could you elaborate on your online pharmacy services and how they complete your physical stores?

MI: We constantly engage in key studies to stay updated with the latest technology developments in our business. For instance, we offer online services to facilitate medicine orders and deliveries through platforms like Uber, DiDi, and Rappi. We're also focused on developing user-friendly mobile applications, enabling customers to access pharmacy information, schedule appointments, and available promotions.

Embracing robotic process automation (RPA) has significantly improved productivity and cost-effectiveness. Artificial intelligence enhances customer experience, optimizes processes, and provides personalized patient care services. Some AI applications include recruitment bots, chatbots, virtual assistance, inventory optimization, and customized recommendations. We leverage these technologies to their full potential, enhancing the overall healthcare experience for our customers.

We rely heavily on data analysis platforms to make informed decisions and improve operational efficiency. This enables us to offer more personalized services to our patients and consumers. Our pharmacy infrastructure ensures reliable connectivity and advanced security management, safeguarding our assets in this rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Launching our mobile app will provide an additional sales channel, complementing our physical pharmacies and online platform. Customers can access our services through the app, online, or via phone sales. We strive to cater to all customers' preferences, including those who prefer phone-based assistance, particularly older people, who are gradually becoming more tech-savvy. Embracing these diverse channels allows us to enhance accessibility and convenience for all.

EF: How do you perceive the adoption of your digital pharmacies when analyzing the data? Is there any apprehension regarding this aspect?

MI: Customer behavior is of paramount importance in our approach to the market. Understanding their needs, preferences, and demographics allows us to adopt appropriate technologies and channels. By providing various options, such as apps, websites, and phone sales, we ensure inclusivity and convenience for different age groups and segments of the population.

The key to successful adoption lies in offering channels that align with individuals' realities and preferences. Younger populations prefer apps, while those working on computers may opt for websites. Our strategy focuses on tailoring the approach to each person's needs, empowering them to choose the most suitable channel for accessing healthcare. This personalized approach is paving the way for adopting new healthcare methods in the country.

EF: Could you tell us more about your recent partnership with Tecnológico de Monterrey and any other ongoing initiatives you have?

MI: Investing in education has been a cornerstone for our leadership team, enabling us to develop essential skills in an ever-changing environment. Our digital transformation strategy, initiated two years ago, has been a major focus, with specialized programs in renowned institutions like Tecnológico and IPADE. We've also created a talent program, providing managers and the levels above with valuable training to tackle digital transformation, customer centricity, and new ventures. These partnerships educate our current staff and connect potential talents and future graduates to the real-world challenges they'll face. Our commitment to continuous learning empowers our team to thrive in a dynamic and forward-thinking healthcare landscape.

EF: Looking back ten years from now, how would you like people to remember you as a leader?

MI: I aspire to be remembered as an agent of change, a visionary, and an innovator. Challenging the status quo is fundamental, both in business and our personal and professional lives, adapting to market conditions and consumer needs. Stepping out of the comfort zone is essential for personal and professional growth. I believe in a clear vision for the future, fostering creativity and forward-thinking through innovation. Guiding and inspiring others to reach their full potential is a passion of mine, providing challenges, support, and encouragement along their journey. Education holds great importance in empowering others to embrace change and achieve excellence.

I am truly grateful to have a remarkable leader like Ornella Barra, the COO of WBA International, as my mentor and boss for the past 18 years. Her example has been instrumental in shaping my growth as a leader, inspiring me to be an example for others. I aim to be remembered for the positive impact I make in the lives of others, both professionally and personally. Integrity is central to my leadership, fostering a culture of honesty and transparency. I strive to set a solid example for others, creating a brand of leadership that can inspire success in future leaders.

Being a leader is not just about holding a position of authority; it's about genuinely caring for others' growth and development. I am committed to supporting and empowering those around me so that they can reach their fullest potential.

EF: If you had to create a roadmap to the future for a sustainable healthcare model in Mexico, what would your three base pillars be?

MI: As a leader, my roadmap for the future consists of three key pillars: having a supreme purpose that gives direction and inspiration to others, emphasizing the importance of listening as a crucial leadership skill, and being an agent of transformation with a forward-thinking mindset. Understanding our purpose in life is essential for effective leadership, providing a guiding light for ourselves and those around us. Listening attentively is a powerful tool often overlooked in leadership, yet it plays a vital role in building connections and understanding others' perspectives. Lastly, embracing a transformational mindset allows us to adapt and drive positive change in our organizations and beyond. These pillars form the foundation of a successful leadership journey.  

We hold great ambitions for the future when considering Benavides as a business. Three important pillars stand out: a customer-centric model, viewing pharmacies as healthcare centers, and embracing technology-supported generalizations for sustainability.

Customer-centricity is not new, but its implementation varies. We prioritize putting customers at the center of our decisions, ensuring their needs guide our processes. Additionally, we envision pharmacies as healthcare centers, offering a holistic approach to patient well-being. Embracing technology-driven generalizations provides agile responses to market challenges, fostering a sustainable business model. Being mindful of these pillars will lead us toward a successful future for Benavides.

EF: Do you have any final message for our readers?

MI: As the market rapidly evolves, driven by technological advancements, leaders must think ahead and regularly validate strategies with their teams. Involving more minds leads to greater ideas and ensures sustainability for our businesses. Developing our people and nurturing talents should be a priority to foster future leaders and provide a sustainable healthcare model. As leaders, we must be bold and aware of our surroundings, embracing innovation for a brighter future. Fueling talent is key to driving progress and maintaining a successful healthcare industry.

August 2023