Read the Conversation
EF: 2020 was the year of diagnosis, 2021 the year of vaccines, what will 2022 be the year of?
2022 will be the year of returning to a new normal. In Brazil, we no longer have many cases of COVID-19. The market is beginning to encounter other issues, such as supply and demand, therefore, we are facing difficulties with the supply chain. We are heading towards a post-COVID-19 reality.
EF: What key lessons have been learned during the pandemic, both from a business perspective and as a leader?
We learned about online and hybrid work, which has become a working reality for our company, and when collaborating with other organizations. Technology is a key issue, despite its previous importance, it’s now even more crucial. We have seen the relationships with our clients change. Nowadays, they no longer want to meet in person, instead, they have requested for things to be conducted online. Many physicians don’t want to receive work in person, which leads us onto a learning curve. Technology is changing business.
We have also learned lessons in relation to the supply chain. We have seen many companies that had difficulties with purchasing and production, if you don’t invest sufficient amounts into production materials, you lose out on sales because it’s crucial to meet demands on time. We must also look at the changes to recruitment, we have to be flexible. If we don’t offer flexible work conditions to employees, they are likely to choose another company that will. Being transparent and flexible with our employees also provides motivation for their work.
In addition, we must consider the importance of sales and promotion through the Internet. Online sales now contribute to 8% of total sales across the country, this figure has doubled since COVID-19. The matters of promotion, sales, and the use of technology are important lessons from the pandemic.
EF: What was the role of Cristália during the pandemic? Also, how did the portfolio perform in general?
Cristália specializes in the hospital sector, which was significantly impacted by the pandemic, and all hospitals shifted their focus to caring for COVID-19 patients. We are the leaders in the anaesthesia sector in Brazil, so we produce muscular relaxants, opioids, and sedatives, products that were much used during the pandemic. Due to this substantial increase in demand, we had to change our focus and production to supply the market. We stopped producing what was not required during this period and instead focused the full capacity of our factories on meeting the needs of this time. For example, a product that typically sold 3-4 million units per month before the pandemic, increased to 15 million units per month at the peak of COVID-19.
In terms of our portfolio, Brazil’s Minister of Health chose 26 priority products that could be used to treat people that were seriously affected by COVID-19. We produced 22 of these 26 products so, for us, the pandemic had a substantial impact. This was not without difficulties, even by reallocating resources and increasing production levels, we were unable to produce more than 50% of the products required. That put us in a challenging situation because, at the peak of the pandemic, we had to decide whom to deliver the products. Despite the many adversities, we did the best we could and helped many people in the process.
EF: Other companies report that during the pandemic a lot of capacity was allocated to vaccines, and now they have an overcapacity that they are trying to find a market for. What are your ambitions for the rest of the region and what was the kickstart for that?
We suspended the production of several products to focus on the pandemic, now we have changed our production plans again and are resuming the manufacture of items we previously produced. We continue to manufacture products that are mostly used for anaesthesia, as well as other injectables for the Brazilian market that we have the capacity to produce. We have international ambitions, having previously worked with distributors throughout Latin America, we are now creating our own structure to distribute our products. Our focus will continue predominantly on public health and the hospital market. In terms of our international growth, we already have companies located in Argentina and Chile, and we are in the process of making acquisitions across Latin America to accelerate the process. Discussions are ongoing, perhaps in the coming weeks, we can announce the result of one that is approaching completion. We intend to expand Cristália and our business model to all Latin American countries.
EF: Where will we see Cristália growing? What is there to be excited about in terms of products and partnerships?
We also work with technological products and have had plans nationally approved to produce biotechnology products. We have been working in biotech for the past 50 years, so we have the capacity to do this. Biotechnology is the future of the health industry, we have developments and projects in this sector and I think this will be a solid reason for future investment.
EF: What does the future of Brazil’s pharma sector look like? And what advice could be given to a new administration?
One of the lessons that we should learn from the pandemic is that we must take care of our industrial health complex. If you don’t have the capability to produce and develop, you will become dependent on other countries. During the pandemic, we saw many countries close their borders, which restricted the availability of certain products because they were focused on serving their own market. It is a discussion that we will have in Brazil after the elections, along with other issues we face in this country, such as the economy, employment, inflation, and growth. Once the election has taken place, we will discuss the health sector and the health complex, how to meet the demands of the Health Minister, and the public policy of the government. It will vary depending on the data that we collect, maybe the situation will differ depending on the party that gains the majority vote. The election is nationally significant, as it has a telling impact on the political policy and the healthcare sector as a whole.
EF: Cristália is celebrating your 50 years in Brazil, what would your speech look like? What would you want to say to your employees and to the public regarding your long trajectory in Cristália and the work you have done?
We are in a changing world and market, and we are focussed on adapting to this fast-changing space. The market is growing from a mature phase, which means in the future we will see fewer companies prepared to compete. It will be a world with fewer, yet larger, companies that operate more efficiently. I would like to maintain a level of trust in us and to continue working towards a better world for us all.