Thursday, June 23, 2005

Benchmarking with Unilab’s 60-year experience

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, June 23, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Benchmarking with Unilab’s 60-year experience

I AM sure your medicine cabinet, like mine, is a virtual Unilab display booth: Diatabs, Revicon, Alaxan, Aspilet, Biogesic, Ceelin, Decolgen, Enervon, Kremil-S, Hydrite, Myracof, Medicol, Neozep, Solmux, Tuseran, United Home products and others. Like most of those in my generation, I grew up on Tiki-tiki.

United Laboratories, Inc., has been in the pharmaceutical business for 60 years now. In its website,, president and CEO Carlos Ejercito shares this message: “Fulfilling our promise to deliver high-quality and affordable health-care products and services to our customers has been the basis of our growth as a health-care company.

“It has been the Unilab mission since it started operations six decades ago as a small-corner drugstore. Today Unilab delivers health-care products and services in several major disease and therapeutic categories. Today Unilab is the leading health-care company in Southeast Asia—a pharmaceutical manufacturing-marketing network covering 12 countries.

“The constant reinvention of our business is pivotal to our growth. This has always been our basic strategic response to change and its challenges. And this has meant constant improvements in our product offerings, in our critical processes and in our organization.”

Clearly, Unilab is a product leader in the Philippines and in Asia and has mastered the process of drug making and marketing. The Philippine Quality Award (PQA) recognized Unilab for proficiency in quality management for 2004.

In their application to the PQA, Unilab characterized the pharmaceutical industry as:

Having many players, most of which are multinational companies. The market can be further segmented into categories: cardiology; endocrine/metabolic; anti-infectives; respiratory/pulmonary; pain and oncology; vitamins; gastro and vitamins/minerals.

Pharma companies cater to varied customers: medical doctors, health associations, hospitals, pharmacies/drugstores and the consumers.

The same report identified the following opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry:

Asean harmonization—entry of regional brands and low-priced products. This forced Unilab to hasten the introduction of new products as well as to strengthen its brand equities.

Mergers of competitors—the pharmaceutical industry, maybe, registered the most number of mergers and acquisitions in the past ten years. This also means bigger sales-force size, wider breadth of product offerings, and a deeper new products pipeline.

Entry of low-cost manufacturers—small, not even registered companies, producing pharmaceutical products (passed on as supplement and cure-alls) at, of course, lower cost.

Lesser purchasing power of consumers. This is brought about by the gloomy economic and political scenarios that diminish purchasing power of the peso. Add to that the propensity of Filipinos to buy piecemeal (tingi) as needed.

Emergence of private labels—drugstores and hospitals put their own brand on certain medical or health-care products.

Unilab started its reinvention and change journey amidst this environment. To ensure organizational effectiveness, it distinguished four major areas that needed strengthening: organization design, product portfolio, systems and processes, and people and culture.

In our continuing Journey into Entrepreneurship, we shall take a look at how Unilab achieved organizational excellence.

CEO Summit. The Personnel Management Association of the Philippines and the Management Association of the Philippines are jointly organizing the 2005 CEO summit on August 4 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Makati. The primary objective of the summit is to leverage the rich, first-hand experiences and learning of some of our most successful CEOs and business leaders to provide peer-learning opportunities and insights to current and emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs. For details and to register, please call PMAP at 726-1588.

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. Her e-mail address is

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