Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Country Manager Farmatodo Colombia, talked with El Espectador about the future of the Venezuelan company and his arrival in our country ten years ago. He also pointed out that they are still doing business in their native country, the same one where 1,018 companies are exposed to the risk of closure.
In 1918 Rafael Zubillaga, Basque origin, founded a pharmacy in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. For years, Farmacia Lara is consolidated as a successful pharmacy with several sales outlets all over the country, and in 1988 it is called Farmatodo.
Thirty years later, when Venezuelan inflation is the highest in the world, Farmatodo continues to operate in the neighboring country and, according to its representatives, do so without any inconvenience, as opposed to multinational companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly Clark or Kellogs, who have been forced to leave the country in recent years.
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In 2008, Farmatodo arrived in Colombia with its self-service-based business model, and today it has 55 stores in six cities in the country, with 8% stake in the common basketball market, Nielsen writes. About the centenary of this company, Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Country Manager Farmatodo in Colombia, talked about the challenges the company has in Venezuela and its consolidation plans on the national market.
Is this celebration bitter to you?
Farmatodo is not celebrated at all, because what was built in Colombia was a very important achievement. We were pioneers in (self-serving) format and this is a source of pride. The company is backed by 100 years of experience and its goal is very clear: to better serve the buyer. That has always shifted us.
What is the current status of the Farmatodo chain in Venezuela?
Farmatodo Venezuela did not close the shops. While it is true that the economy is affected, there is also a demand for products, and we supply that demand, even if it falls. Today, 160 shops continue to work, and there is a possibility of creating more openings during the current year.
Do you create the same jobs today as you did 20 years ago?
This is a job that has traditionally been successful and continues to be successful. It has more than 2,000 employees and continues to operate in the Venezuelan market.
How does the drug supply crisis in Venezuela affect the chain like Farmatodo?
It is clear that the supply today is a challenge in Venezuela. Pharmacy has overcome the problem through good relationship with suppliers, they are those who have adapted to the realities of the country. We can not talk about full offer, but there is a very good level.
Did you have a strategy to get more medication or aid in solving the crisis?
The main strategy is to maintain the operation and to achieve common efforts with the suppliers. There is no full supply, that's clear.
How are American sanctions affecting Venezuela? Have you had a conflict with foreign suppliers?
The pharmacy works with suppliers who can work in the country. The current situation creates less diversity but a vital supply is achieved for those suppliers who are able to take over products in Venezuela. We do not have direct imports, we are retailer from local purchases as we are in Colombia.
Which products do not exist in a Venetian farm?
Well, that's an important list in terms of diversity. There are brands that are no longer there but will always be the generic one that replaces it. In addition, in some cases they arrive and then exit. Not so regular.
What is your concept of a pharmacy?
We have a format feel free to stand, a small blue house that is usually on its way home. We are looking for Farmatodo as an oasis for the consumer. And as a company, we are focusing on innovation as a key element of differentiation.
What are your latest innovations?
We launched a mobile application a year ago, renewing the entire logistic system of home delivery – which we managed to make for 35 minutes or less – and our virtual channels (application, website, and call center) represent 20% of sales.
Why did you bet on Colombia 10 years ago?
Colombia is a market very similar to Venezuela due to cultural and geographic reasons. And Venezuela for Colombia has always been a partner by tradition and close. It was a logical step for doing business in such a close economy. Today we have 55 stores in 6 cities.
Do you have a policy of hiring Venezuelans in a Colombia farm?
No, no employment policy in Venezuela or Colombia, hire people for their talent.
What is your prospect of financing law that will be discussed at Congress?
Our perspective, like every employer, is that the measures that the Government undertake in its financing law spurs the entire system. We believe that a good deal will be reached that will stimulate job creation or business creation without going against demand.
What do you expect for the next 10 years?
Although it is true that we have 55 stores today, our vision reaches about 100. We also strengthen our virtual channels and have the best omni-channel offer in the categories of medicines, baby care, personal care and beauty. And continue to grow until you reach national coverage.