BusinessDay

We will be riding on a new platform to success at HealthPlus- Okoro

The Board of HealthPlus recently announced some changes to position the company for advanced stages of growth. In this chat with Chidi Okoro, the new Chief Transformation Officer, he speaks on his vision for the Company, and the strategic steps to reposition it amidst emerging opportunities in the healthcare sector.

You have been around in the health sector for a while, how would you describe investments in the sector in Nigeria since the turn of the millennium?

Access to quality and affordable healthcare is a fundamental right of citizens and a critical part of any human capital development process. You cannot have a happy and productive workforce contributing effectively to national development if you don’t have a healthy workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some of the critical challenges in the system today and stimulated a new focus towards addressing them. To do this, much more investment is required.

Over the last few years, we have started to see investments into the sector and Alta Semper’s investment in Healthplus Nigeria was one of the first major moves in this regard. But we must understand that it was just the first phase of a journey. For HealthPlus and the wider pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors in Africa, much more investment is required to reach the levels required. We do hope many other investors are looking at the health sector in Nigeria and we need to give them every encouragement.

Where do you think the Nigerian health care system is heading—and what needs to be done?

Nigeria’s health sector is still nascent but opportunities are evident. With a low healthcare professional to patient ratio, access to quality medicare by the majority of Nigerians is still restricted. For instance, in the Pharma sector, there are just about five thousand registered retail outlets and to match global standards we need at least ten times more.

HealthPlus Nigeria has championed the expansion of modern retail outlets that deliver quality medicines and solid pharmacy care. However, investments from healthcare-focused funds like Alta Semper is needed to unlock opportunity and reach the scale and efficiency that is required. Technology in the form of digital health is one of the ways we can enhance access. Our regulators, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, I am sure will be looking at this.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a major health challenge globally. What is your assessment of Nigeria’s response and your projection regarding flattening the curve in the country?

Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 has been very good. Steady collaboration across federal and state governments led to low infection rates. Sadly, lives were lost albeit much smaller number than in other climes. We have seen declining infection rates but vigilance is still needed to continue to keep the situation under check.

You are on a new exciting mission at HealthPlus, how do you intend to achieve it?

We have very exciting plans for the business, but if I were to disclose them to you today, I would be giving the game away! Suffice to say that the combination of new capital, acceleration in demand for pharmaceutical products across the continent and rapid changes in the way customers are served provides a really exciting basis for growth.

How do you see the company changing in the next two years?

I see the company changing for the better in terms of its operations and profitability, and its relationships with key stakeholders. I hope to use my experience in successfully leading major corporate transformations to reposition the company for even greater accomplishments. HealthPlus remains an adored brand among Nigerians because the company has continuously maintained an enviable standard and is Nigeria’s largest in the sector. Going forward, we want to consolidate by keeping our stakeholders happy from the common man on the streets who buys our products to our suppliers, and our workforce. Some of these relationships need a little work to repair. We aim to create an environment that makes talented people want to work for us, suppliers keen to partner with us and customers happy to do business with us. These are some of the changes that we hope to achieve.

How do you hope to earn the trust of the members of staff and wider stakeholders?

The ability of our staff to deliver on our service promise is essential to our success. We are very proud of the team that is in place. We have already briefed them on the situation and will be actively reaching out to let them know our plans and prepare them for the exciting journey ahead. We are doing the same with our suppliers, banks, regulators and ultimately, most importantly, our customers. Where there are relationships that need repair, they will be our most urgent priority.

How long do you think this transformation process would take?

The strategy is both a short term and a long term one. In the short term, we want to ensure that the business is running as optimally as possible and any issues are quickly resolved. In the long run, we want to consolidate and drive an expansion that would complement the legacy built over the years.

What are the possible challenges you are mindful of in this new role?

Even while facing the challenges in the business today, I am focused on the opportunities to optimize a great brand. We will be riding on a new platform of success at HealthPlus. I hope to imbibe a core set of principles that I garnered through continuous study and application in handling similar roles over the years, and I am always open to new approaches that would complement our collective goals.

Will there be staff restructuring or any form of cost-cutting in the immediate?

We have no plans to do so as of today.

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