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Africa Outlook

Gokals
Laborex

GOKALS LABOREX

Medicine men of Accra



Gokals-Laborex have seen their pharmaceutical stock rise thanks to a keen understanding of their markets

Writer Matt Bone
Project manager Eddie Clinton

Since they began operating in 2008, Gokals-Laborex have seen their joint venture blossom. By ensuring a strong combination of a global presence with local industry knowledge and expertise, they have become the premier pharmaceutical distributor in Ghana.

Mahesh Gokaldas, Managing Director of Gokals-Laborex, explains just what the company can offer the Ghanaian public: "We distribute and promote pharmaceuticals to the mainstream market and medical facilities ranging from everyday medicines to high end branded products. We specialise in these to- end branded goods and do not distribute generic products, so you know when you buy from us it is always the best quality pharmaceuticals available."

Gokaldas' vision for the company when it began was to grow a global company, and through the partnership with French company Laborex, he has begun to realise that potential. "Laborex had been looking for a company to join forces with in Ghana for two years and approached me to work alongside them. I felt it was a wise and beneficial choice to join hands with someone who was already in the global markets. Once that happened we began to gain more contracts. We quickly grew from having about 10 different suppliers to now having over 15 suppliers who give us such a vast portfolio of pharmaceuticals, which we can in turn offer to our clients."

A Brand Name in Pharmaceuticals
Gokals-Laborex currently have 145 staff on their books, including 90 medical representatives who work very closely with medical facilities and hospitals, to promote the latest advancements in medicine that could benefit their patients. Gokaldas is very proud of the relationship his company has with local hospitals and is keen to ensure its longevity: "Our medical reps spend a great deal of time with local hospitals and clinics, promoting the latest pharmaceutical advancements and upcoming products as well. I think this is a huge bonus for us to have dedicated people who can offer in depth advice and answer questions when it is required. The hospitals continue to use us because we have this existing relationship built on trust and quality service," cites Gokaldas.

Expansion
Although Gokals-Laborex are not currently undertaking any new large scale projects, they are, however, beginning a steady expansion drive which will see them firstly move into a new custom built and state of the art warehouse with offices attached in Ghana's capital, Accra. "We are currently undertaking an expansion process which will help us to further our market reach into every corner of the country and then begin to move out beyond our borders. The first stage however, is to ensure our headquarters is fully functional and running. This will not be completed until well into next year." Gokaldas says.

As part of this steady expansion, Gokals-Laborex have been looking at the option of adding one or two companies to their supply chain. "We have been looking for the last few months at potentially adding a couple of new suppliers to our list. We have located one in India and one in Italy. The products and the company quality are the level we require and I am confident they will hopefully become great assets to us, although it is still early days," Gokaldas mentions and goes on to add that "The new suppliers we are interested in working with will enable us to offer high quality pharmaceuticals to the end user but at a greatly reduced cost. This will benefit the everyday consumer who might not be able to afford the current high-end medicine."

Industry Changes
One of the main challenges faced by Gokals-Laborex has been the exchange rate in Ghana. With its ever changing price, Gokaldas has seen a dramatic hike in the expenditure of the company in the last 24 months. "2013 was one of the worst years for us since we began. It is mainly down to the Ghanaian exchange rate. It is very low against other countries and we have to pay high prices for items that would be much cheaper elsewhere."

Companies such as Gokals-Laborex have seen general prices rise rapidly in Ghana in the last 24 months, with the Government changes being one of the biggest problems the companies have faced. Firstly, the subsidies that were available to companies for fuel and energy have been taken away; meaning crude oil and fuel has seen almost an 80 per cent price hike, placing it as one of the most expensive commodities in the country. The second has been the lack of support for companies in exportation as Gokaldas explains: "without subsidies from the government and the huge price hike, we have struggled with our import/export. If they had slowly increased maybe 5-10 per cent a year, we could have been better off. This lack of support to us has hit our expansion quite a bit. Logistic prices have gone up due to the fuel levies and even items which we import from abroad have gone up in price, forcing us to carefully evaluate how we do business."

Managing the market
As Gokals-Laborex is one of the market leaders in Pharmaceutical supplies in Ghana, they are always up against stiff competition. Gokaldas has seen this competition rise over the years and believes that although healthy competition is good, the company has had to be mindful of fluctuating market forces and the every changing exchange rate. "We are always analysing the market and our products within it. We always try to ensure that our products and prices are adjusted accordingly with trends that we see. The problem is that our market is based largely on credit. Hospitals and clinics do not have such capital upfront, so we work on a credit system. Usually the invoices are paid between 6-12 months after the product has been supplied. We appreciate and understand the operating costs of a hospital and we have always allowed them this credit function, so that we all benefit from being in a trusting relationship. This is at the heart of our business," Gokaldas explains, showcasing a clear understanding of his markets and end-users.

Having a company that understands and appreciates suppliers, customer relationships and situations, is what sets Gokals-Laborex apart from the market. Gokaldas is confident the year ahead will be a better year than the last and this will come as a result of the company's continued resilience and market understanding in an ever changing industry.