Improving the Quality of Human Life
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Universal Corporation Ltd (UCL) is playing a vital role in Africa in reducing the continent’s reliance on imports in the healthcare sector; subsequently helping to create an environment of self-sufficiency across central and eastern regions in particular.
Based in Nairobi, the 20-year old Kenyan pharmaceutical manufacturing Company has been integral to the country’s strive for excellence and internalisation since its inception, accredited as a consequence by some of the leading authorities in the industry, and ultimately pushing towards an end goal of ensuring quick, affordable and sustained access for the population to much needed medication.
Currently manufacturing more than 100 formulations of human medicines, UCL’s strong focus on quality and in improving its portfolio at an affordable rate has set it apart in the country and, following a 51 percent acquisition by Strides Cyprus Limited in 2016, the ability to push forward with such a defining and enriching goal has been brought even more concertedly to the fore.
Founder and Managing Director (MD), Perviz ‘Palu’ Dhanani explains: “We are now present in 22 African countries with marketing representatives in a further six. Some of our products are even supplied as far afield as Afghanistan and all of our operations come down to playing a vital role in strengthening the need for these countries to rely less on imports and to create self-sufficiency instead; to create local employment, nurture local talent, contribute towards improving the economy, and to enhance African pride.”
“The long-term plan of the Company is to expand its specialty lines to cover all medical specialties,” UCL affirms on its website.”
Beginning life as a family-run business back in 1996, headed by Palu and his brother Rajan, a series of business mergers, acquisitions and partnerships have brought UCL to the position it is in today, all the while driven by the evident gap in the market for the kind of products the Company could manufacture, and the skills it could bring to the sector.
Dhanani recalls: “In 2005, Finnfund (the Finnish Fund for Industrial Development) invested a small amount which helped us grow to a certain level and in 2008 they invested a substantial amount which helped us achieve World Health Organisation pre-qualification for One ARV, Lamivudine and Zidovudine Tablets in 2011; prequalification that has also been found to be compliant with good manufacturing practices on site.
“This then opened up doors for us to start supplying essential and opportunistic infection medicines to UNICEF, Global Fund and USAID projects. Especially with the UNICEF and USAID programmes supporting local manufacturing efforts, it took us to a better level both in terms of quality and volumes.”
Since then, the range of affordable, high quality medications produced from UCL has increased and improved rapidly, with a portfolio befitting of its significant role within the country’s medical infrastructure.
More recently, this continuous drive for betterment has resulted in diversification as well, branching out from its staple essential and opportunistic infection products to also aid areas including malaria, diabetes, cardiology, urology, paediatrics and dermatology.
And with every new product and new breakthrough, UCL has the education, marketing and industry expertise on hand to unveil it to the market in the most effective way possible.
“Improving quality manufacturing has been one of our main continuous improvement strategies and key focuses over the years, with more of a drive into marketing complementing our ongoing development of medicines in the lifestyle disease domain,” Dhanani emphasises. “We are also currently working on the introduction of newer and better molecules following a series of internal investments into more automated equipment, facility expansions and improved IT enablement.”
A strong, leading Company
Facilitating such strong internal evolution and subsequent product expansion is a UCL workforce who is every bit as committed to the kind of enrichment the Company is trying to achieve, as the Dhanani brothers were when forming the business 20 years ago.
To achieve this level of dedication, there is a strong local emphasis placed on the business’s human resource efforts, with local expertise always the preferred option when it comes to bringing new skills into the fraternity.
“AT UCL we always try and get local expertise as much possible. Only when we can’t get these personnel locally, do we look to source from outside the country instead,” the MD states. “As quality is a major concern, it is imperative that the manufacturing department is manned by highly qualified and trained staff who undergo regular training on GMP (good manufacturing practice) procedures.”
This strive for efficiency and delivery is compounded by a supply chain management ethos which embraces the most modern of just-in-time methods on an internal note, and a corporate social responsibility (CSR) adherence which naturally complements the kinds of social enrichment already placed at the core of UCL’s operations.
“Tree planting, diarrhoea treatments for children and supporting medical camps throughout the country are all included within our CSR efforts, and it fits within our overall goals for the future which include being a strong, leading Company on the continent with a customer-driven focus on manufacturing affordable medicines,” Dhanani concludes.