Amit Bhojwani is the current Chairman/CEO of Sam Pharmaceutical Limited (Sam Pharm). At only 37 years old, he is reigniting the vision of the company founded by his father, the late Mr Shyam Bhojwani about 50 years ago, with a determination to take it to even greater heights. In this interview with RANMILOWO OJALUMO, the graduate of Kings College, London, recounts the company’s success story, so far, as well as the vision for the years ahead. He also dissects some pertinent issues within the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry. Excerpts:
Briefly share with us your journey to becoming CEO
Nigeria has always been my home. Though I was born in India, I was brought to Lagos when I was two months old. After graduating from Kings College, London, I returned to Nigeria in 2007 to join the family business. I started working in one of the group’s companies -Trisa Nigeria Ltd – an industrial packaging manufacturer.
I initially joined the company as a new business development manager and I worked in that capacity for well over 14 years. Through dedication and hard work over the years, I eventually became the managing director of the company. However, in 2019, my father, Mr Shyam Bhojwani, passed on. His death was followed by the sudden loss of the previous managing director at Sam Pharmaceutical.
These two developments created a vacuum at the parent company that needed my urgent intervention. That was how I became the CEO of Sam Pharmaceutical Limited and that is the journey so far.
Tell us a bit about your experience in Nigeria.
My experience in Nigeria has defined me as a person, as I genuinely believe there is something in the water here in Nigeria that makes everyone an entrepreneur. This inner desire to sell something or create a product has been a part of me since I was a child. I see this same energy all around Nigeria, as almost everyone here has a side hustle, be it selling phone cards or angel investment in start-ups.
What was your first major experience as an entrepreneur?
The first real money I made was during boarding school when I would take cartons of noodles from Lagos, and sell them to my friends for one Pound per pack. In those days, it was over 400 percent return on my investment.
What is your company’s vision for Nigeria?
Our vision is for Nigeria to be a self-reliant producer of all its healthcare needs, from drugs to world-class hospitals. We aim to continue our role in providing that independence from importation, through our continued investments in new World Health Organisation (WHO) compliant facilities.
Our focus is now on the retail sector. We will be a household name within the next five years, with, at least, three leading brands in the OTC segment.
As a CEO, running a pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, what are the challenges you have encountered?
The biggest challenge we all face in the pharma sector is that we are an ethical sector; hence we do not have the flexibility that some other industries may have in an inflationary market. We have to maintain our standards, despite rising input costs.
How do you deal with this and other challenges?
We conquered challenges by expanding our commitment to quality and by educating our customers on our decades of manufacturing high-quality efficacious drugs through aggressive campaigns. We have a responsibility to uphold our 50-year legacy, and cannot afford to tarnish our reputation.
Sam Pharm is 50 years old. Can you briefly share with us the success story of the company?
The Success of Sam Pharm boils down to its people. A company is only as strong as its team. We have always encouraged growth within the organization, and we are proud to have most of our senior management serving for over 20 years.
This dedication to the company ensures our goals are met efficiently and in a sustainable manner. We also have the mandate to ensure we provide affordable, authentic, and accessible products.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian business environment?
The current business environment in Nigeria and globally is very volatile. Abnormal inflation rates and the lack of foreign exchange have made planning and forecasting very difficult. However, we have tried to be agile and adopt some new strategies that are showing us some relief. I believe that Nigeria, given its young demography, mineral wealth, and energetic spirit, will come out on top eventually.
What has been your best memory as a CEO thus far?
My best memory so far was addressing our team on our 50th anniversary, with my four-month-old daughter by my side, assuring the staff of continued growth for the next 50 years and beyond.
What do you think the Nigerian government and other stakeholders in the pharma industry should be doing to move the pharmaceutical industry forward?
As we mature as a nation, it is important to recognize that the healthcare and welfare of the people in the country are critical to its growth and success. Policies that support local manufacturing, including fiscal incentives and concessions, will go a long way in increasing our industry’s local production capacity. This, in turn, will give our sector the leverage it needs to be a competitive exporter to other African countries and beyond.
What is Sam Pharma’s message to Nigerians?
Nigerians should invest in themselves, be it in education, personal development, or a new skill set. But, most especially, Nigerians should invest in their health.