Entrepreneurship is all about offering value
Jopan Pharmaceuticals Limited is an emerging and quality conscious organization, dedicated to quality delivery of pharmaceutical products for human health. The Managing director/CEO of the organization, Pharmacist JohnPaul Nzelue is a forthright and dedicated business leader who is committed to improving the health of the people through research, development and marketing of safe and effective pharmaceutical products of sustainable quality. He spoke on the focus of a CEO in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.
What informed your choice of career?
I trained as a pharmacist at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the choice of pharmacy was not by accident rather, it was borne out of my desire to help mankind attain sustainable healthcare through the delivery of quality products as well as contribute my quota towards national development. Upon graduation, I worked for an oil and gas firm for a long time, but in line with my vision and interest in Pharmacy, I pulled out to set up Jopan Pharmaceuticals Limited. We’ve grown the company from little beginnings that we now have over 40 products that we manufacture locally.
What has been your biggest challenge of running a manufacturing firm in Nigeria?
It is getting increasingly difficult to do business in Nigeria and it’s even worse if you are a manufacturer, because the odds are getting bigger. The tasks and challenges are equally getting more daunting. We are in dire stress and I see further deindustrialization if things remain the way they are. The way out is for us to deal with issues like infrastructural development. The government needs to do more to invite more private investment in infrastructure. We need to actively motivate additional investment in power, transportation, roads and communication so that the current infrastructure deficit can be dealt with adequately to stimulate business survival. The Nigerian entrepreneur faces so many unnecessary challenges like infrastructural etc but with perseverance, integrity, hardwork and Focus success is sure. The other major challenge is that getting funding is difficult as the interest rates are very prohibitive when compared with other emerging economies like India and China.
How much of local content do you have in your operations?
We have about 99.9% of local content in our operations in terms of human capital. We have just about two expatriates and we all work as a team. Our team is made up of experts who have distinguished themselves in the medical profession. With combined experience of our team, we carry out complex medical research, develop ground breaking medical product and also provide specific products to meet the needs of our clients.
In your view, can we attain self sufficiency in drug production?
I believe we can as there are many drug manufacturing companies in Nigeria and most of them are operating below their installed capacity. The challenge is that there are a lot of cheap drugs from India and China that are competing with local products. The common ECOWAS tariff that gives zero duty to imported drugs has put local manufacturers in a disadvantaged position. The government needs to support us to grow as our growth will have a multiplier effect on the economy. The government should also find a way of supporting local drug manufacturers by setting aside an intervention fund that will give local manufacturers easy access to funding at single digit interest rate. Infrastructural challenge need to be addressed whereas government needs to streamline their taxation to enable local manufacturers compete favourably.
Assessment of the industry:
Ignorance on the part of Nigerians is what makes them to patronize foreign products against local products. Many locally produced drugs have stood the test of time. As far as I’m concerned, the locally manufactured drugs are far better in quality and efficacy than imported ones because ours is produced under stringent supervision and regulation. We need national rebirth, social, political and economic re-engineering. Collectively, we must look inwards to promote and patronize our own so as to lead us back to economic recovery.
With your experience, what are the critical factors for business success?
It takes discipline, commitment, perseverance and vision to succeed in any venture. It’s important that you don’t allow external influences to kill or frustrate your vision. Entrepreneurship is all about offering value. Some people may launch out just to make money, but if the product or service you are offering is not perceived as valuable by the market, then your chances of making money will be limited. It is to the extent that the market attributes value to your output that your bottom line would increase. Businesses founded outside of passion may not stand the test of time. The same applies to career; pursuing a career in any field that does not touch a core within you will always leave you with a hollow feeling, regardless of how mega the take-home is. However, once you are doing something you absolutely love to do or you are functioning in a field you are specifically endowed to operate in, it makes the journey easier and the vicissitudes of commerce more bearable.
Projections for Jopan Pharmaceuticals:
In line with our intention to provide employment for Nigerian youths, we intend to increase our capacity by moving into our ultra modern factory at Agbara and we hope to resume operations in that factory before the end of this year. We also intend to go into the production of sterile products and infusions as the overall idea is to contribute our quota to the development of the economy by creating jobs.
Leadership is the ability to set objective and a strategy to accomplish that objective. In Nigeria, the youths are not cut out for delayed gratification. I operate an open door policy, so much so that my doors are always open; anybody can walk in and we reason together to bring out the best for the organisation. That I’m the MD/CEO does not give me a monopoly of knowledge. I listen to what my colleagues are saying – anything. My philosophy is borne out of the belief that whatever task one is given or whatever area you find yourself, you should try as much as possible to leave it better than you met it.
Advice to young Nigerians:
They should not be swayed by the circumstances of the environment. They should believe in themselves and their ability. Self discovery is the key to sustainable success. They should learn from the lifestyle of the eagle. The eagle flies very high and from that vantage position, it gets a clear view of his environment and from there it can pounce on a prey and pick it up. First, you must have a vision and set the strategy to achieve your vision, be focused, dedicated and believe in God.
What drives you?
Our greatest source of inspiration is God. We also believe in total dedication to specific goals, but our biggest strength is in our integrity and customer service. In line with our passion, we intend to be leading organisation because we are in the business of improving the health of the people, through research, development, manufacturing & marketing of safe and effective pharmaceutical products of sustainable quality, caring for our people and creating reasonable and sustainable wealth for shareholders.
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