Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Country Manager at Farmatodo Colombia, talked to El Espectador about the future of the Venezuelan company and its arrival in our country a decade ago. He also pointed out that they still operate in his home country, the same in which 1018 companies are at risk of being closed down.
In 1918 Rafael ZubillagaA native of the Basque Country, he founded a pharmacy in the city of Barquisimeto in Venezuela. Over the years, Farmacia Lara was consolidated as a successful pharmacy with several sales points across the country, and in 1988 it adopted the name Farmatodo.
Thirty years later, when inflation in Venezuela is the highest in the world, Farmatodo continues to operate in the neighboring country and according to its representatives does it without any inconvenience, unlike international concerns such as Colgate-PalmoliveKimberly Clark or Kellogs, who were forced to leave the country in recent years.
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Farmatodo came to Colombia in 2008 with his self-service business model, and currently has 55 stores in six cities in the country, in addition to having an 8% stake in the common basket market, according to Nielsen. About a century of this company, Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Country Manager at Farmatodo in Colombia, spoke about the challenges the company has in Venezuela and its consolidation plans on the domestic market.
Is this a bittersweet holiday for you?
Not at all, Farmatodo is celebrating, because what was built in Colombia is a very important achievement. We were pioneers in the (self-service) format and that is a reason to be proud. The company has 100 years of experience and its goal is very clear: it is better to serve the client. It has always moved us.
What is the current status of the Farmatodo network in Venezuela?
Farmatodo Venezuela did not close stores. Although economy and consumption are also affected, there is a demand for products and we supply this demand, even if it has fallen. Currently, 160 stores are still operating, and this year there is a possibility to increase the number of entries.
Do you generate the same tasks today 20 years ago?
It is a company that has been successful and successful. It has over 2,000 employees and is continuously operating in the Venezuelan market.
How does the drug supply crisis in Venezuela affect a chain such as Farmatodo?
Apparently supply is today a challenge in Venezuela. Farmatodo has overcome this issue through good relations with suppliers, they have adapted to the realities of the country. We can not talk about full supply, but it is a very good level. Farmacodo provides the best service that can be offered in Venezuela at this time.
Have you had any strategy to get more medicines or to help solve the crisis?
The main strategy is to maintain the action and this is achieved by joint effort with the suppliers. There is no full supply, it's clear.
How do US sanctions affect Venezuela? Have you had any conflict with foreign suppliers?
No. Farmatodo cooperates with suppliers who can operate in the country. The current situation causes less diversity, but significant supply is achieved thanks to those suppliers who will go to Venezuela. We have no direct import, we are dealer local shopping, as in Colombia.
What products do not exist in a Venezuelan farm?
Well, this is an important list in terms of diversity. There are brands that are no longer there, but it will always be generic to replace them. In addition, there are times when they arrive and then end. It is not so regular.
What is your concept of pharmacy?
We have a format free basiswhich is a small blue house that is usually found on the way home. We are looking for Farmatodo as an oasis for the consumer. This is our format, experience, and service culture. As a company, we focus on innovation as a key element of diversity.
What are your latest innovations?
We launched the mobile application a year ago, we renovated the entire home delivery logistics system – which we managed to do in 35 minutes or less – and our virtual channels (application, website and call center) account for 20% of sales.
Why did you bet on Colombia 10 years ago?
Colombia is a very similar market to Venezuela for cultural and geographical reasons. And Venezuela for Colombia has always been a partner through tradition and closeness. The logical step was to run a business in such a close to economy. Today we have 55 stores in 6 cities.
At Farmatodo Colombia, do you have any rules to hire Venezuelans?
No, there is no policy of employing Venezuelans and Colombians, we employ people for their talent.
What is your opinion about the financing act that will be discussed in Congress?
Our perspective, like that of every employer, is that the actions taken by the government in its financial law stimulate the entire system, we believe that a good agreement will be achieved that will stimulate the generation of employment or create a company without contradicting the demand.
What do you expect for the next 10 years?
Although it is true that today we have 55 stores, our vision is to reach the number close to 100. We also strengthen our virtual channels and we have the best omni-channel offer in terms of drugs, childcare, body care and beauty. And develop until you reach national coverage.