Currently the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry is dominated by non pharmacists in the importation business and distribution segment. However a young corpse pharmacist can become successful in pharma importation business if he or she follows the steps I am about to lay out. I am sure that a young corper pharmacist can thrive in pharmaceutical importation business because I did it immediately after I graduated with no income from anybody to drive me.
Now here are the steps a young pharmacist that wants to establish an importation business must follow
1. REGISTER A PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY BEFORE OR IMMEDIATELY AFTER PASSING OUT – The first thing you need is a registered company. You need to visit the nearest Corporate affairs commissions office and incorporate a company. This might take you about N70k. Make sure that you use only your family members as your directors. I will explain why later.
2. GET A SALES REP JOB WITH ONE OF THE TOP PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES – Before you start importation business, you must learn the tricks of the business. I strongly believe that this was one of the major mistakes I made because I just jumped into the importation business after my youth service without working as a sales rep first. You need to work as a rep for at least two years. This is because you want the best company in the industry to train you on how to run an importation business. Make sure you attend all the trainings they offer and make sure that they post you to either Lagos, Kano or Onitsha. The reason is because these are the three pharm market in Nigeria and its critical that you understand how this informal market operates. A note of warning though, never forget that you are working to learn because its very easy to get carried away by the work or get so tied into it that you forget why you are there in the first place.
3. GET A NOTE BOOK AND START CAPTURING WHAT YOU ARE LEARNING – You need to see the sales job as a training. So you must get a note book where you record whatever you are taught by your manager or what you learn on the job every day.
4. START TO SEARCH FOR COMPANIES TO IMPORT FROM – This is the most critical stage of the process. You need to visit NAFDAC website, get a list of all the requirements for drug registration and start to search online for companies that can manufacture for you. Make sure you send them the list of the registration requirements to confirm from the word go is they have all the necessary papers. I lot of companies especially from China and India do not have most of the required document. You do not want after a long discussion to be told that they do not have the necessary documents. Because the process of getting the right company might take at least six months, you need to get the rep job that will keep you busy and focused. Select products similar to your company’s cash cow products so that it will be easier for you to switch and also because this will guide you in products that the market can accept.
5. REGISTER A PREMISES – You need to initiate the process of premises registration. I will strongly suggest you register the premises as a retail outlet because NAFDAC does not ask if your license is for importation or not. Retail premises registration will cost you a total of about fifty thousand while importation may cost you about N500,000.00. Get a very cheap space and register it as a retail outlet but do not tie yourself there. Focus on learning about the importation business from your rep job.
6. START TO ACCUMULATE SOME SAVINGS – You need to start to build your savings. You need to have some savings so that when you go to family and friends to ask for some investment, they can see that you too have something to invest and take you more seriously.
7. BUILD YOUR NETWORK – You need to realise that you may not be able to foot the financial requirements of an importation business. I will strongly suggest you start to build strategic alliances like Tinubu did to unseat Jonathan. Build close relationship with people who have financial muscle.
8. ATTEND MANAGEMENT COURSES AND PROGRAMS – You need to attend as many management programs as possible because the major reason why importation business fail is because of either poor marketing which is why you are working as a rep to learn and more importantly poor business management skills. You need to develop this as soon and as fast as possible.
9. GO TO NAFDAC – by the end of your first year as a rep, hopefully you would have gotten a company to work with and have chosen the products you want to register. You need to ask your chosen manufacturing companies to send you the necessary documents that NAFDAC requires for registration. Then, get a reliable NAFDAC consultant and negotiate with him or her to help process the documents with NAFDAC for you. You can do this yourself but the process can be quite stressful and time consuming. So just use a consultant.
10. SHOW YOUR STRATEGIC PARTNERS HOW THEY CAN MAKE MONEY BY INVESTING IN YOUR NEW BUSINESS – You must learn how to articulate your business idea and point out to an investor how he or she will make money if they invest in your business. This is why you need to register products that are close to those of the top companies you work with. If on the other hand your family and friends can raise the required money for you, then there is no need to bother.
11. GET A BRAND CONSULTANT TO DESIGN YOUR PACKAGING – the design of your packaging is extremely important. That is why you need a branding expert to help you do that.
12. GET A SUCCESSFUL MENTOR – At this stage you need a mentor who is already very successful in the importation business. He will guide you and point out loopholes that you need to avoid.
13. QUIT YOUR JOB AND FACE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS – At this stage, your products have been registered and you are now ready to go.This is the stage to burn your ship by resigning from you job and facing the importation business you want to operate. Double your best effort in the job you just quit. Get some of your friends that are reps to help you market your products
14. REBUILD YOUR CAPACITY
15. PRAY FOR GOD’S GRACE – You need to understand that you can do everything right and the business will fail and you can do everything wrong and the business will thrive in that chaos.
I wish you all the best.
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