Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Managing Director of Farmatodo Colombia, spoke to El Espectador about the future of the Venezuelan company and its arrival in our country a decade ago. He also said that they are still operating in his home country, the one in which he is in danger of closing 1,018 companies.
In 1918 Rafael Zubia, of basic origin, founded a pharmacy in the city of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. For years the so-called Farmacia Lara has established itself as a successful pharmacy, with many points of sale all over the country, and in 1988 it was named Pharmatodo.
Thirty years later, when Venezuela's inflation is the highest in the world, Farmatodo continues to operate in the neighboring country and, according to its representatives, do so without any disruption, unlike multinationals such as Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly Clark or Kellogs, who have been forced to leave the country in recent years.
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Farmatodo arrived in Colombia in 2008 with its self-service business model and currently has 55 stores in six cities across the country, in addition to having an 8% share in the basket market, according to Nielsen. About the centenary of this company, Juan Carlos Saldarriaga, Managing Director of Farmatodo in Colombia, spoke about the challenges facing the company in Venezuela and its plans for consolidation in the national market.
Is this the bittersweet feast for you?
Not at all Farmatodo is celebrating why what has been built in Colombia is a very important achievement. We were pioneers in (self-service) form and this is a source of pride. The company is backed by 100 years of experience and its goal is very clear: the best customer service. This has always moved us.
What is the current state of the Farmatodo chain in Venezuela?
Venezuela's Farmatodo has not closed stores. While it is true that the economy and consumption are affected, there is demand for products and we supply this demand, even if it has fallen. Today, 160 outlets continue to operate and more openings can be created this year.
Do you create the same jobs as you did 20 years ago?
It is a business that has traditionally been successful and continues to be successful. It has more than 2,000 employees and operates continuously in the Venezuelan market.
How does the crisis of supply of medicines in Venezuela affect a chain such as Farmatodo?
It is clear that supply is today a challenge in Venezuela. Farmatodo has overcome the issue through good relationship with suppliers, they are the ones that have adapted to the realities of the country. We can not talk about a full supply, but there is a very good level. There is Farmatodo giving the best service that can currently be given to Venezuela.
Did you have any strategy to get more drugs or help resolve the crisis?
The basic strategy is to maintain the function and this is achieved through joint efforts with suppliers. There is no full commission, which is clear.
How do US sanctions affect Venezuela? Have you had any conflict with foreign suppliers?
No. Farmatodo works with suppliers that can operate within the country. The current situation creates less variety, but the vital supply is achieved through these suppliers who manage to transport the products to Venezuela. We have no direct introduction, we are a retailer of local markets as we are in Colombia.
Which products do not exist in a Venezuelan pharmacy?
Well, this is an important list of variety. There are chips that no longer exist, but there will always be a generic name that will replace it. In addition, there are times when they arrive and then run out. It's not so regular.
What is the idea of your pharmacy?
We have the form free base, which is the little blue house that is usually on the way back home. We look for Farmatodo as an oasis for the consumer. This is our form, the experience, the culture of service. And as a company, we remain focused on innovation as a key element of diversification.
What are your latest innovations?
We started the mobile application a year ago, we renewed our 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 in Colombia 10 years ago?
Colombia is a market very similar to Venezuela for cultural and geographical reasons. And Venezuela for Colombia has always been a partner of tradition and proximity. It was a sensible step to do business in such a tight economy. Today we have 55 stores in 6 cities.
Do you have any policy in Farmatodo Colombia to hire Venezuela?
No, there is no policy to hire Venezuela or Colombians, we hire people for their talent.
What is your view of the financing law to be discussed in Congress?
Our perspective, like any employer, is that the government's measures in its funding law stimulate the whole system. We believe that a good agreement will be reached that will stimulate job creation or the creation of a company that is not in contradiction with demand.
What do you expect for the next 10 years?
While it is true that we currently have 55 stores, our vision is to reach about 100. We also strengthen our virtual channels and have the best offer of pan-European channels in the categories of medicines, childcare, personal care and beauty. And continue to grow until national coverage is achieved.