Headline / July 2019

Ensuring Better Health for All

One of the most important, but often overlooked aspects, is personal health, as most people tend to take it for granted. To proactively prevent health risks, the government and the private sector have come up with various policies to encourage and promote healthier lifestyle choices. One company playing a major role in these efforts is Combiphar, a leading producer and distributor of pharmaceuticals in Indonesia. It has implemented programs to improve the distribution of its products and work towards the goal of providing proper, affordable health care for all. Michael Haryono Wanandi, president director and chief executive of Combiphar, recently spoke with GlobeAsia about these programs and how the health care industry benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

By Gilang Al Farisi

A better understanding of the need for a healthier lifestyle is becoming ever more widespread globally, and so too in Indonesia. Many efforts have been made to improve public health, but despite this, Indonesia has among the world’s largest populations of smokers, while the country is also still plagued by various health issues, such as malaria, tuberculosis and coronary heart disease.

Fortunately, with the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many companies are taking advantage of the ease of connectivity and passing important information on to consumers. Combiphar is one such company that has welcomed the changes and advantages that come with the wider availability of digital services and devices. Michael, the son of Gemala Group pioneer Sofyan Wanandi, attributes Combiphar’s proven sustainability to the successful launch of the Health Care and Social Security Agency, or BPJS. This government program emphasizes the importance of routine health screening to preventing disease.

Another factor responsible for the company’s success is the way it targets the country’s youth, who generally have a better understanding of the importance of investing in their health. “We at Combiphar saw an opportunity in a shift in the mindset of the younger generation, as they would rather take steps to prevent becoming sick,” Michael said. The company tries to match the BPJS’s vision and therefore works to influence its customers to make it trendy to pursue a healthy lifestyle. This approach worked, and more health care companies are now joining efforts to keep the population in tiptop shape. “We realized early on that keeping people healthy would improve the national economy, and also lessen the burden on the BPJS,” Michael said. “To capitalize on the social security program and ensure that it is sustainable, we make an effort to prevent the causes of lifestyle diseases and ensure the products we distribute are of the highest quality.”

Being a leading advocate of a healthy lifestyle and keeping a keen eye on the quality of its products are some of the other contributing factors to Combiphar’s sustainability. The pharmaceutical company has also developed programs to ensure the ongoing maintenance of citizens’ health. “Going along with the theme of improving health education, we went to several high schools in Jakarta to teach students the value of maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Michael said. “During these events, we encouraged them to participate in sport, and discourage bad habits, such as smoking.” Combiphar also targets patients and medical professionals, presenting seminars to provide the latest information and foster relationships between care giver and the care seeker. Another initiative that shows promise is the company’s “Solitaire Program,” aimed at reaching out and educating consumers and pharmacies that distribute its products. Through the program, it seeks to collaborate with smaller pharmacies and help them provide the correct products and care.

Transforming the Family Business

Michael has taken the lead in transforming the family business, now known as the Gemala Sentini Group, which started off as a battery producer before becoming a modern corporation. He joined the group in 1997, starting at the bottom and working his way up until his father presented him in 2005 with the challenge of leading pharmaceutical subsidiary Combiphar. His solid background in information technology helped him expand the company’s foundations through digitization. “I wanted to bring in change; a transformation. I introduced three transformative steps, which I implemented. Firstly, business leadership succession from the first generation to the second must occur.

Secondly, strategic transformation, from a company that produces pharmaceuticals to becoming a consumer health care company. And lastly, leadership transformation, management style and corporate culture,” he explained.

To Michael, leadership succession is essential to create a foundation for growth. He says many family-owned businesses falter when the second generation takes the reins. “Based on experiences in many countries, up to 70 percent of family businesses fail in the hands of the second generation, leaving only 10 percent to survive up to the third generation, while the rest have different outcomes and fates. “I want to prove this trend wrong,” he said.

Michael strongly believes in the crucial role of leadership for a business to succeed. He said a leader must have a clear strategy and ensure all subordinates easily understand this strategy. In many cases, he said, the business strategy in family a business is only known to family members, who are often not concerned with whether all employees understand it. “Or sometimes they have a strategy, but find it difficult to explain it to employees,” he adds. Another aspect of leadership transformation is the need for a strong, customer-orientated organization. At Combiphar, for example, he encourages employees to put the customer first. A proper attitude is also essential, especially in the way a leader implements his or her business plans.

Michael’s father gave him full authority to lead the company and make it as successful as possible. “I report to the first generation, but not all decisions I make have to be discussed with them,” he said.

As part of the strategic transformation, Michael also took the lead by reviewing the company’s entire product offering, as it previously mainly catered to medical professionals and hospitals. His goal was to place more emphasis on consumers. The company now has four main product categories: Combi Health, Combi Consumer, Combi Bio and Combi Nutrition. In 2014 for example, the group acquired Insto, a line of eye care products.

From a marketing perspective, Michael continuously invests in campaigns to give the company’s products a more cosmopolitan appeal, as many were previously only popular in rural areas. The acquisition in 2016 of Eye Mo, another eye care product line, has boosted the company’s image because it is an international product popular in Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

One more key change Michael introduced was cultural transformation, although he admits that it was not easy, as it requires continuous efforts and effective communication. He said many employees were initially skeptical about the changes he introduced, such as a more customer-focused approach, but that the company’s DNA gradually changed, mainly through better two-way communication. For example, he implemented Combi Coffee Break to host intensive meetings with individuals or groups of employees to discuss the company’s plans and changes he plans to pursue to ensure business growth.

This sound strategy is backed by Michael’s dream to see Indonesia’s people become healthier. “I want Combiphar to play a crucial role in the government’s new initiative to put health care and education at the center of its agenda, and I want to see a healthy lifestyle becoming something every Indonesian aspires to,” he said.