Teodoro Ferrer was 60 when he retired. He has worked hard most of his life in one the country’s biggest conglomerates, made an impact in the companies he handled, and earned enough money to live a life of leisure as a retired man. But with the hectic corporate life that he’s lived, he opted to swap spending lazy days at the beach for starting a drugstore chain of his own.
“After retirement, I was thinking of venturing into small scale real-estate projects, to take advantage of the knowledge I had gotten after working at Ayala Corp. for 30 years, but an idea was unexpectedly presented to me about selling generic medicines,” recalled Mr. Ferrer, Founder and President of Generika Drugstore.
With no prior knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry or retail business at all, the fire and drive to give back to society by providing quality affordable medicines to Filipinos was enough for him to push the idea to reality.
Together with his then business partner, French businessman Julien Bello, and the vision of helping to address the sad plight of millions of Filipinos who continued to buy expensive branded medicines they could not afford, they formed Erikagen Inc., the company that created Generika Drugstore.
The fall before the flight
But like all startups, they had their fair share of challenges before becoming what Generika is today.
“Starting the company from scratch with little background of the industry was a high-risk project, and in fact, we lost a lot of money in the first 3 years, as anticipated. Fortunately, we were prepared for this eventuality, and when we opened more stores and started selling more, that’s when it became profitable and has continued to grow robustly,” said Mr. Ferrer recalling the tough times during the early years.
A major challenge for them was to convince the public that generic medicines were a viable and inexpensive alternative to the branded, much more expensive ones. The public perception of generic medicines thirteen years ago was very negative despite the passage of the Generics Act in 1988 and the government’s efforts to promote generics. Many people thought they were fake and/or not effective because they were so cheap.
But even with these challenges, and many more in between, it never discouraged the heart of the founders and its staff.
“It’s the advocacy objective that’s really driving Generika, otherwise, 13 years later, I wouldn’t be coming to the office everyday, and working overtime even on weekends, if it were just for the money.”
Indeed, with the drive, mission, vision and core values of the people behind the company, Generika was able to put up 651 stores (and counting) all over the Philippines. Moreover, an auspicious development in July 2015 was that Ayala Corporation’s Healthcare Holdings acquired the 50% ownership stake of Julien Bello, and thus became a joint owner and business partner of Generika.
Part of something unique
Behind every company, whether it’s a multinational corporation or a small business startup, is a core group of talented, dedicated individuals. And if there’s one thing that Generika has plenty of, it’s that.
“Integrity is important. We also want to have managers and employees who are not just interested in employment or running a business, but also have a strong sense of social responsibility,” said Mr. Ferrer.
Most of their employees today are working with them not only for the experience, the tremendous career development it provides, but also because of the advocacy the company promotes consistently.
“I applied here because when Mr. Ferrer and Mr. Bello informed me about the company’s setup and their advocacy, I got so enticed. They had something original, something so unique, and I wanted to be part of it,” said Mary Rose Ulit, Generika’s Corporate Pharmacist.
When they hired the right people, they were able to get the right results. From the beginning up until today, all employees are encouraged to align themselves with what truly matters for the company—growing bigger so to make generic medicines readily available to more communities.
“Here we have a very family-like culture where people work together as one. We’re all geared to a great goal and that’s to open more stores and serve more communities, and it’s really fulfilling to see Generika grow at such a rapid pace,” mentioned Liezl Clapis, the company’s Training Manager.
Corporate with a heart
All employees work hard to climb the corporate ladder quickly as they are eager to advance and lead. But they need additional trainings and unwavering support from their leaders to reach their ultimate career goals and potential. And at Generika, there is no shortage of that.
“Our leaders here are great motivators, and a good source of empowerment. You are given autonomy to do what’s best for your department, but along with that comes great responsibility,” said Liezl.
“When I started working with Generika, I didn’t exactly know what I really wanted to achieve, but over the years, they themselves were the ones who truly molded me,” mentioned Niane Nava, Recruitment Supervisor. She added that often it could be difficult to find a company who molds you both personally and professionally, but she found that here, they have both.
With a mission and vision so clear, the passion and drive of its people and staff, and the heart for both its employees and the public, it’s apparent why Generika has grown–and continues to grow bigger in the pharmaceutical industry; and also probably why many of the staff have continued working with the company for years and years.
“Work with a company that you can identify yourself with. It will only be then that you will work your heart out. There will be conflicts and misunderstandings along the way, but it will not matter once you’ve identified yourself with the company,”