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Covid-19: How does your business fare? Optima Pharma answers!

27 May 2020 - 15:41

How has Optima Pharma helped the Belgian healthcare system during the last weeks marked by the pandemic?

(Christophe Gau, Managing Director answers)

We have to respond to 3 main stakes: quick response, quality and finance support. As we were already involved in pharmaceutical healthcare with a large network we sourced quickly needed products and built strong relationships with historical and high standard factories. Most of our suppliers are GMP compliant and thanks to our joint venture with a finished raw material supplier we monitor the full supply chain. More pragmatically, goods need to be paid 100% before shipping and our customers weren’t able to cope with those mandatory rules. From the beginning we pre-finance 50% of their orders to be sure they received their goods.

All of this would not have been possible without the Hub Brussels, I am sincere and I can prove it if somebody tells me it is said for promotional reasons! The Hub Brussels networked helped us in our quality control at any time. By involving embassies and consulates we have performed auditing factories and building quickly an international network. All those trusted partners were members of their local Hub worldwide. Confidence is key in a long term period and we have found great partners that are already associates of our activities for some of them.

Did you sleep during those last weeks?

Not really! Our new baby helps keep me awake during our 3am business calls with China! But it is also our team that worked 7/7 during that period. We were receiving phone calls up to midnight on saturday from emergency units that were desperate. More than physically it was emotionally tough for all of us.100% of our team was and is still on a 24/7 duty. To face the demand we have enlarged by 20 more experts in supply chain and logistics from march.

Can you illustrate your support by sharing some numbers with us?

Yes sure, we have delivered so far 20mio masks and more 10mio pieces of gloves and coverall. We have now 2 cargos booked per week to Liège, Roissy, Frankfurt or Helsinki. From next month we will deliver on the 5 continents. We also used trains and boats as the rush period passed in Europe, which will also reduce transport costs.

What lessons concerning your business life have you learned during this particular period of time? Has something specific left an impression?

From a business point of view, I am learning more than ever. When I learned basic economics rules of offer and demand I did not realise that this base was not suffering any humain crisis. Not because our suppliers were too greedy but also because they have to face choices in their own industrial process. Finding qualitative raw materials has never been so hard for gloves and masks factories. As the demand is global nobody knows how and when it will end. Quality process is our main concern as we fear that some pop up factories are providing themselves with bad material and unadapted machines.

But also this period confirmed that transparency, service and being straight in its boots (english version of a well-known flemish expression) pays! All those values that we share since we started our company are now our strength and we are sure this is also why so many customers placed orders on a regular basis with us.

What specifically marked me, as a citizen and like many I was shocked by the sanitary crisis and was emotionally affected by the desperate practitioners and nurses that I got on the line. Most of them asked me to get my network sensitive to the crises at the earliest stage and I did it. The return was the opposite as expected, many people asked me to erase my posts because governments were saying not to wear masks at the beginning Probably because they didn’t know how to supply them to the population as the emergency stocks were too low. But anyway this denied period showed the lack of a ministry of consequence in all of our governments.

The other thing that marked me is that we are depending on a global logistic flux of goods and services. This chain was struck hard during that period and still. The job of our truck driver and pilot were huge, even now, they worked in degraded conditions to supply everyone. That was also during the first week our main fear that they failed. Hopefully many keep in place and deliver their services.