KUALA LUMPUR: While the global surge in the need for hygiene products and personal protective equipment in the past year has ramped up business for pharmaceutical companies, the challenge has been in ensuring a steady supply of products to meet the demand.
For Hovid Bhd, it received a drastic increase in orders from both local and international existing and new customers that was beyond its production capacity, but chose to capitalise on the opportunity by tapping on its large network of suppliers to eventually ramp up production and work with reliable partners to complete supply for export.
This was despite many hurdles, including ensuring production efficiency and cross-border supply of key medicines, alongside handling evolving government restrictions, managing workforce safety and preparing risk and operational strategies for post-Covid-19 recovery.
Moreover, as a large pharmaceutical exporter in Malaysia with a global sales and distribution network, it faces challenges in rising raw material costs and material shortage, border closures and logistical constraints, as well as the fluctuation of currencies, especially in underdeveloped markets.
That said, its managing director David Ho stressed that its employees have driven the company forward during these unprecedented times, as they have “worked tirelessly” to optimise the production of Covid-19 essentials such as hand sanitisers, disinfectant tablets and masks, as well as source reliable partners for collaboration.
He shared, “One of our greatest assets is our human capital, it is the teamwork of our committed employees that push us through this period.
“There is no single magic bullet. Hovid has been fortunate to have the support of a dedicated team that works with integrity and humility. These core values are what built the foundation of the company.”
As it celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, this culture of innovation – inspired by its founder Dr Ho Kai Cheong – continues to be the focus of Hovid’s growth, driving it to pursue scientific excellence in research and development (R&D), with an open-minded and creative mindset to explore possibilities through better health solutions.
The company – which produces more than 400 products in generic drugs, dietary supplements and consumer products and distributes to over 50 countries globally in its belief and commitment to improve lives through innovative approaches – was the gold award winner in the chemical, mineral and alloy category for mid-tier companies in the Export Excellence Awards 2019.
“With the ongoing pandemic, our diversified product portfolio proved to be a significant advantage to us as we were able to continue to offer relevant products, even though we observed a drop in demand in many therapeutic categories.
“More than ever, we now work even closer with our suppliers, customers and partners so that medication supply can be continuous, especially when we are the tender holder for many key chronic drugs in several countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia,” he said.
Understandably, the outlook for the pharmaceutical industry is “robust and promising”, with increased demand for health products due to growing awareness of health management among patients and health authorities worldwide placing higher health budgets for public welfare, he said.
However, it is not all smooth-sailing, as Ho pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry generally faces a shortage of highly-skilled workers.
He explained, “We believe that a highly skilled and diverse team underpins strong operational growth.
“The current academic modules are heavily based on clinical, retail and hospital settings. There is still a lack of undergraduates who have specific and functional knowledge and skills required for the industry such as in research, the oral solid dosage processes, machinery and equipment.”
To address the issue, Hovid has been working with authorities and universities to look into the academic development of related courses in universities, as well as offering internship opportunities to nurture talents by providing them with hands-on experience.
Another challenge he highlights is increasing competition from generic manufacturers, but Hovid’s aspires not only to sustain its competitiveness, but to also further enhance it to provide quality and affordable pharmaceutical and healthcare products globally.
To that end, in addition to its R&D centre equipped with a dedicated bioequivalence clinical centre and experienced R&D personnel, its manufacturing plants are certified by the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme and Current Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Good Laboratory Practice. It is also in the process of obtaining the European GMP, which it hopes to complete in the next one to two years.
EEA 2021 is organised by Star Media Group in partnership with Standard Chartered, with Matrade as patron. It is audited by BDO.