November 27, 2022

Celebrating Excellence & Integrity

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An Exclusive Chat With Adetunji Doherty, MD/CEO Of MEDHEIGHT PHARMACEUTICAL LIMITED

By Godwin Onyemaechi and Sam Fadipe

MAY WE GET TO KNOW YOU PROPERLY SIR?

I am Mr. Adetunji Doherty, a pharmacist and a proud fellow of the pharmaceutical association of Nigeria a good and laudable profession and a profession with integrity, a lot of us are like that, am married with children.
I was born into the Doherty family of Lagos state, a big family and there are thousands of us, the original Doherty that a lot is known about is great grand father Josiah Henison Doherty, he had 44 children and many of them where doctors and lawyers in the 1920’s.
My own grand father was a lawyer in 1925, the first indigenous bank was owned by a Doherty family in Lagos state.

HAVING BEEN IN THIS WONDERFUL PROFESSION THAT TOUCHED THE LIVES OF MANY NIGERIANS WITH QUALITY PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS, HOW HAS THE JOURNEY BEEN SO FAR?

My company’s name is MEDHEIGHT PHARMACEUTICAL LIMITED, we market and distribute all the vital biotic range of products, until about 5years ago when it was divided into two, now we do the pregnant care ranges, the hemoglobin ranges and omega H3 ranges etc.
It has been an up and down struggle, you know any business man in this our environment will find it difficult, the forex, importation, trying to get money from banks, trying to generate electricity for yourself, a lot are involved, we are grateful to God that we are able to surmount all these things and we are moving on, we pray that things will get better in the country, things will surely open up in this country, this country is a great country that is blessed, if things are put in proper place, I believe a lot of things will get better.

SIR, KNOWING THAT THE COUNTRY WE ARE IN TODAY IS HARSH ECONOMICALLY, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO WEATHER THE STORMS TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

Yes, first of all one should plan ahead
you should always have a 5years plan as a business, one should always anticipate what is going to happen. We anticipated that the exchange rate is going to rise, and we have watched the way the big pharmaceutical companies do things and so we positioned ourselves in such a way that when the exchange rate goes up, it does not eat all our profit, though it will take part of it, but it will allow us to survive.

AS ONE THAT IS AMONG THE TOP TEN PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY IN NIGERIA, HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY TREATED YOU IN TERMS OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES?

Anyway, I don’t know if we are among the top, but I know we are trying our best. The point is that if you want to be in this business, you can’t come into it for 5 to 10 years, when you get into it, you know you are in for a long term, for only those that are there for a long term that can survive. anything you invest in it, you know that sooner or later you will make your money back, so you have to think long term, 15 to 20years, if you have it at the back of your mind that you will not make money until say 10years, then you are good to go, but if you think you will make money in 5 years, then this is not the industry for you.

SO HAS GOVERNMENT POLICIES BEEN FAVORABLE TO YOU?

I will say that the government policies have been tough on all industries and also to the pharmaceutical industries, but because of the COVID, the CBN health care money has really helped a lot of pharmaceutical companies, firstly it was 4 to 5 percent interest for the first year and subsequently 8 to 9 percent the remaining years. It has really helped the sector and it will be nice if it can be extended other sectors, now what I will like the government to know is that the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria can take over the entire West Africa if the CBN or the federal government of Nigeria can invest heavily in the pharmaceutical sector in such a way that we will dominate West Africa, if only they can give us the enabling environment, there are many hard working Nigerians will take the opportunity and do very well.

If they can make the interest rate 3 to 4 percent in ten years, they will see the difference, people will really blow up the industry very well and make Nigeria a wealthy nation, look at India what they have been able to do with pharmaceuticals, the indians don’t have two heads, Nigerians are bright and smart and we work hard, what we need is the enabling environment especially financial help, if possible, zero percent interest for 10years and then they will see the result.

And as the industry grows, they will hire more people and the government will tax them and they will generate it’s income back. The way it can be done is to have a cluster, industrial hub all over the country such that they generate electricity for the hub, put that aside, there is what I know about a state in India, the government built the infrastructure for factory and rented it out, imported machineries and gave them out to there school of engineering, they knocked it down and do what is called reverse engineering such that a lot of it are done by our welders here, and that’s how they began with rough machines and they where producing, and after some years, those engineers became experts at building the machines, they build the machines and send to the manufacturer’s who will now replicate them and pass it to those that will sell them, so everybody has a role,and the money keep on revolving round the country.

SO WHAT IS YOUR STAFF STRENGTH?

Well, my staff strength is between 50 to 150, we are grateful to God about that, most of the staffs we employ are very honest, sincere and hardworking, though we try to give them a career path, we let them realize that they are not here for Mr. Doherty, whatever you learn is for your good, we try to make sure that we are a family, we have trained our managers to listen to even the problems they have at home and there are problems we can assist, we assist immediately, so they know that this is not a company owned by Mr. Doherty but by all of us. So they know that if Mr Doherty’s company goes down, they also go down. so this is how we have been doing it and we are grateful to God.

SIR, ASIDE FROM DISTRIBUTION,ANY PLAN TO DELVE INTO MANUFACTURING?

Yes, over time it is in our plan, we are praying to God for the financial strength and capacity to do that, but at the end of the day, that’s where this country is going, anybody body who hasn’t got that plan is joking, how it will happen I don’t know, we leave that to God, as now we are happy with vital biotic, they are supporting us and we are like a family and we are working so hard for them, and we are grateful to God that we met that family a fantastic family straight forward and honest.

LETS DIGRESS A LITTLE INTO POLITICS, WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT DO WISH FOR NIGERIA TO HAVE COME 2023 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?

I think basically a president that love Nigeria, a president that truly love this nation, this is a nation that has the capacity to be better than the United Kingdom, God did not bless the UK, but you can only say they are blessed with brain, and God also blessed us with the same brain too, but God specially blessed Africa and Nigeria with raw materials, all we need is a president that truly love Nigeria that is all, the person can come from any part of the country it doesn’t matter as long as he loves Nigeria and has the good of Nigeria at heart that’s all, within 5years you will be shocked at our progress. People like Fidson if they are helped more, they will dominate Africa, people like Emzor, they will dominate West Africa, they just need help and encouragement.

Let the government help them to market their products in all African countries, with that they will do very well and am sure that can also done in other sectors in Nigeria, I look at agriculture in the North, the North can become the food hub of the whole of West Africa, they have fertile land, all they need is just organisation and mechanisation that’s all.

HOW HAS BAD LEADERSHIP AFFECTED THE HEALTH SECTOR IN NIGERIA?

Yes it has really affected the health sector, some times ago, I was talking to a medical doctor who wanted to perform an operation on an uncle of mine at St. Nicholas hospital long time ago I told him that my uncle wanted to perform the operation in India and it costs so much and it was cheaper here in St. Nicholas how come, though I can’t remember his name anyone, he said to me that he performs this same operation in the United Kingdom, United States etc but it is cheaper here, I then ask him why he can’t bring all the equipment down here, and he said to me that we do not have data, when ever he talks to investors abroad about investing in to it, they ask me to give them date of how many people that can afford health care services, what is the purchasing power and so on.

So the problem is that we don’t have data, if we have data people will be willing to invest billions into equipments, so that also disturbs the system, an investor want to know that when he puts money down, he will get returns after few years, but I know for a fact that they will get back their money after few years, but they don’t know this because they are not here in Nigeria.

WHICH OF YOUR PRODUCT IS THE FLAGSHIP PRODUCT?

I will say all of them because we put a lot of energy in all of our products, fortunately for us, the Vital biotic products whish I started with 25 years ago, nobody new about these products in Nigeria when we first started,the only product they new was Omega H3,and to God be the glory, all the products are now we’ll known in Nigeria. So they are all doing well simply because I learnt something from them whish is quality, quality once you have good and quality product and you are patient and hardworking, you will get to your destination.

I remember 25 years ago, 4 packs of well man and well woman I couldn’t even sell, I will go to shop and they will tell me S O R which means sell on return, but today, it is a different story entirely. But I have been patient

And vital biotic also came and I supported it very well, so I will say that where banks could not support me, this company did. That is why I say that banks will have to go back to helping companies come up in Nigeria, they are not helping enough, but again, government will have to step in to make the bank help us, though the COVID-19 has changed it a bit, banks are now helping more especially the Central Bank Of Nigeria with this intervention fund, I don’t know much about other sectors, but in health care sector, they have made a difference, and I pray and hope that they will continue, they should continue to pump more money into the health care sector.

ALL OVER THE WORLD, THE GOVERNMENT PUMP MONEY INTO THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR, WILL YOU SAY THE GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA HAS DONE WELL IN YOUR SECTOR?

The health and education sector should be getting about 50 percent of our total budget in Nigeria, but that’s not the case, for about 30 to 40 years now, so we are getting what are paying for, I remember when I was young, when we go to university teaching hospital (UTH), even if you don’t have much money, you will get treated by the doctors and these where government owned hospitals, you hardly can see private hospitals then, and we where all okay, something private schools, I went to government school which was very okay then, but unfortunately, the story has changed, so we need to change as a nation for things to get better, if we keep on doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same result.

HOW WILL YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP?

Leadership to me is do as I do and not do as I say.

WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING, HOW DO YOU RELAX?

The way I relax is by playing table tennis, l meet a lot of my classmates from government college Ibadan, there is no place you go to in the world when you find anybody from my school, he or will take you into his or her house, that’s how we are every where we go, so we meet and talk, so that’s how I unwind, I also love watching films, I go to Cinema, and when I have an opportunity to go abroad, I go to old school joints, I seat and relax, and I also read a lot of business books.

WHAT IS YOUR NIGERIA FAVORITE FOOD?

I love the Igbo kind of fufu with a lot of vegetables including the perewinckle.

I SEE YOU ARE A FASHIONABLE PERSON, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?

I love green and blue color a lot, and I love putting on our local wear, I only put on English attire once a month.

YOU LOOK SO YOUNG IN YOUR SIXTIES, HOW DO YOU CHECKMATE THE FEMALE ADMIRERS?

Yes, I do quite a bit, what we do is the more you look is the less you see, so a man looks but you tell yourself you need to face your business,but there is no man that doesn’t look , but you don’t get too close to the opposite sex.

IN LIFE, WHAT WILL YOU RE
FER TO AS YOUR PRICELESS POSSESSION?

Yes, praying to God every step on the way, one need to pray to God. I had been in debts and God told me that I will come out of it, though is not easy to just say God told me I will get out debts but how, so you pray for God to give you the wisdom to know how to get out of debt, but thank God I have gotten out of it, but it took me many years. that has made me believe in God the more, back then in my mind I was thinking about how I would get out of it, but God just opened the way, I had some individuals who are my customers, we discussed about our products and how we could give them discounts,and they brought money, that alone means trust , and I let them know what was happening to me and they will allow me to use their money to do turn up until I was stabilized.

SO FAR SIR, WILL YOU SAY GOD HAS BEEN GOOD TO YOU?

Very very good, God has been awesome to me, God shows me things even before they happen and I see it happen, I remember when I was asking bank for money, six years t, God showed me in a dream not to continue the process, I woke up and told my wife that the moy I was looking for was beside me, though I didn’t understand it better then, so I prayed to God to give me a clearer understanding, and God gave me the wisdom and I got the money I was looking for from individuals rather than bank.

IF YOU SHOULD TURN BACK THE HANDS OF CLOCK, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE BETTER?

Well am grateful to God for where I am, but I would have love to work for some one few years before starting my own business, because I started my business from the University and I graduated while I was doing my business, but I l would have love to be under some one’s supervision 5 years before starting my own business.

But at the same time I am grateful that I made the mistakes it has toughened me, but I sty believe that I would have worked for some one few years before starting my own, I would have avoided the costly mistakes I made, in all I thank God that have gotten over my mistakes.

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