Pharm. Prince Olugbenga Falabi is the managing consultant/chief executive officer (CEO), Tiptop Nigeria Limited, a new management consultancy and product marketing company.
In this interview with Pharmanews at his office in Ikeja GRA, Lagos, Falabi who was a former general manager of Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited and also a past national chairman of Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP) speaks on what prompted his decision to resign from Greenlife to establish the new company. He also speaks on the need for pharmacy curriculum to be reviewed to ensure new pharmacy graduates are trained to be great scientists who are also be very good in business.
Below is the abridged interview
What informed your decision to start this management consultancy and product marketing firm Tiptop Nigeria Limited and what are the objectives of the company?
Actually, the idea came after my 50th birthday. I looked forward and said to myself that I would be going into full retirement in the next 10 years. I then decided it is high time I did something that would be worth retiring on.
I have never believed it is right to set up a business while still working for somebody. I believe you will be using part of the time for that job for your own business and I think it is not right and it is unfaithfulness.
What I did at a time was that I set up a firm and put somebody completely in charge and, of course, it failed. The fact is that that person did not own that vision and couldn’t run with it properly. It was a lesson.
I did not own the vision when I was a medical representative at Roche; I supported the Roche vision. I did not own the vision at Mopson where I worked for about two years; I was there to support the vision of Pharm. M. O. Paul. The same thing with my time at Cadilla and the 11 years I spent at Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited. I didn’t own the Greenlife vision, but I supported it and helped grow the vision from 1.2 to beyond 12 billion naira. I was doing my job.
So, I had expected that other men should be able to run with other people’s vision but it was not the case. So, I shut down the company. And when I retired early from Greenlife I decided to pursue this idea of Tiptop, an original vision of mine that I could devote time to and pursue.
What is the fundamental principle behind the Tiptop vision?
I believe that my training and the experience that I have acquired since 1991 when I started as a medical representative to when I left my position as general manager at Greenlife will make me to be more useful as a consultant . I believe I will be able to use the skills that I have acquired to help many organisations, instead of serving just one company. The objective of Tiptop is to help keep companies alive and well. Not just for them to be alive but to be doing well.
Our plan is to help companies look at the environment and help them see how they can build a resilient organisation that will be able to anticipate change and be able to take proactive steps that will help the company in the short, medium and long term.
What are the short and long term plans of Tiptop Ltd?
In the short term, that is, in the next one year, our plan is to have more clients and help them make better impacts in their businesses. However, in the longer term, let’s say in the next five years, the plan is for us to be able to manufacture some niche products locally through contract manufacturing to help take care of the health needs of our people.
What are your thoughts on how to bridge the gap in the training of pharmacists as it concerns entrepreneurial skills, so that they will be good scientists and also be very good in business?
It is certainly something that is desirable. I have told some of our colleagues in our meetings that some of the people we refer to as charlatans in pharmacy circles are actually businessmen who were trained at the “Idumota business school”. That is their training school. Even though this school doesn’t have any Nigerian University Commission’s licence or certification, serious business training is going on there.
Therefore, it will be very good for pharmacy students to have entrepreneurial trainings and experience from school. There are ways to do this. I remember that at the PSN conference in Uyo, the registrar was talking about a review of the pharmacy curriculum. I think that process should be accelerated and that more management courses be incorporated into the new curriculum.
I know that there are some management courses there already, but we need more as even the ones we did in our time were not core courses. We just took those courses to pass. The students should be made to know that these courses are also very important.
Aside from that, there should also be opportunities for successful businessmen to give talks at the colleges and pharmacy schools to share experience about how it is done. This will stick more as the students will be able to relate more with these talks.
Another period that should also be properly used for this is the period when students go for their industrial attachment (IT). They need to know and be told that the IT period is for them to gain invaluable experience that will be useful to them when they go into pharmacy practice fully. They need to see it as a learning and mentoring period to gain useful tips as it concerns business and entrepreneurship.
This is actually the way to go because many pharmacists come out of pharmacy school as great scientists but with little or no business and/or entrepreneurial skills. Yet, they need business skills to run their pharmacies or other pharmacy businesses they are involved in.
When you were the national chairman of NAIP, there were some discussions about getting pharmaceutical market data. That project was to help players in the industry have a better idea of the market size and thus be able to make necessary business projection. However, it seems that project has become stalled. Is the pharmaceutical market data idea still relevant or has it been jettisoned?
The issue of market data started as far back as the 90s. Unfortunately, it has not been too much of a success. This is so because in this part of the world, what we do is to build silos. From my experience, I have always believed that if we are able to properly and successfully estimate the market, planning becomes easier and better.
We haven’t got it right and we have unfortunately had to rely on estimates from Europe and America to plan. I know a lot is going on in this direction with the assistance of NAFDAC. I hope this works out well because it will help us.
Hopefully, we shall surmount this challenge. I know that NIROPHARM, APIN, PMG-MAN, and other stakeholders are in discussion about it. They all want to get this done and I hope they do.