Konstantin Tiunov: Unipharma and Rosapteca are getting closer to customers
Text: Anastasia Valagina
In a pandemic, the crisis has affected almost all areas of business. But some market players have not only maintained their positions, but strengthened them. Of course, we are talking about pharmacies. After all, in «COVID times», medicines have become a commodity of prime necessity for many of us. Konstantin Tiunov, Director of Commercial Affairs at pharmacy chains Unifarma and Rosapteka, spoke about the current development trends in the pharmacy business.
— Many believe, pharmacy chains should do better
during the pandemic than before. Do you agree with this statement?
— This is a common misconception and the statement is only partly true. The pandemic affects the economy and income of citizens negatively, lockdowns disrupt behavioral patterns, and changes in consumption patterns, including the pharmacy range. Prices rise and shortages emerge. If we are talking about a specific short period,
— What is the development path for your
pharmacy chains now?
— 2021 was a pivotal year for us in a good way. We realized the usefulness, made a decision and started opening new pharmacies. This is due to the demand for formats from both premium pharmacies with exceptional Unipharma service and assortment and Rosapteca neighborhood pharmacies. There are currently 35 pharmacies in the Unipharma and Rosapteca chains. Our main news is that we plan to open up to 10 more pharmacies in the near future through optimization. We haven't had an increase of almost a third in the number of pharmacies since the launch.
— And you're telling me that expansion is not
related to the pandemic?
— Not directly. Rather, it has more to do with our overall operations and the economic situation. On the one hand, we have been able to improve the efficiency of business processes related to procurement, marketing and commercial work, and on the other hand, customer demand for our pharmacy formats has increased. Here, they can receive competent advice, deal with disease prevention and rehabilitation, and generally meet demand. There have also been some changes in the rental market. For a pharmacy, the right location is a key, determining factor. In 2020 and before, it was more difficult to find premises that suited our requirements, to negotiate terms and conditions. The pandemic has catalyzed the process, and businesses that cannot cope with the challenges of the times are leaving and vacating the premises. The landlords themselves also realize that our pharmacy is a higher priority for them than even a fast food outlet, café or barbershop. You could say that the conditions are favorable this year. But, of course, the key factor in the decision to expand our number of pharmacies was the goodwill of the shareholder, who saw prospects in developing the retail pharmacy business.
— Do you plan to develop online
— And this is our second big news. In 2021, we launched a single digital platform that combined three of our resources at once: unifarma.ru, rosapteka.online and the new project of the pharmaceutical marketplace tuta24.ru. In addition, we successfully negotiate and expand our work with large online marketplaces: we work with uteka.ru, megapteka.ru, and do customization with Yandex.Market. I think it is important to note that the speed of development with which we have launched our digital projects is due to several factors. Firstly, our own software puts us on a par with the leaders in the retail pharmaceutical market.
2021 was a pivotal year for us in a good way. Our Unipharma and Rosapteca formats were in demand
And secondly, with the efficient distribution of tasks
within the office and the delegation of some tasks to development, design,
— Did you have to hire new specialists to handle online orders?
— We did not expand our staff, although we conducted more than three dozen interviews with various candidates
— Which service functions are you planning to
— For example, we will automatically order a product from a supplier that is running out, i.e. it is in the nomenclature, but it is no longer in the stock. This will give purchasers a clear waiting time for a particular medicine. It also took a lot of effort to tidy up the medicine book. And there is still website promotion and support, further development of delivery and express delivery services, testing and implementation
— What are the benefits of having your own
software in the pharmacy business?
— Our own accounting system offers key advantages: speed and accuracy of business transactions, independence, data security, and the ability to develop automation. The accounting system serves and integrates pharmacies and the office. There is no point in describing the functionality in detail, except to say that we solve most problems faster and better than other participants in the retail pharma market. This is a fact, because we often take part in industry conferences and discussions and understand where we are better and where we are not. Speed and limitless possibilities are perhaps the key factors in this process. From specific examples: we have fully automated purchasing and pricing, marketing, we have relatively quickly implemented new requirements for working with labelled goods, we have our own API, and if required, we adjust to our partners' APIs. Thanks to automation, the current office will be able to manage a hundred pharmacies just as efficiently, or even better, with the new functionality in place.
— Would you say that your networks have
limitless prospects for development?
— I would like to think so. We have begun to develop, we want to grow and we see opportunities and potential for this. We have a team, we have automation, we have the support of a major medical holding company, our partners: distributors and manufacturers. There is an enquiry from consumers who like our pharmacy formats. We also believe that the time of discounters is passing, or rather, it has not even started, because this format is inherently harmful, especially in such a regulated and socially responsible business as pharmacy. Prices in pharmacies need to be fair and in line with the level of service, and the pharmacy business itself needs to make enough profit to meet customer demands and grow. Here it is important to be able to provide security, speed and the best service in general.
— How are you going to cater for online
orders if there are significantly more of them?
— We are ready for it. After all, we have de facto been operating
— What formats do Unipharma and Rosapteca
operate in? How do they differ?
— Unipharma is a premium pharmacy where we create a unique experience. Everything
Rosapteka is the «neighborhood pharmacy», or the favorite pharmacy near your home. Here we strive to provide the best prices on the most popular products, while offering customers an extended range of dietary supplements, cosmetics and medical devices, including rare products not available at the usual pharmacies around. In these pharmacies, we also keep an open format and pay a lot of attention to display, cleanliness and convenience. There are equally competent specialists working here.
— How do you hire staff at pharmacies? Is
the pharmacist's qualification important in this
— The Unifarm and Rosopteka staff is our pride. We do a careful selection. In order to get to the «first table», a candidate has to go through at least three interviews. First, the HR department conducts basic knowledge tests, then the person is interviewed regarding work experience, and there they try to find out how active, communicative, etc. And finally, each employee is interviewed by the CEO. As a result, we choose the best ones. The vast majority of our employees are pharmacists with a university degree. In addition, we continuously train our employees in our own training center and strive to improve their qualifications through digital learning methods, for example, a number of employees have various certificates confirming their competence.
— What promotions are going on in the
pharmacy chain right now that you can be proud of?
— We come up with something every month with both suppliers and manufacturers. The worst idea is just to let someone in a good place stand for money. We are interested in doing motivating promotions for the consumer, working with price: either giving discounts on the second/third pack, or special prices on some product, reimbursing discounts with the help of manufacturers. Our pharmacy chains are preparing
The pandemic has changed the way people think about themselves. Many people have started to think about health and disease prevention. And this can be considered a positive development, even in such difficult circumstances
— What is the principle behind your choice of
— We work with the largest and most established companies that cover 60−70% of our needs. It is very important that the supplier provides certain standards of price and quality, service, storage conditions and shelf life. Our purchasing department is staffed by professionals with many years of experience, who monitor this carefully and on a daily basis. We also have many direct contracts with manufacturers. We do not impose barriers and we welcome the development of our range, and we are prepared to buy directly from even the smallest suppliers, as long as the goods are of excellent quality and in demand by our customers.
— What medicines and commodities are in maximum
demand in your pharmacies during the pandemic?
— The demand for the groups of antibiotics, anticoagulants and antivirals has increased and continues to increase significantly. Also a few years ago, no one would have thought that antiseptics, masks and PPE would be in such high demand. Consumption of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, has increased many times over, because people have learnt that it restores the body during and after acute respiratory viral infections. It's the same with vitamin D3. When word got out about the introduction of the treatment recommendations, there was a surge in demand. At the same time, the demand
Unipharma is a premium pharmacy where everything is thoughtfully designed: a convenient location, usually with parking or a metro entrance, an exclusive interior design and, of course, an extended range of products