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Colombia 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jorge Schirmer, General Manager of Cruz Verde, on learning to master the national market, raising industry standards, and making a social impact.

Jorge Schirmer
BIOGRAPHY
An industrial civil engineer from the University of Adolfo Ibañez de Santiago de Chile with extensive experience in retail and distribution, throughout his career in diverse executive positions Jorge Schirmer has proven a track record of successful results in management, operations, sales and trading. Since June 2012, he has been president of Cruz Verde in Colombia, responsible for carrying out the company’s national expansion and consolidation, and successfully making it one of the most recognized in the industry.

What have been Cruz Verde's major developments since starting operations?

Cruz Verde began operations in Colombia in 2012 after spotting an opportunity to buy Farmasanitas. Since then, we have undertaken an important journey to transform the company. So far the biggest issue we have overcome is understanding the Colombian market and consumer, local and regional differences, and the country in general. Another important element throughout our journey here has been to develop a logistics scheme that delivers a level of service that is in line with company standards. Cruz Verde operates four business lines in Colombia, and it has been a difficult challenge to develop each line in different sectors while consolidating as a company in all the segments we serve. One of our business lines is traditional retail, and over time we have grown that line to the point that we are delivering medicines to health insurers, supplying clinics and hospitals through our wholesale distribution, and operating in-hospital pharmacies to meet clinics' needs. Overall, we are satisfied with the development and growth prospects present in the market. The company has come a long way in positioning the brand in a way that has earned it immense recognition. Our aim is to establish Cruz Verde's recognition as a reliable company that strives to contribute to improving people's quality of life.

What was the most successful line of business in 2017?

In 2017, the company experienced some great achievements on the back of significant growth in sales as we managed to expand our footprint and coverage in nationwide stores. In addition, we have developed several innovation projects aimed at maintaining our high service standards. Some of the innovation projects we have developed point the company toward services that go hand in hand with investments in technological infrastructure, helping us develop each of our business lines. Furthermore, we were able to complete the remodeling of our distribution center—one that covers the entire country and helps us further strengthen our business lines. In terms of turnover and growth, 2017 was an excellent year. With a growth rate of 17%, our turnover almost reached USD480 million.

What characteristics differentiate you from your competitors?

Cruz Verde contributes to and helps develop the health sector by introducing high standards of performance, formalizing the market, updating practices, and raising industry standards. We want to be a key player in the Colombian market. Despite the presence of other international actors, we believe in our ability to lead the Colombian market.

Could you tell us about the “dispensación" service you offer?

Apart from traditional retail, our dispensation service delivers medicines to affiliates and insurers of health coverage plans that fall under the social security system through our drugstores.

How are you planning to develop your regional strategy?

We have a vision of leading the region in the health sector. Cruz Verde's parent company, Socofar, has an alliance with Femsa, a Mexican multinational company, and a Chilean shareholder that focuses on a regional project that aims to establish us as a market leader across the entire region. Through our standard of service, expertise, and understanding of the differences between various regional markets, we will position ourselves as a group that contributes to the health sector and aims to have a social impact.

What goals do you want to achieve in 2018?

We want to maintain our pace of growth and will continue investing in innovation projects focused on improving service. Modern consumers are highly demanding, and modern technology pushes us to develop a business model where the digital component and technology are key. In general terms, the company's goal is to continue with the consolidation and positioning process and build a company that is recognized and valued across Colombia.