The Business Year

Andrés Botero

COLOMBIA - Health & Education

Andrés Botero

Chief Operating Officer, PharmaCielo Colombia Holding SAS

Bio

Andrés Botero was head of Philip Morris Andean Cluster for 20 years, overseeing cultivation, manufacturing, quality assurance, supply chain and distribution, and served as manager of Philip Morris International’s operations for reduced risk product portfolio in Colombia. He joined Pharmacielo and currently holds the position of Chief Operating Officer of PharmaCielo Colombia.

The trailblazer in the cannabis industry, PharmaCielo has been tirelessly working to improve the sector by collaborating with the government and industry players.

The cannabis industry is still emerging, and players either rise or fizzle away quickly. What makes PharmaCielo so stable within that ecosystem?

Our distinguishing factors are added-value products and the consistency of those products over time. Our strength is understanding our clients and their needs and our agility to deliver the correct products for their requirements. We did not want to be known for our cost competitiveness as a main asset, because we want to invest our margins in differentiated products.

PharmaCielo was declared a Project of Strategic National Interest (PINE). What are the business and policy implications of this recognition?

We had the opportunity to talk directly with the government about the obstacles we face as an industry as a whole, which helped them better understand issues such as export quotas to other countries and how to improve processes with local authorities such as INVIMA. The PINE certificate sped up things in being able to speak directly to government officials and promoting our company and the industry as a whole, and it is also the base for the new decree. The sector is also a PINE, and we are known as trailblazers; everyone else came after us. We helped develop the law, we are a long-term company with non-opportunistic and more structured investments. We are working on the future of cannabis while the rest are working on how to fill the space paved by trailblazers. We are a reference in the sector. The government trusts our opinion because it knows we are trying to do something for the good of the business. We want to have transparency without jeopardizing business opportunities, and this helped us participate in the draft of the new decree.

What investments have you made to prepare for the future, and what is your business development strategy?

We have one of the largest facilities in South America, perhaps worldwide. We can process up to 360 tonnes per year. That scale gives us high levels of productivity as well as capacity to process and competitive advantages compared to the other companies both local and international. We have different stages of our strategy, because we not only focus on seizing mid-term opportunities but also need to develop and capture long-term opportunities. We know the demand and speed of the Latin American market is not that big yet, although they are evolving. The opportunities are great when it comes to mid-term development. One thing we want to do is move away from selling a commodity. We do not offer products, which are a consequence of a solution needed in the market. Our strategy is to enable new end-user products to be developed in emerging markets like Brazil and Mexico. But we mainly focus on Europe, where there is already demand for such products. We work in the UK, Germany, Poland, which is also showing a strong evolution in this field, and Switzerland, which shows great promise for market growth. We need to ensure we have differentiating factors like reliability, uniformity, and innovative high-value input materials that enable our clients to develop new products.

How can Colombia further position itself as the market leader, and how does PharmaCielo support the local cannabis ecosystem?

The new decree that the government has been working on incorporates many of the points and feedback from PharmaCielo and the industry. Approving that decree will help accelerate and put Colombiaat the top of the regulatory framework, such as adding uses of cannabis in other industries not only in medical but also food and beverage and other categories. It is a landmark that Colombia can use in order to export these products as well. Other markets are starting to talk about approving the law that Colombia already approved five years ago.

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