May. 19, 2016

Jiri Urbanec


Jiri Urbanec

General Director & CEO, SANTO

TBY talks to Jiri Urbanec, General Director & CEO of SANTO, on the environment in Kazakhstan, investment programs, and new pharmaceutical regulations.


Jiri Urbanec has held the position of SANTO CEO since October 1st, 2015. He graduated from Technical University in Ostrava, Czech Republic and has an MBA from Liverpool John Moores University. He also holds a Master’s in International Bilateral Management from the Technical University in Brno, Czech Republic and University of M. Kopernik in Torun, Poland. Before SANTO, Urbanec worked at several international pharmaceutical companies.

What brought you to Kazakhstan and what do you expect to achieve within your role as CEO?

I have experience working in many countries, but Kazakhstan is the one that I like the most. This is a country with a great history, amazing culture, beautiful nature, and wonderful people. SANTO is a leading pharmaceutical company in Kazakhstan in monetary terms according to IMS Health data for 2015. We want to maintain this position and ensure our primacy by gaining a more substantial share of the market. Currently, we are in the process of doubling our business over the next three to four years. This means doubling revenue, the size of the company, and the size of our facilities. We are also working to modernize our portfolio by adding new products and registering a number of modern products while concurrently improving the position of traditional Kazakhstani brands, like Mukaltin, which people believe in. One of our best sellers is Mukaltin, which is a traditional cough remedy. We are strong in sterile antibiotics and pediatrics, and these are our other biggest areas of business. Thanks to these new products and the portfolio that we are developing, we have become the largest supplier to the government healthcare system. It now recognizes that the pharmaceutical sector is one of key industries and that it should support local business to ensure that they have quality pharmaceutical production. We are also going to enter complex therapeutic fields such as oncology biosimilars, as modern treatments are moving in that direction.

SANTO is investing more than $100 million into the modernization and construction of new facilities. What are your main projects in this regard?

As of September 2011, SANTO is a part of international pharmaceutical company Polpharma Group, which has an investment project in Kazakhstan amounting to more than $100 million. The main purpose of the investment project is to modernize the operation facilities within GMP quality standards. This project will significantly reduce the costs of the healthcare system in Kazakhstan and ensure access to high-quality and affordable medicines for more patients in Kazakhstan. SANTO has already obtained GMP quality certificates for the production lines of liquid sterile dosage forms in a new unique ampoule-infusion workshop where more than $40 million was invested. Currently, we are in the process of realizing a new shop aseptic antibiotics powder filling, which is scheduled for completion in May 2016. Many companies usually opt for tablet production because they are less expensive and easier to deal with, so we will be one of the few, or maybe the only company, to offer all pharmaceutical types, including sterile and tablets. There is an opportunity for us to take these products and market them for larger players.

In 2016, within the Eurasian Economic Union, new regulations in the pharmaceutical industry will be implemented. As a company that exports to five countries, how will this affect your business?

As always, it is both a threat and opportunity. The threat is that opportunities will arise for lower-quality manufacturers from other countries, i.e. members of the Eurasian Economic Union. At the same time, it may be an opportunity as the Eurasian Economic zone will be a key market and we may be given priority and preference as a local supplier. We are not afraid and see the situation as more of an opportunity than anything else. If we make smart moves, we stand to benefit from the situation. We are a local Kazakhstani manufacturer but we are part of the international group and our production is set on its investments and experience. We are heavily involved in Kyrgyzstan, where we will double our operations next year, and we have penetrated the Turkmenistan market by being accepted as a Kazakhstani manufacturer. We consider this a huge success because it only accepts European manufacturers. Once again, Russia remains the main market that we plan on entering. We are working heavily to move into Russia as a Kazakhstani manufacturer. The Kazakhstani market is 10 times bigger and we have the best manufacturing plant in the Eurasian region. By capitalizing on these strengths, we will become international. We want to be an important regional player, and aim to sell at least one product in Europe. By doing this we will prove that our products meet international standards. I would like to create additional manufacturing facilities in our factory in Shymkent.