What were Al Borg Medical Laboratories' key achievements and milestones this past year?
The COVID-19 crisis had both positive and negative impacts. The negative impact was obvious: healthcare services in many countries collapsed. Our business depends on two things: B2B and B2C. B2B includes samples or patients sent from hospitals, while B2C comprises individuals who walk in for a checkup. This group represents about 53% of our revenue, but during COVID-19, people were unable to come in. We acquired a license to do PCR testing for COVID-19 and also started offering home services. Instead of having them come down to our offices, we would do check-ups at their houses. This is how we maintained growth. At some point, there was a shortage of the agent used to detect the virus. We conducted in-house research at the center and found a solution. It was a challenging time, but we learned a great deal.
What digitalization strategies are you implementing at Al Borg Medical Laboratories?
During the crisis, many solutions were developed. Digital transformation is our top priority now. We need to figure out how to fully automate the Al Borg laboratories, and for this purpose, we onboarded a highly skilled IT team. We launched solutions for home visits and all testing, PCR tests included. Through digitalization, patients were also able to gain access to their results through different channels. We have three digital platforms, one for home care, one for COVID-19 testing, and one for training and our accelerator program that we will launch soon.
How do the government policies support the healthcare industry and the growth of related businesses?
This is included in Vision 2030. There are eight themes like healthcare transformation, improving the living standard, safety, the reassurance of the sustainability, enhancing the governmental excellence performance, and enabling the private sector. There is now great collaboration between the government and the private sector. We are in close contact with all the ministries, and COVID-19 has broken down the wall between the public and private sectors. There have been many tenders released by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the national hospital, and the armed forces hospital in terms of sending out tests. There are some tests not performed in certain hospitals so they are sent to the private sector. Now, we receive patients from MOH hospitals and do not take money from them, but from MOH. This is an example of the close engagement through the tender system. It is all transparent. It is online, and there is a bidding process where many labs apply. There is a selection criterion based on the price, quality, and turnaround times, thus standardizing the process. We have won many of these tenders.
At Al Borg Med Tech Accelerator Program, what specific characteristics are you looking for in these start-ups in terms of investment?
We have developed a budget for this program and hired highly qualified people. When we announced the establishment of this accelerator program locally and internationally, we received 100 applications, and we had to narrow it down to 30 and then nine. We announced three winners and will sponsor their projects. Some of the other projects are being sponsored by others who attended our program. Such initiatives will help improve services in the country, not only in the medical and healthcare sector, but in every aspect.
Al Borg Medical Laboratories is present in many different countries in GCC and Africa. What are your expansion plans?
We are present in Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. In Africa, we are present in Sudan and Eritrea, and soon we will expand to Iraq and Kenya. We are targeting expansion in Africa because business there is encouraging. Expansion plans were a part of the budgeting process in 2021. When I joined Al Borg in September, we had 42 branches, and now we have 64. At the end of March, we will reach 70 in Saudi Arabia, and we will be in each city of the Kingdom. We have innovated a new model of laboratory services. When you have a lab, you need a license from MOH and in order to get that license there are requirements: there is a great deal of OPEX and CAPEX. During the COVID-19 crisis, I convinced MOH to do what we call collection sites: collect the blood and transfer it to the nearest reference lab. For example, we have nine branches in Riyadh. At most, of these nine branches I will keep one reference lab and the rest will become collection sites. That has reduced the costs of establishing new branches. Our plan is to complete 33 branches by the end of 2022.
Looking ahead to 2022, what are Al Borg Medical Laboratories' goals and objectives for this year?
The main focus is digitalization, which needs to be completed this year; we want all our operations to be paperless. The supply chain is important as well, as we aim to dispatch the agent through different labs through online management. Expansion is also important for 2022. We need to open 33 branches. We want to have a presence in each and city in KSA. In March, we submitted our documents for an IPO. We plan to be a public company with an initial public offering. We have conducted exercises for the last 18 months, and our goal is to be a public company. We hope to have more liquid money, allowing us to work on our strategy to expand to Africa and the rest of the world.