How has the pandemic changed your company's plans?
VCare was launched in August 2019 with a vision “to provide World Class Medical Diagnostic services to all health partners.” The idea was to set-up an ultra-modern lab with capabilities to carry out 100% testing in Nigeria. We invested in the most cutting-edge Technology by bringing in the First of its kind equipment's into Nigeria. An investment in Cloud computing to link up all our Equipment to the cloud Server was also done to stay ahead of the Competition. Our reference lab at Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria is set-up to provide support to other Diagnostics labs, Hospitals, Clinics & Doctors. Our philosophy is that “we are not a competition to other healthcare facilities but a complimentary factor.” Within less than a year of operations, we were hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Even prior to the Pandemic, we had set up the First Private Molecular Laboratory in Nigeria. Despite being the newest lab, we were able to get the accreditation by the Ministry of Health, Lagos State Govt. & NCDC very early for conducting RT PCR testing for SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19). This was a game changer investment for us. Today, VCare ranks among the top five labs in terms of the number of tests conducted for COVID-19. As a government accredited lab for COVID-19 testing, it fast tracked our acceptability and visibility in the market. This greatly improved our image and catapulted us to one of the finest labs in the country. Today VCare takes pride in finding a place amongst the Top 5 Medical Diagnostics Labs in Lagos and Nigeria. We were the first to introduce a Dynamic QR Code on all of our reports. This helped us mitigate against the fraudsters who were issuing fake and duplicate reports for travel.
Does COVID-19 testing occupy the majority of your time or generate most of your revenue?
In terms of revenue earnings, yes. This is due to two reasons. Firstly, the pandemic scare resulted in high requirement for RT PCR Testing. Secondly, people are a bit scared to go for other tests like health checkups unless absolutely needed. To avoid risk of exposure at health facilities. The number of walk-in customers had initially declined due to the lockdown and highly infectious nature of COVID-19. Our B2B business though has shown a steady rise. Our current revenue share can be split as 80% COVID19 and 20% non-COVID19. To further improve our non-COVID Sales, we are on an overdrive with our expansion plan. We opened 1 Lab in Ikeja, 1 Collection Centre at Illupeju and will be launching a lab in Surulere by end September 2021. Our plans are to grow both organically and inorganically.
What kind of tests do you provide?
We offer an entire spectrum of Pathology Tests. We also offer ECG (Resting & Stress), ECHO and Ultrasound. We invested into the latest GE machines for ECG, ECHO, and Ultrasound. We currently have no plans of setting up MRI or CT.
What competitive edge do you bring to the market?
Our competitive edge is in our technology, quality assurance, and quality human capital. Our focus on providing Accurate results in shortest turnaround time gives us an edge in the market.
Do you see larger growth in the B2B or B2C segment?
They are very different markets, and I would peg them at 50-50. We generate more profitability from B2C, and Volumes from B2B.
How challenging is it to import top-quality equipment when your revenue is in Naira?
It is tough, but as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Naira devaluation and Dollar availability have made it very difficult to import. No industry has been insulated from the Naira devaluation from 360:1$ to the current rate of 570:1$. Nigeria is an import dependent economy. This has had its impact on the raw material prices as well as prices for Capital items going up by nearly 50%. Careful planning on expansion into the right market, with the right products and services is the need of the hour.
What trends have you seen in terms of people's attitudes towards getting tested?
COVID-19 bridged the gap between the rich and the poor. It taught us that money cannot buy life. It also changed people's attitude towards health. Everyone saw death very closely either in the family or in the friend circle or on news. This fear had changed everyone's mindset. We also realized the importance of a family life. Staying indoors, eating healthy, focus on improving immunity and regular health checkups.
What is your assessment of doing business in Nigeria as an international investor?
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa due to which it is a land of opportunities. But the country also has its own challenges in terms of Infrastructure, support for Industry from Financial Institutions and the government. If you are looking for an easy and quick route to making money, Nigeria may not be for you. However, if you are structured, with a vision to establish remarkable businesses and a strong product, then Nigeria offers a golden opportunity. You just need to understand the specifics and dynamics of the kind of business you want to implement here, and the kind of funding you will need. Having spent more than 15 years in Nigeria, I feel I am more Nigerian than a foreign investor. The terrain was not new to me, which is why we were able to identify gaps and create a clear vision for the Company. Due to the global slowdown, most investors see Africa as the next big boom. This makes Nigeria a hot destination because of its population.