HEALTH FOR ALL

Kazakhstan 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ranga Welaratne, General Manager of Sanofi Central Asia and Caucasus, on the firm's illustrious history in the country, the importance of Kazakhstan to the company, and upcoming areas of opportunity.

Ranga Welaratne
BIOGRAPHY
Before joining Sanofi, Ranga Welaratne held a number of consulting positions, gaining experience in Australia, the US, Asia, and Mexico. Joining Sanofi Pasteur Australia as Manager of Systems and Operations, he moved to Sanofi Pasteur China as Director of Business Support, Systems and Supply Chain before returning to France for a number of years as Director of Business Operations. Before joining Sanofi Central Asia, his most recent position was Director, Business Excellence & Strategic Initiatives for Sanofi Benelux. He has a bachelor’s degree in advanced manufacturing technology (engineering) from Monash University and an MBA from La Trobe University.

How has the company evolved over its 20 years in Kazakhstan?

The entire pharmaceutical market in Kazakhstan has evolved quite distinctively over the past two decades, and in particular, we are making amazing strides in the healthcare segment. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan is by far the leading country in terms of people's access to quality healthcare, though there is still some room for improvement. Sanofi has been in the local market for 20 years. During this time, the company has evolved considerably globally: we have completed several mergers and acquisitions that have helped us become who we are today with a diverse and strong portfolio. Today, we have about 200 types of products in Kazakhstan and almost every citizen has come into contact with our products or used them at some point, even if they do not necessarily know that Sanofi produced that product.

How would you describe your product portfolio in Kazakhstan today?

We have a diverse portfolio in Kazakhstan with a focus on five main areas: vaccines, diabetes, cardiovascular, rare diseases, and over-the-counter medicines. In recent years, we have been particularly focused on Sanofi Pasteur vaccines and have an absolute leading market share in this segment, which is crucial as almost every child in the country has been vaccinated. Another focus area is diabetes. In this area, we have a full range of products. Cardiovascular (CVD) mortality rate is particularly high in Kazakhstan and we have a broad portfolio for CVD treatment too. We take care of rare diseases with products that are often needed by just a handful of patients. We also have an over-the-counter portfolio, with some of the products being in Kazakhstan for 50 years.

How important is Central Asia as a whole and Kazakhstan specifically for Sanofi?

Emerging markets are growing at high single-digit—or even double-digit—rates. The pharmaceutical industry and healthcare business are highly connected to overall GDP growth. We identify Kazakhstan as one of these markets that are expected to grow, and we expect the healthcare industry to open up to new opportunities as well. Thus, as a business we want to grow faster than the market. It does not mean we could open up Kazakhstan as a production hub—prices here are fairly high for the products that are produced locally and are more expensive than products from Europe or elsewhere. Production requires investment in infrastructure and innovation, and as a relatively small market in terms of population size, such a move would not be economical for Sanofi or patients at this stage. However, if we can bring true value to patients by having local production, then that is something I am happy to look into in the future.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

We had a difficult year in 2015 after the sharp devaluation of the tenge. However, we recovered in 2016 and established fairly strong growth trajectory for 2017. I hope this trend continues and we are working tirelessly to support our leading position in the market. An excellent year for us is not only related to revenues; we are also keen to bring innovation and new products to the market and our patients. We have several interesting products at affordable prices that we aim to introduce to the Kazakhstani market in 2018 and if we can do that, it will surely be a strong year. Kazakhstan will be an interesting market for Sanofi as we are well established here, and we have a long heritage and an outstanding reputation. We are not here for the short term. We want to continue to build our partnerships, which are now moving into the third decade. Innovation is certainly part of this strategy, though it is not easy to implement, and we want to ensure our organic growth here. Nonetheless, the future is bright because the country is growing and, as it does, the healthcare sector will evolve as well.