STRIVING FOR A BETTER FUTURE

Turkey 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

What separates Bıçakcılar from its foreign counterparts is the determination to bring affordable solutions to patients in developing and underdeveloped countries.

Souheil El Hakim
BIOGRAPHY

Souheil El Hakim has spent over 25 years holding responsibilities in a variety of multi-functional roles in the medical device industry. He is the CEO of Bıçakcılar Medical Devices, Turkey's largest medical device manufacturer. He holds a bachelor's in engineering, computer, and communications from American University in Beirut and a master's in biomedical engineering and a PhD in electrical engineering from McGill University.

How does Bıçakcılar shape its investment strategy?
First, we need to determine the fastest-growing chronic diseases in Turkey, the region, and the world and then develop solutions to combat them. We want to grow into areas where we can compete and innovate. We have identified growth in lifestyle diseases related to heart and brain. While we have been traditionally distributors of therapies in these areas with the support of our extensive production facilities, we are working on making a direct impact on the healthcare trends. We are not competing against the established players; we want to bring in solutions that are within our specialty area and core set of expertise.

How does your growth strategy rely on innovation rather than price competition?
We started with a vision that focuses on the well-being of the patient. Ours is a vision that strives for a future where patients can live a quality life with easy and affordable access to quality healthcare. The patient is key to reach some of our targets for 2020. We will achieve our goals by investing in innovation and not by competing in terms of price. We already started developing a competitive edge by adding value and creating value proposals. We also want to increase our exports, which make the bulk of our revenue. These two strategies fit well together; in Turkey, localization and innovation are highly important whereas outside of Turkey disruptive innovation is the most important factor. The Turkish healthcare system is advanced. We have successfully penetrated the local market, which means we can also succeed internationally. Our strategy will help Turkey become a hub for medical device manufacturing.

How are you rethinking your sales channels?
Our goal is to stay in close touch with all the stakeholders, who are themselves in touch with the patients. This is better than choosing a channel and limiting ourselves. That means we have to step back and look at expanding our channels, rather than focusing on one channel. This will enable us to get in touch with hospitals, government officials, clinics, and the companies that work with them. We are also segmenting the markets and researching which segments need the most attention. One segment we are increasing our focus on is pediatric packages. In the US and Western Europe, there are hospitals specifically for children, and we are really excited about serving them. We are doing it through market segmentation, providing solutions such as surgical space and technical services, which is a huge added value. Notably, we are the only Turkish company with its own technical service, as others are mostly outsourcing it.

What are Bıçakcılar's largest export markets and where would you like to expand?
In terms of percentage, Western Europe is our biggest market; however, we don't offer the full variety of our products there. Fortunately, the situation is changing; our standards and quality can compete strongly against everyone in Western Europe. We have another way of looking at markets. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, some markets cannot afford new solutions. The majority of products being produced in western countries are not designed for developing and underdeveloped markets. We grabbed this opportunity by bringing in affordable solutions that can still do the job. This way we can boost our sales volume rather than relying on revenues from a few big clients. We want to serve as many patients as possible.

What are your primary goals for 2020?
We are taking big steps. We started as a family business and are now planning to go global. This requires big changes in the organization. We have to first and foremost build the internal structure, bring in the right talent, and cultivate existing talent. One of our goals is to enter the US market because being able to sell in the US proves a company's competitiveness and quality.