A real focus on niche markets
Because of the toughness of the distribution business in the country, an opportunistic company like Pacific Health Care (PHC)
has thoughtfully chosen to follow another path. This marketing and distribution company has been present in Thailand for more
than 40 years. Today it has more than 300 employees, the majority of whom are in marketing-related roles, and it has a turnover
of $25 million. PHC provides marketing and sales services to the medical community (hospitals and clinics) and over-the-counter
(OTC) channels, including direct-to-consumer marketing and sales services to the modern trade retail channel. "We have been
able to develop a one-stop solution for high-quality healthcare and related products," explained Cyrille Frederik Buhrman,
Pacific Healthcare's managing director. "Another key ingredient for our success has been our ability to concentrate on specialized
niche imported consumer health, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals markets and become dominant in such areas."
HR is another competitive advantage that allowed PHC to enjoy such a dominant position. "We excel at bridging the gap between
East and West thanks to a workforce consisting of several key Thais who have either been Western educated or heavily exposed
to the West," said Buhrman. "They are capable of successfully applying Western knowledge to the local market."
In the future, PHC intends to remain a niche player, focusing on specialized and value-added products. Furthermore, the company
is expanding into the ASEAN region. "We see that many companies want to be present in these markets, but they do not identify
them as strategic markets," said Buhrman. "This is why they chose to outsource us to be their distributors here and take care
of their businesses. PHC is determined to keep on bringing innovative products into the region, strengthening collaboration
with leading companies and help improving the quality of life."
The Medical Tourism Boom
Medical tourism could give a boost to the pharmaceutical industry in Thailand. The Kingdom enjoys top-quality hospitals that
profit from an increasing number of international tourists attracted by world-class medicine at developing-world prices. Hospitals
such as Bumrungrad, Samitivej, or Bangkok General are considered magnets for medical tourists. The others are big private
hospitals that are starting to do some similar things. "Just going in to some of these hospitals, you'd think you would have
walked into a hotel," said Robert Mitchell, general manager of Roche Thailand. "People travel from the US to be cured for
half of what it would cost in their country, and the physicians and surgeons doing the operations have often been trained
in the US or the UK."
At present, Thailand has 40 private hospitals and is expected to have a total of 60 by 2008. Out of the $4 billion that the
region is expecting in medical tourism, Thailand will attract 47 percent. The Bumrungrad hospital, located in the heart of
Bangkok, will be at the lead.
Founded in 1980, Bumrungrad is the largest hospital in all Southeast Asia with 554 beds and the capacity to take care of 3,500
patients per day. It receives more foreign tourists than any other hospital in the world. Bumrungrad has benchmarked itself
as the first hospital in the world to receive ISO 9001 certification, the first hospital in Thailand to receive the Thai hospital
accreditation, which complies with Canadian standards, and the first in the region to receive specialty accreditations to
treat complex heart diseases. It also has the largest clinical trial center in ASEAN, a strategic area for the future development
of the business. Newsweek called Bumrungrad "Asia's first internationally accredited hospital and one of the most modern and
efficient medical facilities in the world." It listed Thailand's largest private hospital first amongst 10 "worldclass destinations"
including hospitals in Germany, France, the UK, and the US.
Surfing on the wave of medical tourism, Bumrungrad has already paired up with Thai Airways International to offer foreign
patients package tours combining medical treatment with sightseeing.