A pill for every Juan
() - September 13, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - For businessman Benjamin Liuson, it all started with eyeglasses and picture frames.

Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, Liuson — now owner and president of The Generics Pharmacy, the largest drugstore chain in the Philippines today — shared the love for his craft by involving himself in the family business of making eyeglasses and frames. “Back when I was in high school, I used to be the ‘accountant and the auditor’ for our family business,” he relates. “Instead of asking my parents for salaries, I just offered to sell our products to various people and get commission from what I got afterwards. It helped improve my skill of dealing with people and selling ideas, which I think have shaped and nurtured the businessman in me.”

Liuson shares that when his parents bought a German company that wholesales and imports medicines in 1960, it signaled his passion and desire to provide “a pill for every Juan.”

They then started promoting low-priced and quality generic medicines and, after seeing its huge potential on the market, he established The Generics Pharmacy in 2001.

The gift of health and life are precious things that every individual should learn to preserve and care for. But with soaring prices and lack of access to quality, affordable medicines, every disadvantaged Filipino is bound to suffer even more.

 “If you are poor, you have no political connection, you are not known to the medical service provider and if the latter thinks you have no education, you are likely to die,” writes Danilo Reyes in a recent article for the Asian Human Rights Commission.

This speaks true of the sad fate that most Filipinos today have to endure. With barely enough money to go by every day, Filipino families don’t have any other chance but to ignore illnesses so that they can put food on the table.

Generic drugs have been available to the public for a long time now. Despite the fact that the government has already mandated doctors to prescribe generics to their patients, many still refrain from doing so because of the “politics” involved in the process.

This was the challenge tackled head on by Liuson.

“The huge price of medicines today should be the last thing that every Filipino should actually worry about,” says Liuson during a recent interview at the Franchise Asia 2011 press conference. “If you buy paracetamol from one drugstore, you’ll have to pay P6 for each tablet. But with generics, it’s only 60 cents.”

Thus, Liuson decided to do what no other businessman thought of doing in the pharmaceutical retail industry: cut down prices of medicines by over 80-90 percent, challenge the market, and bring generics closer to the masses through rapid expansion.

Right now, Liuson says that The Generics Pharmacy has a total of 1,200 outlets nationwide, an immense growth since venturing out to franchising four years ago.

“Out of the 1,200 branches we now have, only one outlet is actually company-owned,” Liuson revealed. “That’s the secret behind our success. You don’t have to keep the profit all to yourself; let all Juan dela Cruz earn for their families, too.”

Liuson has always maintained a unique approach in his business with a commitment and dedication to serve people. “I see my business as a form of promoting corporate social responsibility by providing quality and low-priced generic medicines to millions of Filipinos.”

For most companies, CSR simply stands for corporate social responsibility, where employees reach out to those in need through fund-raising campaigns, supporting charity institutions and providing scholarship grants to deserving individuals. But for Liuson and his company, there’s a greater good in doing a different kind of CSR — one that stands for corporate spiritual responsibility.

“My goal as a Christian is for every Filipino and every home in the Philippines to own and embrace the love for the Bible,” Liuson says. “Every year, we spend around P20 million to distribute about 200,000 Bibles. For us, the most important thing is to land in heaven because life is too short.”

Armed with a noble vision, Liuson and his company do not only promote sound physical health among Filipinos today, but more importantly, help shape the spiritual health of the entire society.

The Generics Pharmacy aims to spread this humble mission to more and more Filipinos by expanding their business through franchising. In fact, international franchising delegates have expressed admiration over the business model that Liuson has and sees it as a very promising enterprise that they can adopt in other countries.

Liuson sees a unique opportunity to help just as The Generics Pharmacy participates in the world’s biggest gathering of local and international franchise experts at the SMX Convention Center Manila with the staging of Franchise Asia 2011 on September 19-25.

“Right now, our focus is to expand further here in the Philippines, and maybe in another two or three years we can think of venturing out to other countries,” Liuson says. “As I tell everybody, if you want to go into a business, go with the basic necessities because you will definitely make money out of it. Whether you like it or not, people have to take medicines, just like food and other services.”

With such a very vibrant attitude towards doing business, Liuson emerges as a premier model for every aspiring entrepreneur who dreams of reaping the fruits of their success. The success of The Generics Pharmacy is just starting to unravel a story of its own, and this is inspired by the wisdom behind a man’s passion to provide every Juan dela Cruz the care that they deserve.

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