Jul 18, 2022

Bloomberg Adria Interview of Mr. Zhivko Mukaetov, Chief Executive Officer and Management Board President of Alkaloid AD Skopje

Mr. Mukaetov, Alkaloid as a Macedonian brand, has been around for 86 years. Its products are sold in over 40 markets worldwide. What are the plans for the future globalization of the company?

Alkaloid owes its success primarily to the quality of its staff, its products, the Alkaloid brand, and all the individual brands that generations of Alkaloid employees have built in the past. In a nutshell, we owe it to our employees' commitment and hard work. Concerning Alkaloid's future globalization - at the moment, the company conducts business through 20 offices outside its Skopje headquarters. We surely plan to expand because we know that we have to compensate for the small size of the domestic market by committing to exports and conquering new markets.

Speaking of exports - how can Macedonian companies increase their exports and become more competitive in the international market?

Each market has its specificities. To conquer any new market, you need to approach it individually; you need good local staff, a competitive product portfolio, and of course, investment in marketing for good market positioning.

The world faced many challenges in the past two years, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic. What impact did it have on the pharmaceutical industry? What did the pandemic actually teach us?

Even without a pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry is strictly regulated and must meet the highest operational requirements. COVID was a significant challenge for us. However, from today's perspective, I am satisfied with how our company coped with the pandemic. We managed to secure large quantities of strategic raw materials, reassigned part of our production facilities to meet the domestic population demand, and maintained all processes. Most importantly, we preserved the health and safety of our employees. I am particularly proud that we showed solidarity, proactivity, adaptability, and a high level of empathy. So, in all its severity, we managed to respond humanely to the crises.

What did the pandemic show you concerning the potential to expand on the domestic market? We spoke about globalization, but what about the domestic market and further development and investment there?

We continue to invest in research and development all the time. For us, it is essential to have a modern portfolio of products with added value that can compete globally. Of course, first, we promote that portfolio on the domestic market, and only then do we market it internationally.

What do you expect from Alkaloid’s operation until the end of the year?

This year is full of challenges. The health crisis from the beginning of the year is now also a military crisis. One challenge is the rise of energy prices, which increased by several times while transport costs also surged. Another challenge is to provide enough raw materials and supplies. All this made it increasingly more complex to bring products to some markets and market them effectively. I, nevertheless, think that if we rely on ourselves and our capacities, we can overcome these challenges. I am optimistic and convinced that, despite all the challenges, Alkaloid will continue to grow in 2022.

The business community increasingly sounds the alarm about the shortage of staff. Do you face this problem too, and what should policymakers change to improve the situation in this field?

At the moment, human resources are probably one of the greatest challenges. Alkaloid is what it is today because of the pool of high-quality professional staff it attracts. However, it is a fact that it is increasingly harder to obtain such professionals. Our educational system produces an insufficient number of skilful professionals in some segments, overproducing in others. To fight this, we endeavoured into several projects we think are very important. One is the internship project, where several educational institutions send students to work at Alkaloid. Another is the dual education project. It is very likely that we will soon open an academy to build specific skills and knowledge. It is one of the ways to cope with the shortage of skilled staff in general, but also people with particular skills that the company needs to continue to grow at the same pace in the long run.

You mentioned dual education – do you think it is a model that requires a more serious consideration?

Absolutely! We are quite pleased with the quality of staff coming to work for our company out of the internship program. We hope to obtain the same results with dual education because students work with mentors, gaining additional skills they cannot realistically acquire in the educational system. After that, they are ready to join the workforce in the pharmaceutical industry easier.

What are you particularly proud of in the Alkaloid’s 86 years in business?

Primarily, I am particularly proud of our employees. We indeed have many people who have accumulated enormous knowledge they can pass on to the new generations. The company has gone through several social systems and is still a strong company. In the past 15 years, its turnover increased fourfold, and its products compete in over forty markets globally, so yes - I am proud that we are building a modern company together.

It became clear that human resources are the companies' strongest asset. What do companies need to do to improve it and to really invest in human capital?

We have to fight to keep our people. We are aware that young people throughout the Southeast Europe region are leaving their countries, and we must find ways to motivate them to stay. To make them stay, we must provide them with the skills they need and the technology that will make it attractive for them to work and live here. Of course, we also need to find ways to care for their families and the communities in which we live. For example, we started to subsidise the enrolment of our employees’ children in extracurricular activities. They can attend foreign language classes, sports activities, dance classes, or something else. We only want to contribute and motivate them further. We were also a pioneer and the first company to provide additional private health insurance for all our employees, so the company protects their health too.

Lastly, you are a sports fan who also invests in sports. What would you advise the business community and the state authorities about investing in Macedonian sports?

I would call as many people as possible from the business community to get involved in sports. Our company, and I personally, are very active. We are present in handball, chess, and other sports as well. I would call on the authorities to develop the very-much-needed, serious sports strategy. We need infrastructure where young people can engage in sports activities. We need a commitment to motivating the youth to get involved in sports as much as possible and stay away from street vices.

Mr. Mukaetov, thank you for the interview for Bloomberg Adria.

Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.