May 22, 2023
Interview of the CEO / MB President of "Alkaloid" AD Skopje, Zhivko Mukaetov, for the Serbian magazine "PROFIT"
Dedicated to People and Health
1. The „Alkaloid“ factory was a pillar of the new industry even when it first started operating in the distant year of 1936. How has „Alkaloid“ changed over these 87 years of business operations?
Today, Alkaloid is among the leading pharmaceutical industries in Southeastern Europe with almost 2,700 employees, product placement in around 50 countries and a widespread marketing network of 21 offices stationed in 15 countries.
The success of Alkaloid is primarily based on the quality of the staff working in the company, the quality of the Alkaloid brand products and our individual brands, which were created by generations of our workers over the course of many years. During its long history, Alkaloid has overcome numerous crises,
always showing flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to changes. Perhaps the key words in the on text of successful development are commitment and hard work. Alkaloid is currently a company of 2,700 families, and each member of the large Alkaloid family contributes to the growth and development of our success story. We continue to work on the globalization of the Alkaloid brand with pride, dignity and dedication, while strictly taking into account ethical standards, credibility and a professional approach in all of our operations.
2. What did the global COVID-19 pandemic teach you and to what extent did it accelerate the development of new skills, creativity and innovation in the company?
The COVID-19 was a health crisis that required a human response. Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, Alkaloid was the first company to donate €200,000 to the country. By the end of 2020, the amount that was donated to health institutions, various associations and individuals in Macedonia and the region reached €1.2 million. We have learned that companies and individuals must show solidarity and a high level of empathy in times of crisis of any kind. Operational management was raised to the highest possible
level in all segments. Rationality and composure prevail in everyday processes, and finding alternative ways of communicating with our employees, customers, shareholders, sustainable adaptation to changes
and, above all, persistence, were the main features of everyday operation. I am very satisfied with the fact that, in the specific operating conditions, especially in the last three years, we have managed to secure a placement in all the markets we are present in and remain a trusted partner to healthcare systems, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of high-quality products at affordable prices in spite of impaired distribution channels.
3. What new technologies do you use in production to improve product quality? How much do you invest in software modernization and how important is the professional staff that manages the processes? What are the plans for future investments and further development? Which production capacities did the company recently invest in the most in accordance with its future development?
One of the factual constants which has followed Alkaloid through the 87 years of its existence are investments. Over the past 3 decades, we have intensively directed our investments towards following the latest trends and achievements in the pharmaceutical industry, investing in the creation and expansion of production capacities, research and development capacities, installation of modern equipment, laboratories, technologies, modern software and in well-trained staff. The pharmaceutical
industry is considered to be very dynamic, so investments are a necessary prerequisite for building a modern and competitive portfolio that will contribute to better positioning and better placements with a focus on the foreign market. We have invested €104.1 million in the countries of the region in the past 5 years alone, which is why the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum named us the leading investor.
We expect that our mega project „Tabletno 2“ will be completed by the end of the year. The project’s goal is to more than double the volume of the production of solid pharmaceutical forms and increase its flexibility.
4. Serbia has been a part of “Alkaloid’s” 87-year-long story for seven and a half decades. What does the Serbian market represent for your company, not only when it comes to export, but also strategy?
Serbia has been a part of Alkaloid’s success story for eight decades, which speaks volumes about our friendship, understanding, the closeness of our languages and culture, as well as our mutual tradition in
this market. According to Serbian pharmacists, Alkaloid’s medicines are always present in the formulary. We consider Serbia our domestic market and it is the first country outside the Macedonian borders where the company has its own production and wholesale operations employing over 150 people, which also speaks volumes about the strategic importance of this market for us. Alkaloid’s production program in Serbia includes over 300 products in the field of pharmacy and medicine, and I would like to mention our brand Becutan, which was and still is a notable part of the childhood for numerous generations in the
5. To which markets do you export your products? Which products do you export the most?
During the first quarter of 2023, 72% of our placement was intended for export, and the countries of the region are our traditional export markets, where our products were and still are a notable part of the childhood for numerous generations. For Alkaloid’s 85th anniversary, we opened an exhibition on the company’s history in the Skopje Museum. During the preparations, we received Becutan soaps with a wonderful message from a man from Bosnia, who estimates he bought the soaps during the eighties. Attached was a handwritten letter which read: “They retained their quality after all this time. We will continue to be your faithful customers”. Seeing a brand become an integral part of people’s lives is truly satisfying. Something they have trusted for years, which has earned their trust with its quality. However, when something succeeds on a smaller scale, it’s only natural for the success to spread. In addition to the countries in the region, we export to the European Union, Eastern Europe, North America, as well as to some countries in the Middle East. Canada, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia are some of the new markets that we have added to the list over the last years. Globalization of the Alkaloid brand is a venue we plan to stay focused on.
6. What business results did you achieve in 2022? Were they different from what was expected and by how much? Has the world crisis affected your operations and plans, and, if so, to what extent?
Last year was particularly economically difficult and full of challenges relating to healthcare, military, logistics, energy and economy. In spite of the numerous difficulties, we ended the year with total consolidated sales of €239.1 million, with a recorded growth of 12% and our consolidated net profit has
increased by 12% in comparison to 2021. When it comes to operating in a time of crisis, Alkaloid was sold for €69.29 million in 2007. During each subsequent year we managed to quadruple our placement in spite of the crisis. We stood out due to our quality, knowledge and development of products with added value, specialization in specific product portfolios and by strategically positioning the company outside of the „developing country“ framework.
7. Social responsibility and environmental protection are important segments of your company’s operations. What steps are you taking to make your company socially responsible?
Responsible attitude towards the environment and the community are a marathon that is an integral part of the everyday life of every Alkaloid Group employee in all countries where we operate, and the goal is to enable the company’s continuous progress. The ESG principles (Environmental Social Governance) have been practiced in Alkaloid for years through caring for the environment, placing a special emphasis on energy efficiency and the use of alternative energy sources, caring about the health and safety of employees, aiding and caring for the communities in which we live and function through numerous humanitarian and socially responsible activities in the sphere of education, sports, culture, youth development and generally promoting positive values.
8. What is your regional cooperation like?
Individually, all the markets in the Western Balkan region are small, but if we consider the region as a whole, then we are talking about a market with a population of about 20 million. As a company that represents one of the pillars of the Macedonian economy, Alkaloid firmly advocates for discovering various synergies in the region. We have even found ways to cooperate with our competitors in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have connected the region through a production plant in Belgrade, a chemical laboratory in Ljubljana and a corporate law team in Zagreb. We ourselves have created a regional fusion that supports business development. In general, businesses are the ones who should discover ways of more effectively promoting regional economic integration with the goal of ensuring a higher level of competitiveness, and thus a higher standard of living, more foreign investments
and a brighter future for future generations.
9. The success of „Alkaloid“ is primarily a reflection of the quality of the company’s HR. How important are continuous education and the increase in the number of professional staff for the development of the company?
Quality education and appropriate skills are essential when recruiting staff at „Alkaloid“, and the responsibility is all the greater when it comes to staff that possesses certain expertise. My personal impression is that the educational system, unfortunately, does not expand the students’ horizons! The lack of training and motivation is becoming increasingly evident among students at state universities, but we are trying to maintain a sustainable positive change in relation to these burning social issues, at least in our immediate environment. Through cooperation with educational institutions in our country, we have introduced various programs for education, dual education and internships, which have been successfully
implemented in our company for four years already, and we have also founded our own educational center. For the purposes of achieving quality education and creating future competent staff in the field of health and pharmacy, our Foundation „Trajche Mukaetov“ has provided scholarships to 619 students of pharmacy and medicine at the state university since its establishment in May 2007, and so far we have invested around €2 million in granting scholarships and one-time cash prizes to the best students in the generation. We continuously invest in the professional training of our staff, primarily in the field of pharmacy and pharmaceutical technology, where one of our main reference partners is the Faculty of Pharmacy in Belgrade.
10. Your job is dynamic, but tiring. How do you manage to overcome everyday stress? What do you do in your free time?
My father became the general manager of “Alkaloid” when I was 11 years old, so what I remember from my earliest childhood is his maximum dedication and the enormous effort he put in during his 22 years as the leader of the company during really turbulent times. From my personal position today, I can say that I am especially lucky to have the total support and understanding of my family for my business engagements and my dedication to my career. I think I owe my level-headedness to my family, which is my strongest driver and the key to all my successes. I was raised with traditional family values, and I aim to instill that mentality in my children. My greatest success will be to see them grow into complete individuals who contribute to the improvement of the environment in which they live and work one day. This is why, I wish for all of us to be in good health, above all!