By Omodele Adigun
Barring any unforeseen circumstance, May & Baker Plc may soon join the club of foreign exchange earners for the country. According to its Managing Director, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor, arrangement is in top gear to develop local capacity to get some nature care products, that would be forex boosters, done in Nigeria. Hear him: “Today, we are importing, but over time, we would begin to produce locally. And by so doing, we are transferring capacity; we are going to employ more people that will work in those factories. Nigeria, at some point, will begin to export some of these products to some parts of Africa and it would be a source of foreign exchange for this country” .
Recall that having spent over 73 years producing orthodox drugs, May & Baker (M &B) Nigeria Plc decided to partner with an Indian-based nature care company to produce and market a range of herbal products.
Giving another reason for the switch over, Okafor said it is an attempt to satisfy those Nigerians who do not take orthodox medicines.
“There are some Nigerians who are concerned about the side effects of some of the orthodox medicines and they would rather use herbal medicines. And because as a company, our mission is to improve the quality of life of every Nigerian throughout their lives. We see it as our responsibility to ensure that those Nigerians who, for some reasons, are scared of taking orthodox medicines are covered.”
Okafor, while launching the nature care products with his partner, Siddh:ayu Ayurvedic Research Foundation Limited, India, in his Ikeja office, recently explained more about the purposes for this joint venture.
I remember my visit to India, three or four years ago; I had opportunity to meet with Siddh:ayu Ayurvedic Research Foundation Limited. I was really impressed with the pedigree of the company.Of course, May & Baker has been around here for a long time and we have a very good reputation for quality. And we do not want to mess with that for any reason. That was why we sometimes want to be sure that we are dealing with the right partner. May & Baker has been around for over 73 years and for this period of time, we have built a very good reputation for quality. We have supported the health of Nigerians and the first time people in Nigeria heard of orthodox medicine, it was from May & Baker. At that point, May & Baker introduced some medicines, starting with what we called the Sulphurmites. They are the ancient antibiotics. From there, we went on to introduce some more modern anti-infectives, to cardiovascular drugs, and to pains, and to other classes of medicine. So we have, over these years, built some good reputation with orthodox medicines. But we are also aware that there are a good number of Nigerians who are concerned about the side effects of some of the orthodox medicines and they would rather use herbal medicines. And because as a company, our mission is to improve the quality of life of every Nigerian, and throughout their lives. We see it as our responsibility to ensure that those Nigerians who, for some reasons, are scared of taking orthodox medicines are covered. And because we also have reputation for quality, we needed to make sure that we have a partner that can deliver on our standards. That is why today we have with us a very reputable company in India, say the biggest in the area of herbal medicine or ayurvedic medicine, Siddh:ayu Research Foundation Limited, India, as our partner to deliver this new area of medicine to Nigerians.
How much is brought in by the partners?
I don’t like putting numbers; when you asked me how much we put into the partnership, I would not want to put numbers, but what I want to say is that both partners have seen the clear need for these kinds of products in Nigeria. And we are prepared to put in all resources that are required to ensure that we cover this country effectively.
So far, from what I have seen, we are the ones holding back Siddh:ayu because they are ready to run. We just want to make sure that we get it right because we don’t want to make mistakes and have to go back to correct that. So I want to assure you that we are ready and prepared to put in whatever resources that are necessary.
Will nature care range compete or cannibalise the orthodox range?
My answer to that question is no. In this country, there a lot of people who do not take orthodox medicines. Some take natural products, some take spiritual healing and orthodox. So there are three main segments. We have been in one, which is orthodox; now we are going to the other one. We are a company that feels the pulse of Nigerians. We cannot continue to pretend that there are no people in this country who do not take orthodox medicine. They are there!
The challenge we have is that most of what they take have issues; they are risky because the actives have not been identified; they have not been quantified; there is no proper prescription; and there is no toxicology test to determine whether these medicines are safe or not.
If you don’t do toxicology, you would not know whether the medicines would harm the person taking it. So we felt that, in order to ensure that these people get the right quality medicines they desire, we, as a company, should go into these things.
Our first move is to partner Siddh:ayu. We are also at the moment discussing with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology through FIIRO (Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi). And we are likely to have one or two products that will be launched, which are also going to be in the same basket. We are also discussing with the Federal Ministry of Health for another medicine that is for sickle cell anaemia, which is also natural. All those products are the ones we want to start with. And as we go on, we already have a commitment of Siddh:ayu that we would develop local capacity to get some of these products done in Nigeria.
Today, we are importing but over time, we would begin to produce locally. And by so doing, we are transferring capacity; we are going to employ more people that will work in those factories. Nigeria at some point will begin to export some of these products to some parts of Africa. And that would be a source of foreign exchange for this country.
I think it is a win win for May & Baker, for Nigerians that need these products and for Siddh:ayu that is going to offer us the technology as we go on.