During the industrial training, all the trainee had a chance to interview Mr Khoo Joo Lee, the founder and the Research and Development (R&D) Director of HOE Pharmaceuticals Sdn. Bhd. 30 years of experience shared with all the students. For me, it is a very inspiring story. This is part of my notes during the interview:
HOE Pharmaceuticals Sdn. Bhd. (HOE) established in 1979 as K.H.HOE Farmasiutika Sdn. Bhd. According to Mr Khoo, inspiration of setting up the company especially its name was strongly motivated by his father’s 50 years of involvement in pharmaceuticals through his company, HOE Medical Supplies. Since the economy at that time was not very good and pharmacy is still new to people, K.H.HOE Farmasiutika spent more time in perfecting formulation of products. After a while, they increased production scale by taking over a bakery and converted it to a pharmaceutical factory. The factory had basic equipment for cream production that surpassed what other companies have.
The company’s approach during that time was to write about ways to identify skin condition and suitability and usefulness of the company’s products to treat that condition. Dermatological field has been an interest to the company because not many doctors were trained in dermatology. The subject usually became the last course and not much attention paid to it. Apart from that, skin problem such as pimple has a big and open market until now. By continuing discussion with doctors, the company became a reliable source of skincare information.
Due to many competitors, a company had to introduce something unique. HOE took that challenge in 1980s by introducing T3 oil as an alternative to smelly sulphur and salicylic acid to treat pimple. HOE also became the pioneer in producing the first generic broad spectrum imidazole antifungal cream for the Malaysian market. The company continued to lead the market by using betamethasone dipropionate which was a more potent corticosteroid compared to betamethasone velerate that already crowded in the market. To strengthen the involvement in corticosteroid market, the company shared its knowledge on corticosteroid with doctors via direct mailing. HOE used mild potency hydrocortisone and very potent betamethasone dipropionate as examples. Besides, the company was also the first to manufacture generic long acting oxymethazoline nasal decongestant. Next, the company involved in anti-infective agent by introducing gentamicin to lead new position of top manufacturer in dermatological.
Sales were conducted through mailing and prices were a little bit above other manufacturers to cover research and development costs. The higher prices give good impression because people tend to associate small manufacturers cheap goods. Other strategy used was to show mechanism of action of the products and the reason why they are appropriate for treatment of specific conditions. In short, supplementary advice was very effective as a tool for education and marketing. Mr Khoo also produced an atlas of dermatology which showed pictures of skin conditions. It was distributed to doctors and also used as continuing-education tool.
In conclusion, to succeed in business, the most important thing is to identify a niche by seeing things differently, to explore and grow out of it, to open eyes, hear and talk with people and then to exploit this niche.