Tamer Group on Saudi Arabia’s healthcare market

World finance speaks to Mohammed Tamer, Managing Partner of Tamer Group, to discuss how Saudi Arabia’s healthcare market has evolved

September 5, 2014

Social development has been in focus over the past decade in Saudi Arabia, with healthcare at the forefront. Over the years, Tamer Group has become a leader in healthcare, bringing out a range of innovative pharmaceutical products. World Finance speaks to its Managing Partner, Mohammed Tamer, to find out about developments in the kingdom, its initiatives for promoting women, and strategy for future growth.

World Finance: Well Mohammed, maybe you can start by telling me, how has healthcare developed in Saudi Arabia over the past few years?

Mohammed Tamer: It has been developed positively in terms of expanding new hospitals. The Ministry of Health is really working hard at expanding hospitals in a very quick period of time. They’re also encouraging more hospitals for the private and the government sector. Today the healthcare in Saudi Arabia is a challenge. E-health is an issue. There, of course, the hospitals are automated, but there is no interlink between them. So, like everywhere else, infrastructure solutions, IT solutions are challenges, and human capital or human workforce is a challenge, to obtain further growth to cope with the population.

World Finance: How much is the healthcare industry worth, and how do you see it developing with government incentives?

We are number one in pharmaceutical in Saudi Arabia today, in value and in quantity

Mohammed Tamer: They are building over 138 hospitals, they’re reaching 44,000 beds. This is a ratio of 3.5 beds per 1000 of the population. Currently we’re at one bed per 1000, so it’s quite a considerable increase. The total healthcare budget is expected for 2014 to close around $27.4 bn. If the expenditure continues the same, it will reach around $47 bn in the next two years.

World Finance: Well as a leading Saudi conglomerate, how is Tamer Group structured, and how involved are you in driving the country’s healthcare sector forward?

Mohammed Tamer: My grandfather was a pharmacist, and moved into Saudi Arabia in 1922, specifically Jeddah, and at that time he was the first pharmacist, and opened the first pharmacy. Later on, my late father and my uncle decided to expand the pharmaceutical distribution network of the Tamer family business, and we have opened all over the kingdom and the GCC. Today we are a company structured of three divisions. Healthcare, which is pharmaceutical and medical devices. Consumer, which is fast-moving products, beauty care, and hair colourants. And the third category is the prestige perfumery and luxury items. We are number one in pharmaceutical in Saudi Arabia today, in value and in quantity. We bring the latest products that are available for the local market, and we also manufacture locally, for the Saudi and the GCC Levant area, and North Africa.

World Finance: What are the health trends in the country, and how are you responding to these?

Mohammed Tamer: Well the health trends, unfortunately, are the same as most developed countries, where you have the issue of NCD, non-communicable diseases. This is in Saudi Arabia. The society has become an affluent society, and unfortunately obesity, lack of activity, has contributed to the increase of NCD, especially diabetes. Today in Saudi Arabia, about 25 percent of the population are diabetic. This trend is going on worldwide, but in Saudi Arabia it is a major part, and everybody is tracking it. In addition, also heart disease. We are the number one importer of products that treat diabetics and heart diseases in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the ageing population, and that requires a specific treatment for elderly people.

World Finance: You have a strong CSR programme. How are you aiding the development of Saudi Arabia?

Mohammed Tamer: In 2011, we made a CSR department, extending an arm’s help to society. We are contributing a different arm for art and culture, where we invite Saudi artists to come to London, to the UK and the United States to represent their artists, to get more exposure. We also have an arm for education and training, where we teach and educate Saudi women and men the vocational work that they need to join organisations. In addition, we are a member of a ministry of labour organisation, a non-profit organisation, helping to recruit disabled employees.

World Finance: You’re also dedicated to the empowerment of women. What initiatives do you have in place?

[W]e have recruited many women over the past five years in our organisation, and we will continue to do so

Mohammed Tamer: In Saudi Arabia, women are still at home, because they are not allowed to drive and so on. But we have strengthened our human resources department to cater for the specific needs in hiring ladies in the offices at work, and the operation. The issue today is that we have to meet what they need. For instance, in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive to work, so you have to give them a transportation allowance. We are trying to get them to be more independent, so we give them housing allowance, benefits such as daycare for their children while they’re at work, so their mind is free to be at work and working, rather than being worried about their children. So yes, we have recruited many women over the past five years in our organisation, and we will continue to do so, and try to give them the best benefits, that we will be the number one employer in Saudi Arabia for women and male subjects.

World Finance: And finally, what’s your strategy for future growth?

Mohammed Tamer: More joint venture, investment in our operation. However, we would like to also increase, expand our manufacturing, and one of the strategies is to develop and improve our research and development, and manufacturing pharmaceutical products. In addition to that, we are investing in our operations facilities and our IT solutions.

World Finance: Mohammed, thank you.

Mohammed Tamer: Thank you very much.