Digitization in pharmaceutical sales - an interview with Mohammadi Akhabach

Mohammadi Akhabach - Serial Entrepreneur & Digital Leader

Is there a gene for new business models?

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Mr. Akhabach, in all your activities you are always either the first or an early adopter. Has that always been the case?

When I was 12 years old, I walked to school. Suddenly I stood in front of this shop and saw a jeans from Lewis 501 - I wanted to have it. My father would have me called crazy, if I had said I needed 149 Dollars for a pair of trousers. The little angel and the little devil had a short fight in my head, but the angel won and I wondered how I could get money. I took the city map and marked the areas that could be called well-off. Then I looked up when they pick up discarded things for the recycling yard and we walked the streets with my friends and discovered and collected incredible things which we sold at the flea market. That's how I got my 501 jeans. You should have some kind of goals. They will guide you automatically every day. You will develope at an early age a certain feeling to recognize and implement business models. This is the world we need in entrepreneurship: More dynamics, more movement and focus. It is precisely this spirit that is the indicator for becoming successful and earning money. The product must be in absolute focus! It´s not about earning money fast. Foccusing only on money will defocusing on the essential business model.   

What does this mean for new business models?

Concerning digital business models, it is very important that there is a very large market for them in order to tap the full market potential. In addition, small pilots must be implemented from the very beginning in order to learn from mistakes. These learnings in the context of the pilots are important for the product adaptation and are not critical, since the mistakes are already made in the pilot phase. After this the business is ready to scale and to be rolled-out in a large market. My motto is: "Go for a specific differentiated business model rather than a wide model. ”

Especially in the digital transformation, we need to change our perspective. In the course of progressive digitization, advertising, as we have long been accustomed to from print media, radio and television commercials, has also changed. The recipient no longer just consumes advertising, he interacts with it and demands added value. In the high-speed world of e-commerce, scalable services that simplify people's lives, from eating out to taking a cab to buying clothes on the Internet, are of great importance. Behind these services are online platforms that suspend space and time.

And what do you advise founders to do?

An important advice for founders is: No matter how good your business model looks, it is only as good as the people who work and live in it (smile). I stole that from Dee Hock*, but it hits the nail on the head. Of course, the core requirements such as the size of the vesting, proof of concept, time-to-market and scalability must also be met.

What has Corona changed?

Corona was a fire accelerator for the digital transformation. Home office and remote working are now the standard.  The QR Code is also experiencing its second spring, which can be experienced every time you visit a restaurant. Especially generations that had reservations about the digital world before COVID-19 became everyday users of digital services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many established companies are looking for new business models, what tips can you give them?

There is an atmosphere of optimism. Startups are trying to make a breakthrough with a radically digital and user-centered approach to create simple solutions that enable them to outrank the established ones. Large corporates are now aware, that they do not score points with their complicated processes.

Corporates are looking for ways to break up deadlocked structures with agile teams and to build new, not only purely digital services. The indicator for success is the spirit. In my opinion, the only way is implementing digitization top-down. It requires active input from C-Level and it's not enough if it's written in some brochure. Digitalization needs a face and that is people and the product.

Of course there is also the topic speedboat vs. tanker. When you work with processes that were set up 30 years ago, it is difficult to quickly implement the necessary corrections that have to be made at the beginning of every idea. It is also a bit unfair, because in a young company you can set up the processes for this specific business idea from the scratch. That makes many things easier. In addition, the incentives for the new digital generation, are no longer as material as they were 15 years ago. Status symbols, such as cars, money and title are decreasing as a motivational factor and topics such as work-life balance and remote work are gradually replacing these status symbols.  

One of your new projects/companies digitalizes pharmaceutical sales. How can one imagine that?

We are not digitizing pharmaceutical sales, that would be presumptuous. Through the AMIRA World (the largest closed pharmacy platform in Germany), we have created an emotional training platform for pharmacy employees. Especially the 8,400 participating pharmacies and 20,400 verified pharmacy employees, whom we have been able to recruit since the launch of the product in 2018, show the high level of interest in further training in digital and analogue form. Our goal was to emotionally charge the existing B2B relationships between industry and pharmacists, PTA, PKA and to impart knowledge with pleasure. The name AMIRA, which means princess  in Arabic and queen in Persian, also supports this message. AMIRA is the consulting queen in the pharmacy. In addition, the "A" also stands for „Apotheke“ (pharmacy). The core task with AMIRA was to create a digital consulting heroine, who acts as a companion in everyday professional life via various devices (57% mobile, 34% desktop and the rest tablet).

After the proof of concept and the learnings from the last two years, we have adapted the customer journey for members on the portal: What is the daily routine, what are the concerns and duties of a pharmacist? Where can he/she be supported and where is the interaction between industry and pharmacy? This resulted in a social network such as LinkedIn or Xing, but dedicated to pharmacy employees. In order to become part of the interactive and closed community, where like-minded people can exchange, educate and inform themselves, one must register with a professional certificate. Our turnover is in the 7-digit range and with the re-launch in October we will reach the next evolutionary stage of the AMIRA World 2.0.

Sounds like a success story. How do you find the right software tools for your individual challenges?

We have our own digital unit for this. We mainly look at ready-made tools and especially those that are web-based. But my credo is: Backwards it becomes important! Digitalization means the digitalization of processes. Those who are focused and have the best processes are fast and successful. So you shouldn't make any mistakes when choosing software tools, because the issue is not trivial and the company's entire processes depend on it. If you don't pay attention to this, a bottleneck can arise that you may not even see at the beginning. But this can be dangerous when it comes to speed. My conclusion therefore: Tools must be able to keep up with the growth and optimize the whole process and not solve a problem singularly.

*An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it. (Dee Hock)