By Hilary Mare
GAPS in the provision of quality health care throughout Namibia have long been felt and call for a holistic approach in which government teams up with the private sector to close the gaps. Notably in the private sector, Supremo Medical Supplies cc has made strides to this effect and Confidente this week interviewed its owner to acquire a broader view on past, present and future exploits of the company.
Give us an understanding of who you are?
My name is Simson Shilongo, one of the owners and Executive Chairman of the Supremo Group. I was born and bred in Onambome, Okalongo, in Omusati Region. I attended Nuuyoma Secondary School and graduated from UNAM, Harvard, USA, New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA and Marjon/University of Exeter UK among others. At the moment, I am doing LLB (Honours) at UNAM. My partner Nalisa Edwin Nalisa hails from Luhonono, in the Zambezi Region. He is a graduate from UNAM and a quality assurance expert. We are all passionate about enriching lives and providing health care products of superior quality.
Tell us more about your business and how it came about?
Supremo Medical Supplies cc specialises in the services of procurement of medical equipment and consumables, logistics, supply and delivery to clients’ site and commissioning and offering warranty support. Supremo Medical Supplies is also a majority shareholder in Supremo Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd, a pharmaceutical distributor and wholesaler whose manufacturing plants will be opened soon in partnership with one of the major pharmaceuticals company in the world.
Supremo Medical Supplies is the brainchild of Nalisa and I. We started operating in 2012 and ever since then, we have been going strong and I should say that with the funding from the SME Bank, the sky is the limit. Supremo came about when we identified a gap in the provision of quality health care throughout Namibia.
What would you say are the benefits of the SME Bank funding scheme?
The SME Bank has been a financial partner with Supremo Medical Supplies for the past two years and this partnership has enabled Supremo to be competitive and to grow in terms of personnel from two employees to the current seven. Additionally, the funding by the SME Bank has made it possible for us to source the best products for our clients irrespective of where in the world the product is manufactured. We represent some of the world’s best brands such as Boso, Nurel, Nulife, and Otto Bock to mention but a few because the funding by the SME Bank has made it possible.
In layman language, what are your duties in your business?
I am one of the owners of the business and my duties are really to make sure that business is done. My partner Nalisa Edwin Nalisa has also been instrumental in making sure that Supremo is a brand that is easily recognisable.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs hoping to join this type of business?
As an entrepreneur, to succeed in this business, one has to plan ahead, be smart and resilient. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you cannot do it either explicitly or by implications. Learn as much as possible about your business and regulations that are governing this industry. You should also be able to craft ways to deal with challenges that you may face in your business.
What challenges do you face in your business and in your quest to achieve your short and long term goals?
One of our biggest challenges is competing with bigger or well established companies that have been in the industry for many years. Another challenge is the unwillingness by clients to commit to a long term supply contract with an SME company such as ours. However, one should just be resilient and demonstrate to the client that you know your product and will always have products available when they are needed.
How do you view your business growth since inception?
Our business has grown exponentially since 2012 mainly because of the dedication of our staff and funding for the projects by the SME Bank. We now have our own building that we have fully paid for and a fleet of delivery vehicles to make sure the goods are delivered to our clients on time.
Do you think the medical industry is competitive in Namibia?
The medical industry is only competitive in terms of the number of companies that submit bids when a tender is advertised, but not in terms of offering continuous sustainable quality services. This is where we set ourselves apart from the rest of our peers.
What are your future plans?
We import all our products from other countries and the sustainability of import is not predictable. We would like to grow the Supremo brand beyond the borders of Namibia. Our plan is to start a medical devices manufacturing plant in order to contribute to Vision 2030.
What is your view on the Namibian climate with regards to business?
The business climate is stable and as people’s standards of living improve, we expect the business to grow in an upward direction.
What do you do in your leisure and social time?
I hardly have leisure time but when I get the chance, I go to the gym and do a bit of travelling with my wife to exotic places such as Swakopmund, Rundu and Okalongo.
What is your source of inspiration?
Knowing that the products we supply are saving lives is the reason we make sure that we offer a ‘supremo’ service to all our clients. On a very personal note, my two kids inspire me every day to do better. They know things that I am sure I did not know when I was their age.
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