Less than 60 years ago, mud huts stood in for hospitals, one in three women died during childbirth and diseases like malaria and tuberculosis were rampant in Abu Dhabi. This was the reality faced by its healthcare industry in the early 1960s. But it all became a thing of the past after the UAE was founded in 1971.
Abu Dhabi’s healthcare sector has been on an upward trajectory ever since. Proper hospitals were opened, community clinics established, and the number of doctors, nurses and medical staff grew rapidly.
Throughout this movement, one man stood out as a true pioneer and visionary: the late Dr. Hassan A Moosa.
After completing his medical education in Germany, he opened his own private clinic in 1968. One year later, he founded Gulf Drug in an effort to provide quality healthcare products for clinics, pharmacies and hospitals in the MENA region.
Since then, the company has become an important member of the UAE’s health sector, riding its ebbs and flows and contributing to its progress.
Today, the legacy left by Dr. Hassan lives on as the Al Moosa brothers take the family business into its next 50 years. "We are second-generation owners," says Joint Managing Director Rashad Al Moosa.
"My brother took over in 1996 when our father passed away, while I finished college in the US. I joined the company in 2001 and have now been with the group for 19 years."
"When I came on board, the firm was going through a transformation," he continues. "It was necessary, but also a challenge because at Gulf Drug, everything we do follows a very strict protocol.
After all, we are delivering medicines and lifesaving products. We are the interface between the manufacturer and the client."
By listening and understanding, we were able to identify where we could be of help. Nobody can achieve anything alone. We must work together.
Although Rashad and his brother saw a lot of opportunities to modernise Gulf Drug, the first thing they did was actually quite traditional – they chose to sit back and listen.
"This is the most important part of any business," he explains. "It’s imperative to have an open mind and listen to the requirements of both our customers and suppliers.
They come with a wealth of knowledge and experience gathered over many decades. We have been able to learn from them and upgrade and improve our own processes." In doing so, he says, they were able to redefine Gulf Drug as a reliable partner.
"By listening and understanding, we were able to identify where we could be of help," Rashad says. "Nobody can achieve anything alone. We must work together."
As one of the largest distribution channels for medical supplies in the GCC region and with a network spanning across the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Gulf Drug prides itself on being a capable partner.
Working with approximately 100 suppliers around the globe, it would be easy for some relationships to slip through the cracks, but not at Gulf Drug.
Here, every alliance is accounted for. "The way we have structured our operations ensures that every supplier receives the proper attention needed to market and sell their range of products," he says.
"While some companies may find that giving priority to individual clients is difficult when they have many, we have organised ourselves well, creating focus groups to manage our accounts efficiently. This way, nobody gets left out."
These groups have been essential to growing the business and helping Gulf Drug stay ahead of the curve. "We are in every sector of medical supplies, from pharmaceutical to biotech, oncology to consumables and laboratory to imaging equipment," Rashad reveals.
"And, around 20 years ago, we took a strategic and very costly decision to invest heavily in the service arm of the company. We wanted to provide maintenance for the equipment that we supply our customers."
In order to successfully do so, Gulf Drug has more than 200 biomedical engineers in its employ today. "It adds great value to the manufacturers to know that their products are installed and taken care of properly. To add another layer of complexity, we are also looking at integrated solutions within the medical industry, which will connect machines and enable them to "talk" to each other."
Thanks to its ongoing efforts in innovation, Gulf Drug’s employees are consistently given chances to upskill. Staff development is a part of a three-tier approach the company has in place for its long-term growth plan.
"We must invest time, money and patience to bring our people up to speed with the latest procedures, ethical guidelines and technologies that are being implemented," Rashad explains.
"Having well-trained employees is important. Automation may be gaining traction worldwide, but there are certain aspects of the work that cannot do without the human touch. Ultimately, our staff remain one of our biggest assets."
The other two tiers are the building of physical infrastructure and the implementation of technology. Gulf Drug is currently in the process of expanding its facilities, with its most recent addition being a 3,000-square-metre extension constructed on top of its existing building in Dubai.
It plans to continue this expansion over the next couple of years in Abu Dhabi with a facility that meets the stringent standards set out for medical suppliers by the Ministry of Health.
As for technology, upgrades are being made to Gulf Drug’s systems to make them more efficient. "Saving time means serving our customers better," Rashad says.
"When we apply technology to a product, we are no longer just taking an item off the shelf and selling it; it gives a value-add. This is an important process because there are ethics involved in everything we do. In the end, the person who uses the product is a patient, and they need everything to be perfect."
Of course, things aren’t always going to transpire as desired, and difficulties will inevitably arise. That’s when Rashad says it’s important to stay focused on the goal and meet challenges head-on.
"We don’t look at obstacles as hindrances to success. Instead, we aim to overcome them and turn them into opportunities," he shares. A main concern for the firm today is rising costs.
"We must manage our operations more efficiently without affecting the quality of the services and products we deliver. Efficiency is key in our organisation."
With the solid foundation built by their father, combined with Gulf Drug’s ambitious leadership team, Rashad is confident in the company’s continued success. "We have the willpower to drive change," he says.
"We have the energy to adjust, improve and continuously deliver the excellence we have been known for in the market for the last 50 years. We are in it for the long run."
1960s – Gulf Drug began operations via pharmacies and wholesale distribution.
1970s – It started importing medical disposables and instruments.
1980s – The firm expanded its range of pharmaceutical products, medical disposables and devices and began importing high-tech medical equipment.
1990s – It continued expanding its product portfolio in the segments it served, providing biomedical turnkey business solutions and complete product and service packages.
2000s – It embraced physical expansion by opening regional branches while continuing to grow its product portfolio and client services.
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