'Husay at Malasakit': The core values that propel Unilab's drive for quality excellence | Inquirer Business

‘Husay at Malasakit’: The core values that propel Unilab’s drive for quality excellence

/ 07:00 AM November 16, 2022

To every Filipino, Unilab is synonymous with “trusted quality healthcare.” And what led to its billing as the leading pharmaceutical brand in the country today are the same core values that inspired the company’s founders to pursue quality excellence 78 years ago—Husay at Malasakit.

From its manufacturing to pharmacovigilance practices, from its leadership to rank-and-file personnel, from its corporate partners to its grassroots advocacy stakeholders, and from R&D to the point-of-sale, husay at malasakit consistently drive Unilab’s pursuit for unparalleled quality excellence since its Day One. At every step of the way, Filipinos observe that each member of the company is moved and fueled by these traits, thus, ingraining the “Alagang Unilab” experience in the hearts and minds of the people.

Unilab Husay at Malasakit

Unilab’s Trusted Quality Healthcare tagline is evident in the leadership of its brands, which have been part of Filipino families from generation to generation.

This is why when Unilab, Inc. President Sebastian F. Baquiran was invited to share the company’s best practices and its story at the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Quality Award (PQA), he highlighted how husay (excellence) and malasakit (unparalleled care) set them apart from other companies that were also born in the post-war era, and even those that came before and after that trying period in Philippine history.

Unilab Husay at Malasakit

DTI Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual (extreme right) presents the Plaque of Appreciation to Unilab President Sebastian F. Baquiran while DTI- Competitiveness Bureau Director Lilia G. Salonga looks on. Unilab was the first recipient of the Level 4 of the Philippine Quality Award, a national award program similar to the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award of the US, Europe and Asia.

Unilab owns the distinction of being the first recipient of PQA’s highest-level quality seal back in 2008. 

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The Philippine Quality Award Program is a global competitiveness template that aims to encourage and engage public and private organizations and other stakeholders to strive for and attain performance excellence. It is a national award program, comparable to the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award of the US, Europe and Asia, that recognizes the achievements of public and private sector organizations in their journey toward performance excellence. The PQA is a by-level recognition, with Level 4—first achieved by Unilab—being the highest.

Driven by its core values and purpose to work toward a healthier Philippines one quality medicine at a time, Unilab takes to heart its passion that all Filipinos have the right to quality healthcare.

Humble beginnings

Mr. Baquiran, in his address at the PQA rites, gave a glimpse of how Unilab started. He shared that “malasakit” was already in full display way back in 1945—right after World War II, when Unilab (formerly United Drug) was just a small drugstore in Binondo, Manila. The founders, Jose Y. Campos and Mariano K. Tan, were looking to make a difference in the post-war era. 

Unilab Husay at Malasakit

Unilab began its operations as a corner drugstore in Sto. Cristo, Binondo, Manila in 1945.

“While the nation was in the midst of rebuilding itself after massive destruction, supplies were scarce, even down to the necessities like basic medicines. Our founders saw this as an opportunity to help fill the gap in healthcare. Simply put, they wanted to provide quality yet affordable medicines to those in need, even if it meant moving mountains to do so,” Baquiran said.

During those times, the two entrepreneurs would go the extra mile for customers, even going around town using Mr. Campos’ bicycle just to get the stocks needed. 

“This is malasakit at its core. Going beyond what is required of you—making people feel they matter—because they do,” Baquiran added.

The company has been practicing the culture of husay, malasakit, and bayanihan to go above and beyond one’s call of duty to be able to provide unparalleled customer service.

Thus, over the years, Unilab has become a consistent leader in healthcare not just in the Philippines, but throughout Southeast Asia.

Best Practices 

The Unilab President also shared their best practices on seven fronts that allowed them to achieve the PQA seal in 2008 and how they further drive excellence and quality in the present:

1. Leadership

First, he said that their leadership is linked to their values, being caring and results-oriented. Emphasizing their strength in providing customers with what they need, they coined the now-household phrase “Alagang Unilab.” The company is always growing and transforming itself to deliver quality healthcare.

“Our Group President and CEO, Mr. Clinton Campos Hess, is the visionary who initiated a culture of transformation, allowing us to identify our cultural strengths and hone them to our advantage,” Baquiran stressed.

2. Strategy

Baquiran also mentioned that Unilab strives to reach more people even outside the country, which is why the company expanded to Southeast Asia in pursuit of its commitment to its strategies. 

They also made another strategic move a few years ago to restructure the organization, expanding into five separate core businesses that would better serve a diverse set of customers: branded pharma, generics, personal care, hospitals and clinics, and even animal health.

3. Customer Focus

He then reiterated that their priority and focus is really the customer, which is at the heart of their consistent excellence. 

“We are relentless in pursuing excellence in insighting, as well as in developing our foresighting capabilities. We believe that to serve customers better, it is not enough to understand their motivations or behaviors today, but it is of greater importance to understand future needs to proactively develop relevant healthcare solutions. At Unilab, we continue to push ourselves to evolve alongside the needs of our customers and of the market,” Baquiran emphasized.

4 .Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management

With this, the company uses advanced marketing technologies and engages with the right partners, gathering and organizing customer data, looking beyond demographics, and deepening their understanding of customer interests, motivations, desires, and needs.

“Having richer data about our customers gives us an advantage in terms of our engagements and ways of making people experience Alagang Unilab—developing tailor-fit offerings customized to meet their needs,” Baquiran said.

5. Operations

Unilab also makes sure that its operations are ​​implemented with a Quality Management System that aligns with global standards on quality, safety, and efficacy. 

“Our role in health is critical, which is why we recognize that it is vital not just to do things right, but also to ensure continuity of our operations, so we can cater to our customers’ needs,” Baquiran mentioned.

6. Workforce

With its employees as the company’s lifeline, Unilab takes pride that its workforce demonstrates unwavering commitment and excellence in the face of extraordinary challenges, and that they ensure the continuity of operations for the customers.

To show its genuine appreciation, Unilab also provides quality care to its own employees. Beyond benefits, the company fosters a culture of meritocracy and fairness so it can offer opportunities for personal growth and professional development to the employees.

7. Business Results

“With all these efforts, we have been able to achieve our targets and grow our business despite the challenges and volatility of the market—re-asserting once more our position as the premier healthcare provider in the Philippines,” Baquiran said.

He added that the results that Unilab has today are not based on their efforts alone but also on the combined efforts of all their partners. He reiterated that the spirit of bayanihan is very much alive in their organization.

Eight Decades of Quality and Excellence

Unilab Husay at Malasakit

Unilab has been at the forefront of providing access to quality pharmaceutical and healthcare products for almost eight decades. It is regarded as one of the best employers in the country. Photo shows Unilab’s head office in Mandaluyong City.

In its almost eight decades of existence, the locally bred pharma company has been pursuing quality and excellence in its field through three important learning points:

‘Our Why Gives Meaning to What We Do’

Unilab’s purpose is to build a healthier Philippines, one quality medicine at a time. This purpose pervades the entire organization, starting with each individual, regardless of role. 

For instance, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, Unilab asked some of its frontliners what inspires them to keep showing up despite the risks. One of the manufacturing operators, Jerome Dacula, shared: “Hindi ko naisip na um-absent dahil sa mga taong nangangailangan ng mga produkto natin. Lalo na ngayon, mas inaasahan nila tayo. Alang-alang sa kanila, pumapasok ako at ginagawa ko ang trabaho ko. (I never thought of being absent because of the people who need our products. Especially now that they rely on us. I show up to work everyday because of these people.)”

This, Baquiran noted, demonstrates anew one important mindset of the company and its people: “Jerome himself knows our ‘why’—he himself takes malasakit to heart. It is a privilege to be working alongside Jerome and thousands of others toward building a nation of healthier Filipinos.”

‘Delighting the Customer is at the Root of our Quality Practices

As the leading pharmaceutical company in the country, Unilab strictly adheres to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), a system that ensures products comply with or even exceed the rigid quality standards and controls.

At Unilab, the customer is at the heart of everything that it does, and this means going above and beyond to give them what they need. To do so, the company’s leadership ensures that their insighting and foresighting capabilities are excellent to be able to keep pace with their needs. They make sure that their quality practices are consistent and continuous.

‘Constant Reinvention is a Given’

As the health landscape is ever-changing and customers are evolving, Unilab ensures that it is evolving alongside these changes.

Baquiran stressed that they have to keep reinventing to be able to keep up as “this process of reinvention is deeply rooted in our cultural transformation. Our culture of caring, results-orientation, and learning drive the reinvention of processes, exploration of new technologies, and innovation on new offerings.”

Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

“Our readiness was tested during these past few years, from the Taal Volcano eruption, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet despite the many challenges, we were still able to deliver on our promise without compromising the quality of our service.” Baquiran said.

Unilab employees have been reaching out to communities at the height of the pandemic to ensure that quality healthcare is still accessible during challenging times. They are frontliners who showed up despite the risks.

The core values and the efforts to go above and beyond to serve the Filipino people are what got them to where they are today. 

Yet again, Baquiran emphasized the combined efforts of their partners and stakeholders in the company’s success, including those in the private sector, the regulators, certifying bodies, and the likes of PQA.

“Thank you to the PQA for setting the standards in the business sector and for encouraging the participation of regional players such as the SMEs which provides the foundation for excellence, impeccable service delivery, and commitment among employees,” Baquiran said.

“We have been blessed with strong partnerships in our pursuit of serving the Filipino, and we look forward to further strengthening these with both the government and private sector,” he concluded.

ADVT.

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