Success stories

Snake venum for the Spanish pharma industry

How Pentapharm found a business partner in Southern Europe

Pentapharm, a science-based company located in the Basel area, is a leading international supplier of high-quality biochemical materials for various applications in hemostasis. The company also specializes in the development and manufacture of essential pharmaceutical ingredients. At the core of Pentapharm's success is the dedication to innovation, exemplified by cutting-edge solutions in coagulation diagnostics. Pentapharm serves neighboring countries from Switzerland and has sales offices in the USA and China. The company recently made the strategic decision to enter the Spanish market.

Kally Wong pentapharm

I had a very open conversation with S-GE and the representatives really put themselves in our shoes. I also received very valuable advice from the team in Barcelona, who gave me useful tips and tricks on how to communicate with the new business partner.

Kally Wong, Business Manager Pharma & Diagnostics, Pentapharm AG

Pentapharm manufactures products that are in demand worldwide. How do you decide to enter a new market?

We chose Spain because my philosophy is not to put all my eggs in one basket. I was convinced that we should expand our presence in Europe beyond the German-speaking countries. Spain is one of the spots where we want to strengthen activities. In general, we first assess the market potential. The next step is to evaluate the ease of access and the market's readiness for our products, as well as any synergies we can create with local sales channels.

When it comes to exploring new markets abroad, is being a science-based company an advantage or a disadvantage?

On the positive side, we do not have too much competition because the barriers to entry are higher. We speak a common language in our scientific community around the world, and that helps. Swiss quality is a valuable argument in this industry. When we say we are a Swiss company, the first box is ticked and that opens doors.

On the other hand, we must provide a lot of education and training to our customers. But it is an advantage that our business founders have been key opinion leaders in the community since the company was founded in 1948.

What were the biggest challenges in your most recent market entry and how did you overcome them?

Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge we face is the lack of manpower to provide on-the-ground support in new markets. Setting up a local operation in the new market would be ideal. However, this approach is costly. My solution is to use the trade fair as a time-efficient way to meet potential customers on a regular basis.

In Southern Europe, business practices are very different from the DACH region. They live in a different ecosystem, they have different tools, platforms and references, which are important.

As our products are of animal origin, we need different types of certificates for each market. Even if you have the same international regulation in each country, the people who implement it locally have their own understanding of it. This is a challenge for an SME, especially for a chemical company like ours. We have to look at safety regulations, special accompanying documentation and also transport conditions in terms of storage temperature.

How has S-GE helped you specifically when it came to getting started in Spain?

In Spain, we approached S-GE because we felt that potential partners there prefer face-to-face communication, which is very different from Northern European countries. In addition, our team here is small and very German-speaking oriented. S-GE creates an excellent synergy for Swiss based SME's and their representatives are extremely helpful both in Switzerland and abroad. They have saved us a lot of time and effort by helping me with due diligence on potential partners. They are proving to be invaluable partners and I would like to personally thank them.

What is your personal tip for other companies who want to enter the export market or strengthen their position abroad?

Think global, act local. Southern Europeans behave differently. For example, they may say they like your products and give you a five out of a five-point scale. But in reality, it might be lower and, in the end, it was a three or three and a half. We noticed that in terms of purchase intent. So, it is important not to be overly optimistic in terms of the speed of market penetration.

Pentapharm reached out to us seeking for a laboratory in Spain capable of serving as a nationwide distributor. Our extensive network and deep understanding of the sector were instrumental, as was our ongoing, direct communication with Pentapharm. It was gratifying to participate in the meeting between Pentapharm and one of the potential candidates, culminating in the project's resounding success.

Beat Kuster, Senior Consultant Southern Europe + Benelux, Switzerland Global Enterprise and Guillem Vals García, Head of Swiss Business Hub Spain



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