Not many people would dare leave a secure job and venture into their own business at the relatively young age of 26.
But that’s precisely what Muhammad Arif, 28, did when he decided to set up his own pharmacy in Bangi, Selangor, in 2019.
He shared: “If you look at my career pathway, I should be an academician. However, after completing my Masters, I realised I was passionate about business.
“Right from the beginning, my aspiration was to build a business empire. So, I decided to start small with a community pharmacy.
“I was working in a community pharmacy when I decided to take the plunge. I worked for less than a year before setting up my pharmacy and company.”
While he agreed there were ups and downs in his journey, he was also grateful that there were more ups than downs so far.
“We have been through a lot, and there is still a long way to go.”
Today, Muhammad Arif is the proud owner of a chain of seven pharmacies located in Bandar Baru Bangi and Kajang in Selangor, Tanah Merah in Kelantan, Jerteh in Terengganu and Gemas in Negeri Sembilan.
Six are joint ventures with Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia 2 Bhd (KPF2) and are called Farmasi Al Arif. The branch in Bangi, his first, is called Farmasi Arif Sihat and is wholly owned by him.
He also collaborates with PUSPANITA, one of their clients. He helps them provide supplies and medical items for people affected by floods. Arif, who was born and grew up in Bangi, shared that location was very critical.
“For Farmasi Al Arif, our target market segment is the Malay Muslim population. In Bandar Baru Bangi, there is a high percentage of Malay Muslim population, and they also have good purchasing power.”
What makes Muhammad Arif’s outlets different from his competitors is that it caters to the community’s needs.
“In community pharmacy, the main satisfaction is to provide health and wellness to the community,” said Muhammad Arif who has attended the Duopharma Biotech Halal Pharmapreneur Programme.
As for customers’ needs, he said it depended on the customers as well as their location. Their range consists of vaccines, supplements, ratio vaccines and rehab items. People even get their cosmetics and toiletries from pharmacies.
“Around 20 per cent of our revenue comes from regular customers and 80 per cent from walk-in customers. We also see secure revenue from our e-commerce platform. For now, we have our shop in both Shopee and Lazada.”
Moving forward, he is looking to have his own e-commerce platform selling only their products catering to the community’s needs.
When asked about competition, he said: “I’m positioning myself to be at par, or at the same level with a big chain of big brand pharmacies.
“To differentiate ourselves from competitors, our unique selling point is that we are a halal-centric community pharmacy practice.”
Muhammad Arif completed his Masters focusing on halal pharmacy practice. He is now helping develop the first-ever guideline on halal-centric community pharmacy practice. He hopes for this to be applied in community pharmacy practice in Malaysia.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on businesses throughout the country since March 2020, his pharmacies survived. In a way, the pharmacy business is recession-proof.
“Community pharmacy is an essential service which has been announced by the government. So, we are lucky we are not as affected as compared to other industries generally.
“In fact, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a positive impact on Farmasi Al Arif and its revenues.”
From a logistical perspective, his operations during the pandemic focused on inventory management, which he deemed the critical aspect in retail pharmacy.
“Basically, the mission is to improve the logistics management and inventory management to minimise costs and maximise profits.”
“Currently, we are learning, and we are trying our best to adapt the Japanese management style to our operations. And we still have a lot more room for improvement.”
He has always been prudent in his spending and has been careful with his expenses.
“Watch your cash flow. It is crucial because once you are stuck in your cash flow, it is tough to come out from it.”
Muhammad Arif is indeed an ambitious young man and has plans to open another three branches this year.
“We have requested a licence for franchising. So, for those who want their own pharmacy and are interested in Farmasi Al Arif, you are most welcome to join us.” – The Health