Bringing Natural Health Care Home

Homart

Any company that starts small will inevitably want to expand and grow bigger. It is not just about financial success, but also a point of pride. To see one’s vision come to fruition is as satisfying as a parent watching his children succeed in life. Homart Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd is a good example of this growth and success. We recently spoke with Jeffrey Yeh, the Operations Manager of Homart Pharmaceuticals, about Homart and how it has grown to become one of Australia’s leading pharmaceutical companies in just a short period of time.

Homart was launched in 1992 as a small company distributing and exporting Australian made health supplements and skin care products. The company got its start wholesaling other companies’ products, and has since grown into a mid size company, seeing an 850 per cent increase in total export sales over the last four years. Homart has also developed its own niche products that have earned a growing reputation within the industry: Spring Leaf, Top Life, and the Health and Nature line are three exclusive Homart products which cater to every budget and need.

Jeffrey Yeh has been with the company for the past 10 years. He comes from a science background, earning his Masters in Australia. He is in charge of the “back engine of the company,” encompassing everything from the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) factory through to warehousing logistics. Also included in his responsibilities are Quality Assurance Systems, administration and accounting. Homart’s Managing Director, Lynn Yeh, is involved in all the front-end marketing and sales. Both were instrumental in the company’s expansion.

In order to expand, Homart thought it prudent to establish its own GMP manufacturing facility. This certification represents the international quality standard for the pharmaceutical industry, and enables Australian pharmaceutical products to be exported, to places such as Asia, Europe and Canada. So, in 2004 the factory was set up to produce goods in Australia to be sold in Australia and internationally.

The company soon expanded, in 2009, to a new site on the same street (Carnarvon). “We thought the new expansion would last five years,” explains Mr Yeh, “but we outgrew it in two. So, in 2011 we purchased a 15,000 square metre site, which is the size of two football fields.” Homart hopes to move its warehouse in September and its GMP factory in December this year.

This year marks Homart’s 20th anniversary and to be sure, the team has reason to celebrate. Over the past five years, even through the GFC, the company has enjoyed 25 per cent annual growth. “We have many celebrations this year,” says Mr Yeh, “including a free movie day for our loyal customers, retailers and distributors. We also sponsored a few classic arts performances, including a pop star from China by the name of A-Mei, and the official opening of the new site which will include a gala dinner.” Needless to say, it will be a very busy year for the Homart team, and they will be celebrating in style.

Homart first began participating in awards competitions in 2010, and since then the company has been winning every year, with around 15 business awards to date, both national and international. In 2010, the company won the prestigious NSW’s Premier Exporting Award; in 2011, the team garnered an award for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability; in 2012, the business took home the Endeavour Exporter of the Year award, and in 2012, the Manufacturer of the Year award, which denotes Endeavour Awards the “winner of all winners, which was announced at the end of the night at a gala dinner awards night. We didn’t expect to be the grand winner,” recalls Mr Yeh.

So what is it that makes Homart so unique and strong in the marketplace? The company is not only a competent manufacturer, but also maintains strong brand marketing. Few companies are able to successfully do both, but Mr Yeh is proud that, “We have been able to grasp both sides of the equation.” The company also produces products appropriate for diverse sectors of the market, aiming to meet every customer’s needs and budget. “Top Life” is Homart’s luxury brand, “Spring-Leaf” is a mid-level brand, and “Health and Nature” represents quality at a good value. The company also maintains a keen understanding of both the Australian and Asian markets, with “a branch office in Shanghai which helps to provide us with in-depth knowledge.”

The nuanced differences in the two marketplaces are interesting. In Australia, explains Mr Yeh, people tend to buy in large packaging. Homart’s fish oil, then, comes in 500 capsule packages, whereas in Asia it is the reverse; people there often prefer smaller packaging because it is more affordable, and it is easy to do more frequent shopping in Asia’s many convenient markets, so instead of 500 capsule packages, the 100 capsule size is common.

Colour also makes a big difference in how products are marketed in Asia as opposed to Australia. In Australia, plain packaging is preferred, whereas in many Asian markets vibrant colours, like gold or red – white may be deemed inauspicious, or unhealthy. In Australia, for example, a bride may wear white at her wedding, but in China the bride will wear a red dress. “It is an entirely different culture. In Japan, they prefer pure colours, nothing too colourful,” explains Mr Yeh. “It is an in-depth knowledge of the local market that helps with something as simple as packaging.”

Along with this understanding of its market comes a desire to give back to the community. Homart sponsors events to raise funds for Australia’s “Royal Flying Doctor” service, which sees doctors flown into the country’s remote interior during emergencies. Homart has also helped to upgrade the facilities of charity centres, and provided aid when the big floods hit Queensland in 2010. The company gives back to its international community as well. “This year we donated to a charity that helps to restore cataracts in China and Cambodia. They can restore vision by replacing the human cataract artificially. We donated $15,000, which will help more than 7,000 patients.” Homart also sponsors the arts and entertainment, such as the Australian film festival in China which serves to educate the people of China about Australian culture.

Another form of sponsorship involves major sporting events. The company backs the NSW cross country event in Sydney. Homart also sponsors elite Australian athletes including London Olympic runner Jeff Hunt, to represent Australia in national and international competitions. Homart is also involved in major international events like the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which was visited by 15,000,000 people over six months. Here, Homart served as the exclusive Australian health supplement supplier to the Australian national pavilion. “It was a huge honour, and it raised our international profile,” recounts Mr Yeh.

With all of this growth and progress there are, of course, bound to be a few challenges. Mr Yeh sees managing growth in a sustainable way as the most pressing issue. Homart is adding 10 to 20 per cent more staff each year, so staying on top of training is key. The issue of space is always top of mind as well, so the company is definitely looking forward to settling into its new facility. Expansion into additional markets, including Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, as well as mainstream Australian outlets such as pharmacies, health stores, and supermarkets, is also a part of the company’s vision.

Homart has a strong, long-term plan for the future of the business. Currently the team is in discussion with various Australian Universities about conducting research projects – investigating the efficacy of certain herbal medicines such as Ginkgo, for example. These herbs have been used for centuries in China and elsewhere, but are not very well understood, or scientifically proven to be beneficial. So, Homart is talking with the University of Western Sydney about a cooperative research project which would provide PhD scholarships to advance knowledge and develop new products for health supplements. The company is also working with another University to study Propolis (a substance extract from beehives). Propolis is very well known in Asian countries for improving immune systems, thereby preventing cold and flu. “These products would be more for other markets that are unaware of the benefits,” explains Mr Yeh. “Still, they need to be tested and proven as beneficial products. We are trying to ascertain what the effective ingredients are, isolate them to make our new products more potent and effective.” These developments are slated to occur within the next few years, with the PhD programs commencing in January of 2013.

Jeffrey Yeh emphasises that, “Our vision is to manufacture and distribute high quality Australian made health supplements and skin care products. We want to be the top Australian health supplement provider in the future. We have been working very hard on that for the last 20 years… We anticipate that we will double our turnover, sales and staff in the next three to four years.” If things go as planned, Homart has a very bright future indeed in the pharmaceutical industry.

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December 19, 2018, 5:34 PM AEDT