When news broke about the planned first pure-play healthcare IPO in the Philippines, the investing public wanted to learn more about Medilines Distributors Incorporated and its builder, Virgilio Villar.
Although commonly referred to as the younger brother of real estate tycoon Manny Villar, Virgilio is a successful businessman in his own right who began his career in the medical devices industry more than 30 years ago. While his kuya ventured in entrepreneurship from the get-go, Virgilio is a corporate-bred executive who rose from the ranks and built his own business after an early retirement, based on the skills and network he formed through years of experience.
Virgilio recalls how he started his career in various multinational companies as sales and marketing executive after he graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and a degree in Master of Business Administration. He also took Advanced Management Studies in Cologne, Germany.
His introduction to the field of medical devices began when he was hired as the general manager of B. Braun, a German multinational medical device company, in the Philippines in 1987. It was during this time when Villar started to deal with the top management of hospitals and doctors, where he has earned a good reputation through the years. Villar narrates how he would personally talk to clients and explain the functions of medical devices, their impact on the healthcare system and so on; something he continues to do today.
“I am very hands-on. I go out my way to meet my clients because it is important that we establish trust and confidence with them,” Villar says.
Because of his local and international training, Villar’s exposure to the best practices abroad, particularly in Germany, also helped mold him into a more astute businessman. He imbibed the German’s work culture on punctuality, organization, planning, and right execution, which became Villar’s own recipe for success in the corporate world and now, in business.
When he was general manager of B. Braun, Villar recalls how the infant company’s business rose from a million-peso in sales to about a billion before he left in 2008—a testament to his reputation as builder.
Villar’s exposure through B. Braun prepared him for his eventual take-over of Medilines, which he has steered to greater heights through the years. Once again, he turned a six-year-old company with around P70 million in sales in 2008 to an enterprise with P1.5 billion in revenues as of end 2020. As of June 30, 2021, Medilines recorded sales of P815 million and net income of P102 million.
“I am still very hands on,” Villar says. In business dealings, Villar narrates how he personally talks to most clients, starting with the product and then about the principals he represents.
In fact, he has earned such good reputation and relations with medical professionals, institution heads, and owners, both in the private and public healthcare system, that he knows many of those whom they term as “opinion leaders” in the medical field and in hospital administration.
“Since the medical equipment are expensive, and their technical specifications are mostly complicated, it is important that I am able to meet their demands. We need to establish trust with each other, they need to have trust (with me) because these involve big investments,” he adds.
Villar says he finds a sense of fulfillment in this business because it involves providing quality equipment to the country’s medical facilities. “This involves the health of our countrymen, it’s not just all about the products,” says Villar.
Villar lamented that the Philippine healthcare system remains far behind compared to first world countries, but he notes we are slowly getting there. Hospitals are being modernized and staffed with highly professional medical experts. “Our doctors are among the best in the world; and we are in the right direction in terms of modernization,” says Villar. He adds that our hospitals have improved tremendously in the recent years, with our government facilities being equipped to handle terminal illnesses.
“Medilines with its broad portfolio and quality medical equipment from top global suppliers namely, B. Braun (Germany), Siemens Healthineers (Germany) and Varian (USA), can certainly contribute greatly to our country’s health facility modernization initiatives,” he adds.
Through Villar’s leadership, Medilines is now a leading distributor of medical equipment in the country, focused on three healthcare categories: dialysis, diagnostic imaging, and cancer therapy.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Villar says Medilines’ strengths were fortified because their product specializations involve early diagnosis of critical illnesses from COVID-19, as well as treatment of complications from the virus such as kidney damage. Medilines has been delivering its equipment since the pandemic started in 2020, which has allowed many hospitals in the country to improve their response in terms of urgent services to patients.
“When pandemic struck, we just happened to be in the middle of it. We were able to help respond to the challenges of the pandemic and provide some of the equipment they urgently need,” narrates Villar.
Vision for the Future
“We want to continue providing quality equipment from top brands to ensure that the best healthcare can be accessible to as many Filipinos,” says Villar.
According to a study by Ken Research, the total healthcare market in the Philippines will grow at an accelerated rate of 11.2% in the next five years, despite the pandemic, reaching a forecast of P1.5 trillion by 2025. This is driven by sustained investments in the industry by both public and private medical institutions.
Villar wishes Medilines to make an impact in this growing and priority industry as the company is seeking approval for a maiden initial offering of up to 825-million common shares at P2.45 per share. PSE Listing is expected before the end of the year, subject to regulatory approvals.