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Brahim Bozia

Chief Operating Officer At BioChek

Practically no one at BioChek still works in the role he or she started in. The company active in veterinary diagnostics has been experiencing a positive flow for years and there seems to be no end in sight for growth for the time being. That offers a wealth of opportunity.

BioChek started offering diagnostic kits for the poultry sector 20 years ago. The company now enjoys a recognised worldwide reputation and is an active presence in every country. ‘Simply mention our name and everyone knows what you're talking about’, says COO Brahim Bozia. BioChek produces over 30 different ELISA-kits: tests that trace antibodies or antigens against various diseases that frequently affect poultry and swine. These kits are produced in the United Kingdom. R&D, sales, marketing and logistics are coordinated from the head office in Reeuwijk.

BioChek, an established name in the poultry world…

‘The great thing about our reputation is that I don't have to convince potential customers of the quality of our products and the technical service we provide. We sell the complete portfolio in poultry diagnostics and have a number of unique characteristics: if you can convey those qualities, a customer is sure to buy 80% of our whole range. It's a slightly different story in the swine sector, as we have not been active all that long in that segment. But we're are doing well. Compared to two years ago, the production facility in England has quadrupled. This has created more space to cope with the current growth. It also means that we have to at least double our capacity here in Reeuwijk, both in terms of space and staffing levels. For that reason, we are moving to a new location at the end of next year.’

Year-on-year growth

‘In the 11 years that I have worked at BioChek, I have not seen a single year that didn't achieve growth. In 2007 the turnover was 1.3 million euro’s. That figure has gone up this year to the projected budget of 15 million and we think that can even be improved on. Some of that must be generated by the swine sector. Positioning our products in East Europe and Asia takes a lot of time and effort, as the sector is more fragmented and less organised than the poultry sector. Whereas in the poultry sector the tendency is to purchase the entire portfolio of products from a single supplier, the swine sector is used to dealing with multiple suppliers. In addition, the international swine industry often works with commercial labs and veterinarians. That dictates a different approach to the market.'

What is on the horizon for the company? What is your goal?

‘The ambition is to triple the turnover in five years. That is only feasible with the right products and the right people. With a share of 16%, we are the market leader in the poultry sector. And, for PCR and ELISA specifically, we account for a market share of 40%. If the branding and awareness of our products are successful in the swine sector, we expect to boost our market share of half a percent to 3% in 2023. We are aiming for growth from 5 to 15% for PCR and ELISA products. I'm fully aware just how ambitious that sounds, but it is achievable if you realise that until now we have noted growth of 15% annually.’

What makes BioChek so unique?

‘Our completeness is what makes us unique. The poultry portfolio is a total package with an extensive software tool that compares all data and identifies and reports trends. IT systems supplied by others do nothing more than read out results. We ensure reliable results and robust interpretation to enable customers to intervene and take the right course of action. That is valuable information for veterinarians! Especially as the data can be accessed anytime, from virtually anywhere, whereas others have to make do with a stand-alone in the lab.’

Developments are certainly not standing still. What other trends have you identified?

‘We used to monitor using just the ELISA technique, but nowadays more and more diagnostics are performed using PCR. In the past, you had to wait three to five weeks before you could identify a disease or vaccination, but PCR gives you the results within two days. Speed is becoming ever-more vital, as are easy-to-use kits. PCR used to be a relatively complicated process, but now we make it as easy as possible. What we'd really like to see is a result after just two or three steps. Another development are multiplex systems. No longer one test per disease, but one swab and six results in one assay. In addition, legislation is becoming more extensive and stricter: veterinary diagnostics are following the practice in human diagnostics. Reliability is priority number one!’

What do the R&D activities involve at BioChek?

‘We have a strong R&D team that comes up with a new product every two to three months. That level of creative flow makes it difficult to maintain a focus. For that reason, we have decided to concentrate on PCR. Our new Business Unit Manager Swine will help define which products will be the main targets of our efforts.’

What kind of people can facilitate that growth?

‘Independent and flexible professionals who empathise with and reflect the growth ambitions of BioChek. Our work is driven by a certain strategy: if the market changes, the team has to change along with it. I value people who come up with ideas and tell me how things could work better. I'm adverse to people with a “but we've done it like that for years” mentality. Another of my pet peeves is a wait and see attitude. If you are the Marketing Manager and you can't work with a certain agency, then find another one. Outdated product brochure? Tell me about it. I'm employing you for your expertise and drive, to show me the way, not follow my lead. If you are a Business Unit Manager and you think attending a certain trade event is vital, convince me and book your ticket. We have a robust organisational structure and healthy finances, so nothing is stopping us to try and test new ideas and concepts. We operate together, as a team, in an open and direct setting. If you're ambitious, and you show it, the sky is the limit here.’

Is that how you reached the top?

‘More or less. After graduating with a degree in organic chemistry, I worked as an account manager in the human diagnostics field for four years. I then joined Thermo Fisher Scientific, a company that supplies technologies and equipment for laboratories. I started in the sales team for Europe, but my region was expanded, and I was given more responsibilities. When BioChek approached me, I said no at first, but after a year I accepted an international role which widened the scope of my activities to include not just Europe, but also the Middle East and Africa; an exciting challenge. Four years later I had progressed to Sales Manager Asia, then I became Sales Director and I have been COO since last year. Practically no one at BioChek still works in the role he or she started in. Everyone grows and progresses. It has to be something you want to do. It's all part of the transition from entrepreneur to being a professional organisation. I am immensely proud that we have managed to achieve all this with just a small team. And there's more to come. The plans and changes ahead in the coming five years offer a host of career opportunities.’ © NoMilk2Day



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