Shameet Thakkar is on a mission, a humanitarian mission, and since setting up his company nothing has stopped his drive nor blunted his zeal – not even a global health pandemic.
He set up Unimed Procurement Services (Unimed) to “make a difference” in acting as a trustworthy and reliable procurement agent for international aid, charities and private health organisations. It is regulated and authorised by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency and holds a Wholesalers Dealers Authorisation.
Shameet, who is founder and MD, said: “We are blessed in the UK to be able walk into a hospital if unwell and be treated with appropriate medicine and care. My ambition is to combat inefficiencies in the market so everybody around the world can access that kind of care and receive the right products for the right purpose that have been bought at the right price.”
Shameet set up Unimed after working as a management consultant for KPMG, in the NHS where he observed inefficiencies within procurement which he felt he could solve and ensure value for money.
He said: “I already understood the industry so I started the business knowing precisely what I wanted to achieve. I was fully aware of the market situation and I’d identified a gap.
“In the UK there are not many companies doing what we do, namely responding to humanitarian crises and relief programmes to provide them with quality products delivered to their field hospitals and to their emergency centres.
“I started out with a strategy based on quality so we installed the requisite systems to ensure that we were adhering to all the standards. We took the right amount of time to get ready and then we hit the ground running.”
Very quickly the company was assessed and passed for working with the likes of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, agencies within the United Nations and USAid, no mean feat.
He said: “Organisations and humanitarian relief programmes don’t want to contract 30 different manufacturers and suppliers; they want one single source with strict performance indicators in place and to ensure that certain service level agreements are met.
“We procure medical and pharma products, medical consumables and the like to clients working on specific health programmes or emergencies, for example a field hospital in the middle of Malawi where they are carrying out routine cataract operations.
“We go out to the market, work with manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers to provide a single contact that the agency can call on. We consolidate the stock so that there are efficiencies in delivery.”
Unimed were clearly a perfect responder when Covid-19 hit. The pandemic had a huge impact on the supply chain but Shameet and his team were able to step up: “We were already working in several countries before Covid and we were able to draw upon our supply chain to bring products quickly to those who most needed it.
“Covid though highlighted the huge inefficiencies in the market and we need to have a core resilient supply chain in every sovereign nation for medical products.”
Growth has been rapid at Unimed. Over three years overseas sales have grown by 1,796 per cent with exports now making up 85 per cent of all sales. It distributes to partners in 25 countries in Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania.
Shameet attributes the company’s growth and success to hard work and being in the right place at the right time, as increasing numbers of charities and aid and relief programmes have been looking for assistance in sourcing the right products in recent years.
And he has a clear vision for the future: “We’d like to work with organisations to develop their capacity as opposed to being principally a reactive organisation. For example, we provided emergency humanitarian assistance to set up laboratories in the wake of the Haiti earthquakes, but what we would like to do in the future is set up laboratories in advance of these types of crises to ensure that a country is already well prepared to respond.”
He added: “The Queen’s Award will give us greater exposure to the market which is vital if we are to expand our mission and grow. This accolade can be a real springboard to taking our business to the next level which in turn means providing support and assistance to those people around the world who most need it.”
A man on a mission indeed.