How A Poor Girl From Amman Built A Multinational Enterprise


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 9:46 PM

The odds were stacked heavily against her from the start. Born into a humble family in Amman, Jordan, Rasha Oudeh bore the weight of being the eldest among seven siblings. With limited means, her parents could only afford to send her to a free government
school. Dreams of university seemed distant, overshadowed by the financial
constraints that gripped her family.

Nevertheless, Rasha's story took a remarkable turn when an aunt intervened, providing her with a lifeline to a community college. There, between 1998 and 2000, she delved into the world of computer programming.

Fast forward to 2024, and Rasha's journey has transcended borders. Now a resident of Switzerland, she steers CEDEM AG, a pharmaceutical enterprise with a global footprint spanning over 22 countries. Her leap of faith in 2007, relocating to Europe, marked the inception of her entrepreneurial journey.

"While my father sold plastic bags in Amman, I now distribute pharmaceutical products worldwide. However, my journey is more than a rags-to-riches story. I perceive myself as a disruptor, introducing the trend of licensing and private labeling to this part of the world."

For those unfamiliar, private labelling involves a company producing a product that is subsequently market
ed under another company's brand. Rasha said it took her several years to grasp the intricacies of the industry. This included brief stints at the Harvard Business School's International Institute for Management.

"Medicine is the most regulated business globally. I had to dive into a deep reservoir of knowledge before I could launch my own brand and gain mastery over the business."

Leveraging her experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Rasha aims to introduce her business model to the UAE, addressing gaps in the Middle East and Africa market
s. She points out, "An often-overlooked aspect in Arab and African market
s is their modest share in the global pharmaceutical market
, valued at $1.48 trillion annually. They constitute only 3 per cent, approximately $44.4 billion annually. Now, contrast this with a country like Spain, which alone sells $57 billion. That's more than what all the countries in the MENA region sell collectively."

Rasha attributes this limited market
share to strict regulations hindering innovation and the development of generics, a contrast to the more flexible environment in Europe.

Drawing from her experience, Rasha said, "In the early stages of my career in Germany, I was captivated by the government
's supportive business model for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Germany, with 2.6 million SMEs employing several million people, emphasises distinguishing between innovators, generic medicine developers, and third-party producers-a concept that Switzerland has refined."

Addressing challenges in the Middle East, Rasha highlighted, "In this region, where around 23 million SMEs contribute to 90 per cent of the economy, regulatory hurdles unfortunately hinder the ownership of pharmaceutical licenses."

Rasha said pharmaceutical businesses in the GCC, particularly in the UAE, could benefit immensely if they set up a European platform as it will enable them to operate globally and access the latest medicinal products at competitive prices.

"This approach”, she said,“not only provides access to the Middle East and Africa but also offers global reach. It's faster and more economical, requiring lower capital than establishing an independent manufacturing facility."

Rasha emphasised that using existing contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs) and contract development and manufacturing organisations (CDMOs) for production is low-risk, given their obligation to comply with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations.

"Additionally, it fuels rapid global expansion for companies, accelerates product license selection and acquisition, broadens access to a diverse product portfolio, draws interest from major pharmaceutical players favouring EU-based licensing due to regulatory familiarity, and fortifies control over products, ultimately heightening the company's brand value."

Rasha also spearheads the Amali Mentorship Programme, tailored to guide and counsel aspiring entrepreneurs, with a distinct focus on empowering women in business.

"The term 'Amali,' originating from the Arabic word 'amal,' meaning hope, encapsulates the programme's core. Geared towards women entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, its primary goal is to guide them through crucial steps towards successful self-employment. This empowerment seeks to equip entrepreneurs with fundamental business knowledge, elevating their livelihoods. Ultimately, the initiative contributes to the well-being of families, fosters community prosperity, and fuels overall economic growth."

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Khaleej Times

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