Co-Founder Spotlight: Peter Nguyen of Thuocsi, Sourcing Innovative Access for Healthcare Products and Services
By Alyzza Morelos
In times of a pandemic outbreak, health services should be the top most priority. Upon the spread of Covid-19 disease, people have been struggling to secure medical products to protect themselves from the virus. At the same time, there has also been a shortage of supply due to high demand. To alleviate this issue, Thucosi, a healthcare distribution platform, generates a connection among pharmacies, clinics and hospitals to take the distribution process of medical supplies with detailed information of the products’ active ingredients online.
Techshake interviewed Peter Nguyen, the Co-Founder of Thuocsi, to learn more about the pharmaceuticals marketplace’s solution through online alternatives to traditional methods of increasing the healthcare industry transparency and efficiency.
Can you give me a brief background of yourself?
I was born in America with Vietnamese immigrant parents which had a dramatic impact on my upbringing. I decided to move to Silicon Valley when I went to college where I did a startup called Gankbuy -- a group buying website back in 2005. However, in 2006, Groupon launched and they basically beat me to market and their business model was much better so I decided to not compete with them. I finished college at University of California Berkeley then afterwards I moved to China and did a sustainable supply chain research there. I started consulting in Southeast Asia in which during those times, I found out a lot of issues in the healthcare system but I did not have any idea how to solve it. Eventually, after my five years in consulting, one of my co-founder approached me, and said, “I think I figured it out. We can do B2B ecommerce for the healthcare industry for the startup,” and that’s basically my background on how I got into this.
Could you share the story of how you came up with the idea of building Thuocsi?
I started off my consulting career in China and then moved to Vietnam to join a consulting firm. Even though my background was Vietnamese, that was the first time ever that I was in Vietnam. I came for a job yet on the first weekend I decided to join a volunteer trip to the countryside to help some orphanages. During the trip, we rode a big bus and mostly were young people and very few of them could speak English. Fortunately, there was one person that could speak English which eventually became my co-founder. We chatted because he was the only one who spoke English then on the next Monday he applied for a job at my consulting firm and then eventually got accepted. We started consulting together for about five years from which we did a lot of projects together. After sometime, we went our separate ways and then he went back to his hometown for a wedding where he met our third co-founder. They were childhood friends, they grew up together and they’re basically talking about the healthcare industry in Vietnam for the entire wedding. They decided to open up a B2B e-commerce pharmaceutical and then they invited me to join their start-up. I immediately agreed and one week after that wedding we incorporated.
It’s good that we are friends but the most important thing is we have our own expertise. Our third co-founder, his family is in the pharmaceutical industry which gives us the inside knowledge then we add up our consulting background which is also a need. Meanwhile, I myself have more of an investing background. The third co-founder is execution focused. We all had industry expertise but they are all in different areas of the industry which is quite helpful to us startups.
One of your missions is to have easy access for the healthcare to research and for you to deliver products and services, and so for the practitioners to spend less time in researching or sourcing out products, as well as more time in caring for their patients. Can you share one or two challenges that you’ve encountered while growing the company? How did you overcome them?
The first big challenge is in our operations. In order to improve the healthcare ecosystem, it requires an innovation. It is not just about can we launch an app and website, but we really need to be at the forefront in innovating every aspect of the value chain which we can only do if we successfully convince all the different players to innovate along with us. We need to think about how we innovate sourcing, the logistics of the industry and the way pharmacists and doctors at their practice do inventory management and sell their products. We are looking at a very comprehensive solution and I think that was one of the biggest challenges as it’s not just simply an app that we built and launched but also we need to figure all this out in the industry.
The second challenge will be the people and culture as the healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry has been established for a very long time,people who train, study and work for the industry tend to think alike. Then so, when you have an innovator that comes in, like us, it actually confuses them because we have a different way of operating. They've been trained and they worked in a certain way and now they were asked to work in a different way, so that’s been a challenge for us. For example, the pharmaceutical market still uses a physical wholesale market to source medicine - a place where they can go and barter/negotiate. We brought that all online without any physical location or person to negotiate with which makes healthcare practitioners think, “Wait, is this possible?.” To overcome this, it was just about continuous communication and explanation that we are technology which needs to reinvent not only the industry but also the people who work in the industry which starts from the people who joined our company from the start.
What do you think the impact of thuocsi on the healthcare system in Vietnam?
We became the leading single startup sourcing for pharmacy supplies in Vietnam. We are changing the way the industry thinks and we are changing the way that they operate. In the past, they were lowtech and expected very unreliable customer service. They would expect very low tech processes which they need to accept like they couldn't source in any other ways. As they found Throucsi.vn, there have been continual increase in their requirements for better products, quality, and service as well as more information which is a good thing for the industry.
Can you share how thoucsi evolved in the “new normal”?
During the peak of COVID-19 in Vietnam, it created dramatic changes in the industry. The primary change was pharmacies were allowed to remain open as being considered as an essential business during Vietnam’s lockdown period yet the distributors and suppliers did not want to stay open. In addition, both suppliers and distributors wanted to keep their sales rep at home for fear of having their sales team infected with COVID. So during that period, we are one of the companies that stayed open in order to supply products to pharmacies. We carried SKUs for a wide variety of manufacturers and distributors so they could continue distributing without sales rep.
What do we expect from you in the near future? How do you see Thuocsi in the next five years?
In the near future, just expect that we will continue to improve our service levels to our user base -- both users in terms of manufactures, distributors, as well as the practitioners, pharmacists and doctors. Although, we are still focused on that within Vietnam but in the longer term, we are hoping to become the leading platform in the emerging market in Southeast Asia and potentially in the whole Asia. We just do not want to continue on the business model but to also expand it to other markets.
Know more about Thoucsi and gain ideas on innovative pharmaceutical supplies online.