Moving from health challenges to collaborations

[In association with BRICS Journal and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences]

Access to affordable healthcare is a priority for all the BRICS countries. Dr Aquina Thulare looks at how BRICS is faring and how further collaboration would benefit everyone involved.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Good health is an indispensable prerequisite for poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and socio-economic development.

Placing  health within a globalised, market-based capitalist system results in a dialectical interplay between social classes and the exact nature of whichever social force is best able to set the agenda differs from country to country. These conditions explain why differential exposure and vulnerabilities have an impact on health and wellness and how these have distinctive consequences on populations. These are the “causes of the causes” of common health challenges.

BRICS is home to 42% of the world’s population and contributes 29.5% to global GDP. Notwithstanding the general economic prosperity and improvements in demographic and epidemiological profile since 1990, profound socio-economic inequalities and public health challenges persist within BRICS countries. Over the years, the different BRICS countries have followed diverse evolutionary trajectories in improving the performance of their health systems.

Health has been placed on the BRICS agenda through the social justice, sustainable development and quality of life dimensions as a key area of development and co-operation. Moreover, BRICS ministers of health are mandated to pursue the agenda of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of populations in their countries by reaffirming public health financing as an essential element for socio-economic development.

They have committed to:

  • Ending epidemics of communicable diseases;
  • Prevention and relevant treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs);
  • Prevention and treatement of substance abuse;
  • Decreasing the number of injuries and deaths from road traffic accidents; and
  • Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and high-quality healthcare systems.

BRICS would also focus on social determinants of health (SDHs) while also introducing UHC strategies that are appropriate for each country’s context. The concept of “health as a human right” and “health in all policies” pervades much of BRICS’ engagement in contributing towards better global health underpinned by several United Nations (UN) frameworks.

Written by: Dr Aquina Thulare
This is an extract of the full article Moving From Health Challenges to Collaborations, found in Issue 3 of BRICS Journal.

Tiger Balm: Not just your grandmother’s trusted pain remedy

Breaking into new markets, developing new products and enhancing packaging has ensured that the Tiger Balm brand keep its loyal following for 100 years while gaining a younger audience.

By Batandwa Malingo

“Some are fantastic ideas but we cannot just run with them because it (Tiger Balm) is medicinal, so we are very careful because we do not want to fail or to make a product which may be poisonous as that may ruin our image and we would not recover.”

Tiger Balm is one of the few items you might find at most households and the owner may turn to be obsessive over their Tiger Balm because of miraculous effect on muscle pain.

The world-renowned ointment dates back to the late 1800’s when Chinese herbalist Aw Chu Kin developed the ointment and sold it at his small medicine shop in Rangoon.

He later died in 1908, leaving the special ointment with a touch of menthol to his sons, Aw Boo Haw which means gentle tiger and Aw Boon Par, which means gentle leopard.

Like the rest of the Tiger Balm users, his sons saw the potential of the product and moved to Singapore where they developed a manufacturing firm and gave the product its name.

Executive Director for Haw Par Corporation, Ah Kuan Han was tasked with developing the Tiger Balm brand since 1991 said the company had to adapt their business model due to the changing business landscape.

“Our products had a strong menthol smell and we needed to change that to appeal to young people. We made scent adjustments. Also, you don’t want look oily or smelly at the office, people are going to ask if you are sick. Our products are now suitable to use in an office environment. Those are some of the adjustments we had to make to appeal to the younger generation,” he said.

Han said the company developed anti-mosquito products and added lavender fragrance to some to attract both males and females. He said they had to be careful with how they develop their products though, so as not to lose consumers and also not to be over-excited and make mistakes in manufacturing.

“We have our product development team internally, students are also very keen on us, they come and talk to us, so we generate new ideas. You must remember however, this is a medicine so you can’t come up with a new product that is far removed from the original product” he said.

Han said some ideas come from consumers who, according to him have bombarded their social media and website with feedback.

“Some consumers have fantastic ideas but we cannot just run with them because it is medicinal, so we are very careful because we do not want to fail or to manufacture a product which may be poisonous as that may ruin our image and we would not recover,” he said.

Tiger Balm is produced from natural ingredients and Han believes that while anyone can mix ingredients, it takes a special team to make a product that has survived for more than 100 years.

“It’s not just about the ingredients we put in, it’s how we blend them. Two people can cook with the same ingredients but the finished product would not taste the same, it’s a skill. You check how much of and when you add the next ingredient. It’s our own technique, we add high quality products and blend them in a very special way that has attracted millions of consumers across the world,” he said.

Tiger Balm products are available in more than 100 countries across the world, but this is not enough for Han as he plans to dominate the whole world with the product.

“We are trying to get into new markets so we are always looking for distributors in countries where we do not have presence. For example in South Africa e do not have a distributor anymore so it is difficult to get our products there,” he said.

Han revealed that some South Africans saw the gap and has since seized the opportunity.
“They travel from South Africa to Asia or to the Middle East and buy our products in bulks to sell them back at home, but we want to have our official distributor there (South Africa).”

Han said the group has formed an alliance with Alkem Labs Limited to market, sell and distribute Tiger Balm products in India.

“We had another distributor in India but we decided to change to Alkem because they are the 5th largest pharmaceutical company in India and the country has more than 1 billion people. We want them to access our products and we believe this company will help us achieve that,” he said.

While Han plans to take the Tiger Balm brand to countries where it is not yet available, the products did not get a warm welcome in some countries in the past due to misconceptions.

“There was a misconception that Tiger Balm contains tiger parts, when we sold the product in the UK people were saying we are terrible, we are killing tigers to make Tiger Balm, we had to deal with that. We would not be able to sell Tiger Balm for that cheap price if we used tiger parts because it would be expensive,” Han said.

Besides misconceptions, the brand has also been marred with fake products using its packaging.
“We are a registered brand in more than 150 countries in the world. There were people who made fake products and claim they are Tiger Balm. Other people used our Tiger Balm packaging on their products, we had to take legal action,” he said.

Han revealed that Haw Par Corporation Limited sells 50 million Tiger Balm ointment jars per year.
The ointment is the company’s flagship product.

The second edition of BRICS Journal is out now


The second edition of BRICS Journal was officially  launched at the BRICS Trade Fair in New Delhi last week.  Picking up from the first one, this issue promises a fair spread of content covering issues related to politics, economics and arts & culture across the BRICS member countries.

What to look out for:

The Internationalisation of Higher Education
There is a lingering perception that education development has been deferred and is lagging behind other BRICS projects. The reality, however, is that phenomenal progress is being made in accelerating educational development cooperation and strengthening relations in higher education. In the article The Internationalisation of Higher Education (page 10), writer Xanani Baloyi tracks the progress with sterling examples of success.

The Rise of Black Industrialists in South Africa 
Economic freedom and the means to attain it is a contentious issue that continues to plague South Africa, 22 years into democracy. On page 16, Zuko Godlimpi explains why the Black Industrialists Programme is necessary and what it hopes to achieve in practical terms.

What does the 4th Industrial Revolution mean for BRICS?
In developed countries, the possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, heralded by 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the Internet, are unlimited. In the BRICS countries, however, it is employment that will change lives meaningfully. Monique Verduyn reports on page 18.

What’s your rating?
The power and influence that credit rating agencies exercise are formidable. Lumkile Mondi gives his take on where the BRICS countries currently rate – page 29.

BREXIT: Uncertainties and anxieties for Africa
Since June 2016, analysts have been scrambling to make sense of the phenomenon known as Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). BRICS Journal looks at what this decision means for the African continent on page 38.

Taking things in his stride
He went from star to superstar in a matter of 43.03 seconds. Now Wayde van Niekerk is being called the new Usain Bolt of track and field athletics. Gary Lemke spoke to him and found that his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Catch the full interview on page 62.

To read these stories and more, get a copy of the second edition of BRICS Journal – on sale now.