Formulating the Advancement of National Healthcare – Managing Director of Astron Limited, Marise Deckker

Astron Limited’s Managing Director, Marise Deckker, has steered the organization forward as a provider of quality healthcare solutions for the Sri Lankan market. Astron is a pioneer manufacturer, developer, and researcher of healthcare solutions in the country, having been established over 60 years ago. With over forty years of experience in the healthcare industry along with her professional qualifications, Marise has successfully steered the company through the challenges of the current era with well-defined strategic and sustainable development.

Marise has an impressive educational background. She is a fellow of the Chartered Accountants Sri Lanka and has a diploma in Business Management from the same institution. She also has an MBA from the Post Graduate Institute of Management at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura. Marise initially joined the organization in 1980, when it was operated and owned by Pfizer NY. With the decision of Pfizer to divest its majority shareholding in Pfizer Sri Lanka in 1993, Marise led a leveraged management buyout, the first in Sri Lanka, and acquired the majority shareholding of the company. It was in 1993 that the birth of the brand “Astron” occurred. Since then, Marise has been the Chairman and Managing Director of the company.

The brand Astron has gained prominence in the healthcare sector in the country as one of the leading developers, researchers, manufacturers, and marketers of quality healthcare solutions. Mainly marketed in Sri Lanka, Astron’s products are well known for their quality and efficacy. 

“Astron markets a range of 100 products, practically all of which are manufactured in Sri Lanka. All products are sold under brand names, with about 15% being sold under generic names on a tender basis to the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health. Astron’s primary business is in pharmaceuticals, which accounts for approximately 65% of total sales. We also manufacture nutritional supplements, herbal products, and animal health feed supplements.” 

A pioneering manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in Sri Lanka, Astron manufactures its wide range of products in its plant at Ratmalana. The company was initially set up by Dumex, a Danish multinational company, in 1956. Shortly thereafter, the majority shareholding of the company was acquired by Pfizer NY. For 35 years, Pfizer owned and managed the operations of the company until 1993, when Pfizer divested its shares to the current shareholders and the company’s name was changed to Astron Limited. This resulted in all products manufactured in Sri Lanka being manufactured and sold under the Astron brand.

Astron takes pride in the quality of pharmaceuticals that are manufactured in Sri Lanka. Astron stands as the only Sri Lankan-owned pharmaceutical manufacturer in the top ten out of 350 manufacturers represented in Sri Lanka for pharmaceutical sales to the open market. Astron manufactures a range of 65 products approximately, for several therapeutic classes in different dosage forms, strengths, and pack sizes. Vitamins and minerals, antibiotics, antihistamines, antifungals, anthelmintics, anti-suppressants, and other therapeutic classes are among the most common. The products are sold in the dosage forms of plain tablets, coated tablets, capsules, liquids, ointments, creams, and powders. All these products have been registered with the MOH only after extensive research, development, and testing have been carried out in its own well-established facilities in Sri Lanka.

Astron is also the largest locally owned manufacturer of nutritional supplements for the Sri Lankan market. “Our range of nutritional supplements are marketed under well-known brands like Protinex, Action, Advanced Weight Gainer, Diasure, etc. under different flavors and pack sizes. These brands have been in the market for years and compete well with imported products from multinational companies. Two more recent brands added to this portfolio are Peptogen and Capralac, the latter being a goat milk-based nutritional supplement.”

With around 500 employees, most of whom work in the manufacturing and marketing sections of the company, the organization functions under a well-defined set of values and beliefs that fuel excellence, ensure quality, good working conditions, and employee welfare. Marise, as their leader, believes in a semi-formal, all-inclusive working culture where teamwork is of essence but individuality is acknowledged and encouraged.

“Company benefits are universal. We have a well-defined set of policies and procedures that apply to all and are published so that all employees are aware of what is expected of them. Systems are well established and adhered to. To ensure compliance with the systems, we have constant training programs. Much emphasis is placed on training and the building of knowledge.” 

Astron markets its products mainly through distributors to pharmacies. Sales are promoted mainly through sales personnel, primarily to medical professionals. Astron strives to uphold high standards in the manufacturing and marketing of its products whilst meeting social responsibilities. The company does not use mass media for the promotion of Astron products and it is recognized and accepted in the market for its ethical marketing and manufacturing practices. “Our pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, herbal healthcare, and animal feed supplements are promoted primarily to healthcare professionals. We generally do not advertise or promote our products through mass media.”

Astron’s mission is to uplift the well-being of society through the provision of innovative, ethical manufacturing and marketing of quality healthcare solutions at affordable prices, whilst adding value to all our stakeholders. With a vision to be the largest, dynamic, and most admired Sri Lankan innovator, manufacturer, and marketer of quality healthcare solutions, Astron is in the process of expanding their manufacturing and storage facilities to add more line extensions to their impressive product portfolio. Astron is doing its best to ensure the availability of their products in the open market despite the current constraints under which organizations have to operate and the country’s adverse economic situation. In addition, Astron intends expanding its export markets once the situation relating to Covid 19 pandemic and supply logistics improves.

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