Sproxil making headway in non-pharma sectors

EAC cables with Sproxil stickerSMS-based authentication specialist Sproxil has continued to branch out beyond its traditional focus in protecting medicines from counterfeiting with new clients in the industrial, cosmetics and automotive sectors.

Meanwhile, the company has also expanded from its core market of Nigeria into new countries with the addition of its first Kenyan customer East African Cables (EAC).

Sproxil made its name protecting consumers from counterfeit pharmaceuticals by adding a code to the packaging of medicines - including GlaxoSmithKline's antibiotic Ampiclox (ampicillin plus cloxacillin) - that could be texted to a toll-free phone number operated by Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC).

The system allows consumers to self-authenticate their medicines, providing a 'genuine or fake' response on the spot.

Latterly the same approach is being adopted outside the pharmaceutical sector, with Sproxil implementing its platform for a string of new customers in the automotive, cosmetics and household durables sectors over the last six months.

EAC turned to Sproxil after estimating that the sector is losing KES 300m ($3m) a year to counterfeiting, and has estimated that by investing KES 50m in the system over three years will recoup a potential loss of KES 900m over the same period.

The losses derive from a number of scams, including one operated by private contractors who build or repair homes. Collaborating with the hardware store keeper, they secure a receipt for a genuine EAC product - at the genuine price - but then use a counterfeit when they are about to do the wiring.

"The home owner pays the genuine price for the fake product, because they can't tell just by looking if the cables are from EAC or not," notes Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil's chief executive.

Now all single, flexible or flat cables made by EAC will have a sticker placed on the inside core of the roll which can be scratched off to reveal as 12-digit code that can be sent via SMS for verification (see below).

The company has also set up a 24-hour call centre to handle customer queries about the system.

The scale of the counterfeiting problem is such that the Kenyan government is planning to introduce a certification scheme for cable installers and building contractors, issuing licenses that would be revoked if the contractor was found to be dealing with counterfeits.

Sproxil also signed up its second client in the automotive sector recently, with the system due to go live for Nigerian spare parts importer Betty-More last week. Another auto parts importer in Nigeria called E. Sunny Vespa has been running their campaign since November 2012.

Gogo told that other non-pharma clients include cosmetics companies Caring Chemistry Ltd, Rufus Obi Chemists, and foam products company Vitafoam Nigeria, with a number of other clients signed up but not yet live.

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