“A Worthy Successor“
Continuing the entrepreneurial spirit
Vivian Que-Azcona had big shoes to fill. With just 100 pesos, her pioneering father, Mariano Que, laid down the foundations of Mercury Drug Corporation after World War II by peddling on a wooden pushcart a “miracle” drug named sulfathiazole, which was used to cure many diseases and illnesses. Saving what he could earn from that, he was able to open the first outlet of Mercury Drug in Bambang, Manila, in 1945, to bring good-quality medicines to customers. Mariano named the store after Mercury, the Roman god of commerce who, like his Greek counterpart Hermes, is depicted as wearing a helmet and sandals with wings and carrying the caduceus, a winged staff that has come to symbolise the field of medicine.
Long before product delivery became commonplace, Mariano was delivering to his clients. And long before there were 24-hour services, he was expanding store hours, from 17 hours a day in 1952 to a 24/7 operation by 1965. Such was his entrepreneurial spirit.
More than seven decades later, his pushcart street business has become the largest drugstore chain in the Philippines with more than 1,200 stores nationwide and close to 15,000 employees. Mercury Drug has become the most prominent name in the Philippine pharmaceutical retail industry, earning Mariano the “Father of Philippine Health and Wellness Retailing” title from the Philippine Retailers Association.
When Mariano passed away in 2017, Vivian had already been serving as president for 19 years. But it wasn’t a role that was handed to her on a silver platter. In fact, her father made sure she earned her stripes. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree with cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, Vivian sat for the Pharmacist Licensure Examination to receive her qualification as a licensed pharmacist and joined Mercury Drug in 1977, essentially starting at the bottom as a staff assistant.
Under the direct supervision of her father, Vivian learnt the ropes of pharmacy retailing. And as she did so, she was exposed to the business at all levels, from warehousing, distribution, inventory and stock control to store operations, merchandising, marketing, HR development, finance and the overall management of the company.
There was no special treatment for Vivian. In fact, it became necessary to work harder than most to thoroughly understand the critical fundamentals of running the business. From her entry-level position as staff assistant, she progressed quickly to become assistant general manager in 1980, then vice president and general manager in 1984. Vivian eventually took over from her father and assumed the top position in 1998, as president and chief executive officer of Mercury Drug.
Possessing the same drive, values and entrepreneurial spirit as her father, Vivian has, over the years, been instrumental in ensuring the continued growth of the company. Working with the board of directors and corporate and executive officers, she has been providing strategic leadership in establishing short-, medium- and long-term goals, plans and strategies. She has also been overseeing the company’s fiscal functions and performances, ensuring the proper allocation of resources and carrying out all other duties that are needed for the successful attainment of the company’s mission, vision and goals.
Mercury Drug’s emphasis on offering superior quality and a wide range of medicines, including those not ordinarily available in other stores, has earned the company loyal, longstanding customers. The company is a solid presence in their lives that when they think of buying medicines, it is always Mercury Drug that comes to mind first. Under Vivian’s leadership, Mercury Drug has introduced numerous value-added services to reward its customers. These include the Suki Card, a customer loyalty card introduced in 2000 to reward members with points, and the Mercury Drug Citi Card, the first health credit card launched in 2009 to provide rebates on purchases.
Other conveniences for customers include drive-through services and the Gamot Padala service that was launched in 2003 to provide various purchase and delivery options to customers. Orders can be placed online, by phone or in person if it is done for a third party and picked up at any Mercury Drug store nationwide – in-store, curbside or drive-thru – at any time or delivered to a preferred location.
Health education is also an important service for Mercury Drug, which the company disseminates through mercuryTV (mTV), which was installed in 2002 in all its stores, and a giant electronic billboard (mEB) at the Mercury Drug Quiapo Plaza Miranda for the general public. The company also regularly initiates nationwide promotional and outreach programmes that have provided free medicines and consultations to millions of people, including many underserved communities all over the country.
With Vivian at the helm, Mercury Drug has grown to become more than just a pharmacy. With “trust” and “care” as cornerstones, the company is constantly evolving to provide exceptional customer service to people of all walks of life. And in doing so, it has been consistently winning awards for its quality in service, including the six-time Platinum Trusted Brand Award and the two-time Gold Quality Service Award in the pharmacy/drugstore category from Reader’s Digest.
Vivian herself has been recognised with numerous accolades for her services and contributions to the community and the pharmaceutical industry. She was conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Science by the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute in 2020, which incidentally was the first honorary doctorate degree conferred by the institution. She also received various recognitions and citations from her alma mater, University of Santo Tomas, for entrepreneurship and invaluable contributions to the pharmaceutical industry. The Colegio Medico Farmaceutico de Filipinas, Incorporada, established in 1899, also recognized her for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Pharmacy in 2019 while the Philippine Federation of Professional Associations awarded her as Most Outstanding Health Professional in Pharmacy in 1989.
Consistently ranked among the Top 10 companies in the Philippines, Mercury Drug is a significant contributor to the Philippine economy. With its large network of branches, the company maintains a competitive edge and plays an important role in ensuring the availability of drugs and pharmaceuticals to all its customers, even those in remote areas, at reasonable prices.
Vivian Que-Azcona had big shoes to fill, and she more than adequately filled them with her entrepreneurial drive to preserve the legacy of her father.
“Like father, like daughter. Thanks to the passion and entrepreneurial spirit that Vivian Que-Azcona shares with her father Mariano, the founder of Mercury Drug Corporation, she is able to build on what he has accomplished and has taken the company to new heights.”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group
“Building trust with customers is not an easy thing to do as there are no shortcuts. But Vivian Que-Azcona has helped her company Mercury Drug Corporation achieve this with a combination of high-quality products, convenient services and a drive to serve customers with integrity.”
Dr. Jayanthi Desan, Lead Jury, ACES Awards