An organisation with a diverse talent pool not only makes for good social sense but also makes for perfect business sense
Express Pharma|July 2021
Samina Hamied, Executive Vice-Chairperson, Cipla, talks about leading from the front, building an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace, making Cipla future-ready and more in an exclusive interview with Ashwini Prakash, Managing Partner India, Asia Pacific Lead – Pharma, Healthcare, Life Sciences and Consumer products, Stanton Chase India
Ashwini Prakash

You are leading Cipla from the front, was joining the family business always a plan?

Before joining Cipla, I worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker for almost five years across their London and New York offices. I joined the firm right after completing my Masters at the London School of Economics.

My entry into Cipla in 2011 was at a time when the company was on the cusp of change. I took a call to switch over from my career as an investment banker in London to my family business here in India. Given that I had practically no experience in the pharmaceutical sector and that Cipla was also at a critical turning point, it was a big leap to take and a massive responsibility. But I saw it differently. For me, it was an opportunity to infuse fresh thinking into the organisation and refresh the existing mindset to lead it towards future growth. In hindsight, I couldn't have asked for a more opportune time than that.

Coming from the founding family, did you face any stereotype challenges? What was your go-to strategy?

While I was very happy to join the family business, I had apprehensions about foraying into a new domain. My first challenge was to develop a solid understanding of how pharma functioned as an industry. Consequently, I spent a lot of time with strong mentors to understand how the generics business runs.

When you are working for a company that has eight decades of legacy behind it, it is imperative to drive the organisation with a humanitarian approach to healthcare, keeping up with its legacy of caring for life and fast-forwarding its journey into the future. While I was empowered to transform the company through my position on the Board, keeping the purpose of Cipla, on which it was founded by my late grandfather Dr KA, intact, was also my priority. As a leader, having a clear-cut vision is essential. The bets that I undertook at the time may have been new to many within the system, however with conviction and a well thought through strategy it has today, led Cipla onto a new path of becoming a holistic healthcare solutions provider focused on wellness, instead of limiting ourselves to manufacturing medicines alone.

What disruptions do you foresee in Indian pharma, healthcare and life sciences sector? How is Cipla poised to ride the wave?

The pharma industry has started evolving from its current role of being seen as traditional drug manufacturers, to an industry that is focusing on being holistic healthcare providers. Going forward, one of the disruptions we see is the shift from illness to wellness wherein patients are empowered about their health needs and are transitioning to a more preventive, and curative behavioural change. Pharma companies will have to reimagine their roles in the lives of patients and play a larger part in their lives. At Cipla, we took major steps towards growing Cipla Health into a holistic wellness player. This business has achieved an all-around play across multiple, large OTC categories. Cipla Health launched an entire range of products including hand sanitisers, surface disinfectants, face masks, etc. to cater to the increasing market demand for hygiene essentials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A company that is ready to re-imagine their businesses to stay relevant in the evolving times, while staying true to their core purpose is a future-ready organisation

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