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'PHARMA FIRST-LINE LEADER TO CEO: THE ROADMAP TO SUCCESS' - by Vivek Hattangadi

[This book is my virtual autobiography! The names, the period and the company names have been changed.] 

In my real life, Mentor represents Late Gurudas Masurkar who rose to be the head of sales in Crookes Interfran (later Duphar Interfran and now Solvay). Late Gurudas Masurkar was responsible for the launch of one of India's strongest brand - 'Crocin' and in those days was also affectionately called as the 'Crocin Man'.  

Over 95% of the time of a First-line Leader (FLL) in the pharmaceutical industry is spent in working along with medical representatives. This also means that a pharmaceutical company should invest substantially to make joint field work effective and thus develop his team of medical representatives. If 95% of the time of an FLL is spent in joint field work, then 95% of the investment on an FLL should be for making joint field work effective. As a corollary, 95% of the training efforts by an organization on an FLL should be to develop him to make effective joint calls. If this is not happening, it needs immediate attention.

But unfortunately says the management guru Kermally Sultan “Some organizations do not want to accept that all managers need continuous training and support in relation to their function of managing people€. (1) They do not realize that those adept in the skills of managing people are the ones who are delivering today while preparing to be the CEOs of tomorrow. People-managing skills can be acquired through training.

Says Dr. Ulhas Ganu in his review of this book: Advice on €˜working as a team, collaborating with Brand Managers to make the Brand Successful€™ subtly imbibes the thought of not undermining colleagues, an important message, worth noting not only by the FLL but, as a recipe to success, even by the Sales Managers.

Excerpts from the book:

Preamble to the Prof. Chitta Mitra Oath

Sickening! Encashing on the misfortunes of the people! The unholy nexus between some medical professionals and a few pharma companies has to end! It’s a disease which has infected the globe. Corruption in the healthcare industry has become so widespread that it has literally debased medical science. In some countries, medical representatives are even taught tactics for manipulating doctors for the company's benefit, as a standard part of their training! Companies are illegally promoting their drugs for off-label use, despite their knowledge that it is associated with an increased risk of multiple side-effects. Mentally unstable people are selected as subjects for drug trials€“ not for mental illness but for premature ejaculatory disorders! Disgusting!  Let us all profess by the Prof Chitta Mitra Oath which is included in this book!

Preface

The most exciting characteristic of the   pharmaceutical industry in India is that many CEOs have started their careers as humble medical representatives. By the time they became first-line leaders, the ambitious amongst them dreamt of reaching the top. This book is a guide for such forward looking people!

When I started writing this book and shared it with a few close friends, the first question which was thrown at me was its title why €˜First-line Leader€™ and not First-line Manager? Are the terms managers and leaders synonyms?

Many, many years back, when Eureka Forbes was strongly promoting their vacuum cleaners, I observed that the immediate 'bosses' of the sales representatives were called 'Team Leaders'€™ and since then I have a strong opinion that the managers is not the right terminology€“ it is  leaders.

What'€™s the difference, a few may ask?“ Read in this book which has already sold over 3000 copies.

There is no gender bias in my books. In my previous book, 'WHAT THE PHARMA CEO WANTS FROM THE BRAND MANAGER', the main character was addressed as '€˜she'™ / 'her'€™. This time, I have used the masculine gender. I hasten to add that in my career spanning over thirty years, the best first-line leader with whom I have worked was a lady!

The book has been written in a unique style the entire book is in the form of a conversation between a budding First-line Leader Vinod Kamat and his Mentor. The lessons which the Mentor gives are the take-home messages for the reader.   

Prologue to the book

We all know that in 1999 India won the Kargil war against Pakistan. The sacrifices of the jawans and officers set many a young heart on fire. One of them was Vinod Kamat, the only son of his parents. Vinod, who was then barely 13 years old, declared his intention to join the armed forces via the National Defence Academy route and serve the country. His mother was in a state of shock when she heard this. She spared no efforts to dissuade him from taking up this risky career.  However Vinod was firm; nothing could shake his determination. He studied hard for the entrance examinations and passed with flying colors. No sooner had he received a call for an interview than his mother went on a hunger strike to dissuade him from attending it. After she went for three days without food or water, Vinod’s stand softened and he bowed down to the wishes of his mother.

He joined Bhavan'€™s College, Andheri, Mumbai to pursue B.Sc., but his heart was not in studies. He scraped through B.Sc. examinations with just 37% marks. And who would give him a decent job with this 'brilliant academic record'?

His first job was as a shop-to-shop salesman selling medicated cough drops introduced by a well-known FMCG. His customer audience included retail chemists, general stores, grocery shops and even 'pan-bidi-wallahs'€˜. Selling the stuff packed in polythene bags, he was accompanied by a cycle-rickshaw puller carrying the wares. A chance encounter with the regional manager of Capella Pharmaceuticals changed his destiny. While in the field and working at retail chemists, this gentleman spotted his talent and invited him to join Capella Pharmaceuticals as a medical representative; he was offered Ahmedabad as his headquarters. Vinod was delighted and accepted the offer. Capella Pharmaceuticals was a very fast growing organization which had acquired licenses to market some of the top brands of various MNCs. Vinod decided to excel in this company with an ambition to reach the top and become a CEO one day.

Unfortunately for Vinod, his district manager at Ahmedabad was a new incumbent.  His behavior was more like that of a super-medical representative. Vinod could neither get any guidance from him nor learn anything from him. Day in and day out he bragged about his success stories as a medical representative. Vinod and his colleagues often heard him saying, “If I were you, I would have done this, and I would have converted this doctor to our brands. I converted a key opinion leader, Dr. Sharma, to our brand within three visits.€Instead of leading the team forward, he was boasting about his successes all the time! 

Vinod realized the limitations of his immediate superior. He was career conscious: €œI couldn'€™t join the armed forces; I will make a career in selling, which is also tough and challenging,he said to himself. Capella Pharmaceuticals was growing rapidly and his growth prospects here appeared very bright. Instead of leaving Capella Pharmaceuticals, he began searching for someone who could guide him as a mentor and found one in his father'€™s friend, who was the National Sales Manager of a large Indian multi-national pharma company based at Ahmedabad. We shall refer to him as Mentor (with a capital M) here. Mentor became his constant guide. Vinod sought Mentor€™s help and advice frequently to help him excel in his chosen profession.

Mentor taught him many things and the most important one was on his accountability as a medical representative. Said Mentor to Vinod, "€œAs a medical representative you have many roles and responsibilities; but you are accountable for results: to achieve value-wise, brand-wise targets every month, month after month". 

"Accountability", explained Mentor, means being liable for rewards or punishments for the tasks assigned to you. Some of the responsibilities can be shared even with your district manager, but accountability can never be shared". 

Time and again Vinod continued to get guidance from Mentor. Despite having a weak superior, he worked on sharpening his skills.  He worked very hard and displayed his leadership qualities during cycle meetings, new product launches and other developmental programs. He came into the limelight and within four years was called for an interview for the position of district manager, as the first-line leaders in Capella Pharma were designated. After a grueling four hour interview he was selected and posted at Pune.

Vinod went to share his success story with Mentor. It was then that Mentor said, "The job of the First-line Leader (FLL) is the most important position in the hierarchy of any pharmaceutical company, whether in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal or the USA. A company is as strong or as weak as its First-line Leaders (FLLs). Over 95% of the time of a First-line Leader (FLL) in the pharmaceutical industry is spent in working along with medical representatives. This also means that a pharmaceutical company should invest substantially to make joint field work effective and thus develop his team of medical representatives. Pareto's Principle is highly visible here", went on Mentor."€œIf 95% of the time of an FLL is spent in joint field work, then 95% of the investment on an FLL should be for making joint field work effective. As a corollary, 95% of the training efforts by an organization on an FLL should be to develop him to make effective joint calls. If this is not happening, it needs immediate attention.€ Mentor continued to coach Vinod.

The lessons Mentor gave Vinod are narrated in this book as the take-home messages.

And the grand finale to the book Short autobiographies of four personalities who have risen from medical representatives to CEOs! 

Their contribution to the Indian pharmaceutical industry is immense. 

Who are they? Read in this book!



Note: The term CEO in this book is generic. It symbolizes the person at the top who leads the organization,€“ irrespective of the designation.

Reference

      Kermally Sultan. (2004) Gurus on People Management, London: Thorogood Publishing Ltd.

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