with Dr. Faiz Ansari , General Manager, Lilly Indonesia
As a top 10 global MNC, how does Lilly’s Indonesian affiliate compare with the group’s global positioning?
Lilly Indonesia’s position is a bit behind our desired global positioning, but it is appropriate when you consider that Lilly has only started to invest in Indonesia recently. What we see is a tremendous opportunity for Lilly to grow and invest here. Indonesia has a growing economy and healthcare market. Lilly sees potential in this market, which is why we are increasing our presence here now.
The first step to success in pharma anywhere in the world is having a high caliber team firmly in place. That is why our first order of business was investing in new talent here. We are building a top-notch team that understands what needs to be done in Indonesia.
Two thirds of the market is controlled by local Indonesian companies. Is this market tougher than others for an MNC?
I do not see the presence of generics or branded generics as negative; in Indonesia, this adds up to almost 70 percent of the market by value, and even more by volume. The remaining 30 percent of branded medicines is a separate niche targeting a specific segment of the population. In reality, generics help to cater to a wider population. While it is true that the strong presence of these companies makes the market more competitive and challenging, I do believe that there are lots of areas in which we can all contribute appropriately, as opportunities increase.
We must respect our competitors which, at the end of the day work for the benefit of patients, just as Lilly does. As long as they have the interests of the patients at stake too, we must focus on our market niches and opportunities as they do.
What do you see as your biggest challenge here?
Our biggest challenge is also our key success factor, and that is finding the right talent. To be successful in Indonesia, we need the best possible team. While Indonesia has extremely talented people, the exponential growth of the country quickly makes them a limited resource. And that’s not the only challenge, Indonesia’s bustling economy provides desirable career opportunities in different growth industries, such as consumer goods, infrastructure or automotive. We not only need to find the right talent, but we need to keep them too.
In the 16 months that you have been heading the Indonesian affiliate, have you taken specific steps to strengthen the team?
Yes, we are fine-tuning the capabilities of the people we have inside our organization and have added a number of talented people from outside the organization as well.
What can you tell us about your experience of working with an Indonesian workforce so far? What do you see as some of their inherent strengths?
Basically, Indonesians are lovely people, warm and modest. If you enjoy working with people, Indonesia is the place to work. Personally, I am finding this a really rewarding experience in this regard.
Because they are such genuine people, building trust is key. When you make a meaningful contribution to them, the relationship you are building is enriched. I can honestly say that my experience with the people here has more than made up for any of the inherent challenges that we face here, such as infrastructure.
One cannot build trust overnight. From your personal experience, how long does it take one to really gain the trust of the people here?
Trust is something that is built over time and in Indonesia it is no different. The reason that time is so important is it provides you with the opportunity to be consistent in your actions. People begin to trust you when they can rely on your consistency of actions over a period of time, which could be as long as six to nine months. When people recognize consistency, they will also realize the value and the benefits it brings to them. That is the point when they will start opening up and putting their trust in you.
Our portfolio in Indonesia is more or less the same as our global portfolio, with a strong focus on our four core areas of diabetes, oncology, men’s health and CNS. There is opportunity to contribute to the Indonesian patients in all four of these segments.
Do you foresee all four segments to grow at the same rate?
Diabetes and oncology are the fast growing, diabetes more so, with an especially high incidence rate in Indonesia. In the oncology therapeutic area, regrettably we are losing a lot of affluent patients to other countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Still, I believe the growth is there.
The leading company in diabetes, Novo Nordisk, follows a strategy that closely ties into national policy, built on a strong relationship with the government and the Ministry of Health in particular. What is your approach to fighting diabetes together?
As a pharma company, it is our ethical responsibility to partner with other companies and stakeholders, like government, that serve patients. This stands true for Lilly and all of the pharmaceutical companies here. Wherever there are opportunities to partner, we do so.
Our focus is our patients. We ask ourselves, “does this add value to the patient?” If that criterion exists, we are open to partner with all the parties involved.
A second critical aspect for us is related to ethical business practices. As long as the initiatives are ethical and compliant, we can consider engaging. If it is a choice between ethical business practices and market share, being ethical always wins. As an American-headquartered company, this is our belief and our culture.
Coming back to the challenges we face here, we are clear about our approach. Often, we have to give up business opportunities because of non-compliance. Many companies in Indonesia still do not have the same standards as Lilly in terms of ethical business practices, but this is an aspect we refuse to compromise on.
Indonesia has a complex geography that, in spite of a trend towards increasing urbanization, still hosts a large rural population too. At Lilly, do you manage to ensure access to both parts of the Indonesian population?
Such approaches work better for companies with a broader portfolio than Lilly, which remains focused on a few niche areas. For us, our oncology efforts for instance are focused in a small number of highly specialized centers located in a few big cities. Our diabetes efforts are more widespread, but diagnosis also still takes place in more urban settings too. We have the opportunity to expand, but at this stage we are working our strategy in the major cities. We know that other companies are providing the necessary patient benefits in the smaller cities and more rural areas of Indonesia. As we evolve and grow in this market, we will gradually also be able to do so.
72 hospitals will be built in the next five years in the country, which will also give rise to a growing medical community. In your view, what are some of the key success factors to meaningfully contribute to educating this community?
Here, we can draw on similarities from our global operations where Lilly, for instance, partners with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). This is a non-promotional effort (i.e. we do not mention our name there) and includes initiatives such as our diabetes conversation maps, which targets the different patients and how they should manage this disease. We partner with doctors and nurses to communicate this information at a local level. Our focus remains steadfast on the patient, and we try to understand the channels that can support patient value.
Again, you need the best people to disseminate such information. While you surely do not interview all of your new recruits yourself, what does Lilly look for in its people here?
I have a talented HR Team that I rely on, but when I interview for key positions I look for three things; passion, integrity and that the person is a good fit for Lilly culture. I believe wholeheartedly, that at Lilly we offer careers to people rather than jobs. If we prioritize people as our key success factor, then we should hire these people for a career.
You evolved from a formation in medicine to a business person. What kept the passion burning inside you?
While practicing medicine is an excellent profession and a calling really, I was also called to contribute in a broader way. Beyond the ability to diagnose patients, we need to ensure that the right medicines are available. This is what brought me to work for this industry and contribute to the management of diseases. On a personal note, I do have a strong need to achieve at a high level and I enjoy doing so.
What achievements do you foresee for the next year here?
Lilly Indonesia’s key success factor will be having the right talent in place, and the ability to retain that talent. If we have the right team, our biggest job will be done already. If you have passionate, driven people on your team, the business aspects become less of an issue.