The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is home to around 1.44 billion people, over 60 percent of the world’s population, and a vast diversity of cultures, infrastructures, and economic development. Managing a life sciences company across multiple countries in this region can be extremely challenging but hugely important on both a human and financial level, given the unmet medical needs of patients in APAC and the booming growth of many of its markets. Here, five APAC leaders give some of their key learnings from managing in the region.
Bridge the Gap Between Global Strategy & Local Execution
“It all starts with a great management team and having people on the ground who understand our global vision. Taking global marketing strategies from across Baxter’s six business divisions and applying them to local market realities requires leaders who can focus and prioritise well.
“As you pointed out, APAC is a region of great variety and stark contrasts. Japan is very different from China, which in turn is very different to India or Australia. However, we have learned a lot from these markets which is applicable elsewhere. For example, because of China’s unique market access and competition challenges, it has been at the forefront of omnichannel and digital marketing via WeChat. This gives us a window into what could be achieved in other geographies. While other companies may separate China and Japan from the APAC umbrella, it has made sense for Baxter – with its differing management approaches in the region – to stay as one.”
Differentiation & A Strategic Mindset Are Key
“The diverse mix of economies within the APAC region comes with a range of different needs depending on the level of development. For example, economies such as Singapore and Japan are highly developed, while China and India are still developing and therefore have different requirements.
“Therefore, Avanos caters to the growing needs of patients through its differentiated product lines in Respiratory Health, Digestive Health and Pain Management. Strategic product launches in targeted markets, looking at the treatment spectrum, physician’s adoption, and payee and payor models helps us provide timely solutions to patients. Specifically, Avanos is delivering solutions to the growing middle class in APAC that are demanding better healthcare and services.”
Cultural Diversity is a Strength
“We have a very diverse team with around 20 nationalities represented from Asia and beyond. Additionally, there is a lot of diversity within these countries themselves. From my perspective, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia offer a great mixture of respectfulness and emotional sensitivity. Building relationships is especially important in Thailand, whereas concise, direct, and transactional interactions are the name of the game in Singapore and Malaysia.
“More importantly, our teams across the three countries are encouraged to work together and share expertise with the aim of getting the best of all worlds. Some of our teams need to be bolder and less risk averse, while others may benefit from a more mindful, and rounded approach. However, this is often dependent on individual personalities.
“One of my team members was telling me how impressed he was when the first day of Ramadan coincided with Songkran in Thailand and the last day with three Indian festivals and the entire office was congratulating one another with a great deal of cultural and personal sensitivity. I have never seen such diversity and inclusion anywhere else, and I find it extremely rewarding to work in such an environment.”
Leverage Expertise in Developed Markets
“APAC is a very diverse region and the healthcare systems and infrastructures are very different from country to country. At the end of the day, they were established to meet local needs, which are very different in each country, so having a one-size-fits-all approach is very difficult. A customised model is very important in order to meet the unique challenges and situation of each market, so establishing partnerships with the local healthcare system and stakeholders are critical.
“For instance, our Singaporean office recently hosted our inaugural Digital Health Innovation Forum, where we invited healthtech startup partners, clinicians, academics, government agencies and other stakeholders to foster conversation on digital healthcare and deepen the engagement between all of them.”
Agility is Crucial to Dealing with Ambiguity
“This region has countries with significant disparity on many different economic and health indicators. The heterogeneity of these countries within Asia-Pacific is what makes it exciting for business leaders to embrace the challenges and shape the healthcare landscape to make a meaningful impact on human lives.
“Managing this diverse region needs leaders to be agile, willing to take risks and deal with a significant amount of ambiguity as we do not have well laid out healthcare road maps in several of the ASEAN countries which are looking to healthcare leaders from the business community to help them build the right capabilities. This is the biggest contribution healthcare leaders in Asia can make by working closely with the governments in engaging and addressing the three key barriers of Awareness, Access, and Affordability.”