Pharma Faces: Paolo Carli, Merck MEAR


Paolo Carli, head of Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Russia and CIS (MEAR) for Merck has continually taken on greater responsibilities in the Middle East, Africa, Turkey and Eastern Europe. In his most recent interview with PharmaBoardroom, Carli talks strategy, adaptability, and sales growth. 


We look at structuring markets with not necessarily identical but similar characteristics

Carli took on the role as head of Middle East, Africa and Turkey (MEA) for German pharma giant Merck in 2017, with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries added to his remit in 2018. The size of the business now managed by Carli from Merck’s Dubai hub is larger than that of Latin America as well as larger than Asia, excluding China. 


In terms of managing such a vast region, comprising both developing and developed markets, Carli notes that “Firstly, understanding the characteristics of each market is crucial for the effective grouping of regions. Therefore, we look at structuring markets with not necessarily identical but similar characteristics. Arguably, countries such as Turkey and Russia fall closer to emerging markets on the spectrum, in particular when comparing the healthcare systems of both countries to that of EU countries.”


Carli continues, “Secondly, management bandwidth becomes crucial. What I mean by this, is that in a multinational company, a country cannot be left on its own; we have a global structure, global guidance, global mandates, and global steering as every multinational company does at some level. Therefore, the level of support given to a country needs to be comparable or prioritized in a way that ensures the correct amount of attention is being paid.  Finally, leadership is essential. Selecting a team that has effective leadership characteristics in volatile markets is a key success factor.”


Carli’s global business background, including an MBA and over four years in mergers & acquisitions with Merck, has solidified his deep understanding of emerging markets and propelled him to the leadership role he holds today.  Since Carli entered the Middle East region in 2013 he has accomplished a great deal, bolstering sales twofold every four years.  He commented to PharmaBoardroom, “We continue to grow by double digits as a region, partially driven by the introduction of new medications to treat conditions such as cancer or multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as innovative technologies that make life easier for patients. Furthermore, we have doubled our sales every four years. To give you a clearer picture, I started in the Middle East & Egypt in 2013, and four years later we had doubled our sales volume. I took over Africa and Turkey in 2017 and today we are exactly on the 50 percent marker to be doubled by 2021.”


Speaking about the priorities for the newest regions under his remit, Russia and CIS, Carli emphasizes the importance of adaptability: “We’ve reshaped our strategy for both Russia and the CIS countries, and I am confident our market share will grow decisively the coming years. In particular, I believe we will see the most growth in specialty areas. Within the CIS countries, our priority is to gain a deeper understanding of the market dynamics and adapt our approach accordingly.” 


Read the full interview with Paolo Carli

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