Selected to lead Takeda’s business in India this April, Koki Sato, GM, Takeda India finds himself working remotely from Ukraine, his previous posting, with his new team in India. In spite of the disruptions to the business cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he indicates to Viveka Roychowdhury that Takeda has decided to go forward with their annual performance appraisal and rewards as usual, as well as hiring plans in India.
You have recently taken over as India head of Takeda but are working remotely due to the pandemic. What are your strategic objectives for this year, besides dealing with COVID-19?
Ever since my appointment, there has been travel restrictions that has led me to work remotely with our team. In the last couple of weeks, I have been working closely with the leadership and the team to understand the people and business priorities in India.
At Takeda, patients are at the core of all our decisions, and it is important for us to enhance patients’ access to innovative medicines. We are working relentlessly to bring the best in class therapies to them. We have a strong Access to Medicine (AtM) strategy that is fundamental to our philosophy to address the broader structural barriers that prevent patients in underserved communities from receiving the care and treatment they deserve.
With my appointment, I will look at supporting the team in India to further bolster our commitment to patients, build trust with the key stakeholders across the ecosystem, strengthen our reputation in the country and drive the business to newer heights.
How will leaders like yourself need to evolve to send the right message to your employees, given the uncertainty and challenges ahead due to COVID-19?
I believe as leaders it is our responsibility to establish the right precedents. For us, the safety and wellbeing of our people remain our priority. At the same time, we need to ensure our medicines reach the patients and so we need to innovate models to ensure our commitment to patients remain undeterred.
I would like to say that leaders must be resilient, especially in such overwhelming situations. Embracing change, adapting to the new normal and staying ahead of the curve are the key to overcoming these challenging times.
As you have previously handled an HR role, how will the role of HR change post-COVID-19?
The role of HR has always been important in an organisation as it is they who bind the people together through thick and thin. The role of HR has been evolving with the onset of COVID-19. While policies and guidelines must be followed, the same is being redesigned to best suit the situation and support employees to find increased work-life balance.
Takeda has a highly flexible work system that promotes the reform of working practices. We give the flexibility of choosing where and when they work, that helps to maximise the productivity and performance of individuals and the organisation as a whole. We will augment our policies to stay connected and be engaged to evolve as a robust organisation post the pandemic.
Will COVID-19 impact the hiring of fresh talent in India and globally in the pharma sector? Is there a hiring freeze, right-sizing, pay cuts on the cards?
At Takeda, we value our people and the expertise they bring along. We have, therefore, decided to go forward with our annual performance appraisal and rewards as usual. We are also going ahead with our hiring plans and in India, we currently have a couple of open positions for which we are inviting candidates with relevant experience.
Pharma sales depend on medical reps meeting healthcare practitioners (HCPs) but with physical distancing norms in place for the foreseeable future, what are the new digital ways of connecting with doctors
Ensuring an uninterrupted supply of medicines to our patients is our priority. Over the lockdown period, we have embraced the new normal and digital initiatives are now the way of life at Takeda India. Continued engagement with our stakeholders is critical to our commitment to patients and business continuity and to ensure that we are using select platforms to host scientific webinars. We are also making our existing CRM system more robust to continue engagement with HCPs while ensuring the safety of both, the HCP and our people.
What are the supply chain issues faced by Takeda India staff during the COVID-19 lockdown and how were they tackled?
As the nation-wide lockdown was announced, there was considerable disruption in our supply chain due to manpower shortage, transport restrictions and increased freight charges. Our cross-functional teams collaborated to reach out and make representations across industry platforms and key stakeholders to ensure the challenges were dealt with in time to quickly restore our supply chain continuity. This timely collaboration helped restore supply continuity to our patients post initial hiccup.
Will pharma companies be more open to the Work from Home concept post-COVID-19?
I believe working systems should give flexibility to employees while maximising their productivity. Since the lockdown, nearly the whole world has been working from home. Post-COVID-19, there will be a healthy mix of various working models and the pharma companies will adapt to that.