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Girding up for a VUCA world


20161231ep03The term VUCA, an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, was reportedly first coined by the US Army War College to describe the condition of the world after the Cold War ended. Post the economic downturn, the term slipped seamlessly into B school jargon. So, what are the key must-dos in a pharma CEO’s play book if s/he wants to ride out the VUCA wave? For Express Pharma’s 22nd anniversary issue, we asked some of these leaders to share their learnings. Here’s a quick summary of some of their insights; for more details, do read our issue dated December 16-31, pages 24-38.

Embracing change spells success in a VUCA world says Jawed Zia, Country President responsible for the Novartis Group of Companies in India. For his company, this strategy has meant introducing innovative measures, which include a social business model, emerging market brands, payment by EMIs and co-pay models as a means to broaden access and meet the needs of more and more patients.

One of the major, if not the major source, of change in the pharma world is constantly evolving regulations. Adding transparency and some degree of predictability to the pace and tone of regulatory change would go a long way towards giving the industry some visibility to their future path. In his address at the OPPI AGM, Mike Warmuth, Executive Vice President, Established Pharmaceuticals Division, Abbott makes the case for working towards making a policy environment that is predictable, consistent and stable.

The VUCA world has also transformed leadership as we know it. Daara Patel, Secretary General, IDMA analyses that the days of the single “great leader” are gone, as in a VUCA world, the best leaders are the ones who harness leadership from everyone. Patel points out how CEOs of pharma MNCs have a huge challenge in meeting growth targets, as they are aware that bulk of their sales will come from countries like India, where prices of MNCs are not affordable. But companies from India cannot be complacent. They too need to change their business model from cost competitiveness and reverse engineering and move up the value chain, through technology innovation exhorts Dr Ajit Dangi, President and CEO Danssen Consulting.

The clinical research arena possibly scores highest on the VUCA scale but trials cannot be wished away. The only way to meet this challenge, says Dr Arun Bhatt, a clinical research and development veteran, is a ‘radical change in leadership approach from reactive to proactive … a collective leadership focused on skills, attitude, vision and ethics.’ Utkarsh Palnitkar, who is the national head of KPMG India’s Infrastructure, Government & Healthcare as well as Life Science practices, says that new business icons need to  future proof their organisations by redefining them in three areas: agilities, capabilities and values. And much of this is already happening.

At an individual level, aren’t we all coping with a world gone VUCA, with Prime Minister Modi’s notebandi exercise?  Thus as 2016 ends, we can be sure that the VUCA world will not disappear on January 1, 2017. But hopefully, we’ll be better equipped to move closer to our goals. Seasons Greetings from the Express Pharma team and all the best for 2017!

Viveka Roychowdhury

[email protected]

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