Read the Conversation

EF: As the Head of Bayer LATAM, and GM of Brazil, how do you structure your priorities?

AJ: Brazil is half the business of the region and because it has a very important role in the Latin American pharmaceutical market, we decided to regenerate and revitalize the region. To this end, we had to restructure the organization in order to ensure business continuity and prioritize delivery to our customer base and to ensure the patient’s access to healthcare. After 9 months, we have achieved trust in the different countries, accountability, pitched bigger battles while managing remotely, and delegating responsibilities to my team. We have created a new concept of communities for products of therapeutic areas and franchises, and our team grew toward these communities. After receiving feedback, we found everybody was extremely happy with the new set-up. As region Head, I am constantly in communication with my team and I ensure to provide a space where we share best practices and create collaboration.

EF: You mentioned communities and an organized move by therapeutic areas, what does this look like from an operational model in terms of changing KPIs or measuring performance when making the transition?

AJ: I work with each country leader and provide them with guidance on setting the priorities right. We are a well-established brand and this puts us in a good position, yet we have the responsibility of delivering results to both headquarters and society. Part of this new set-up is having the right people in the key positions in order to prevent micro-management and focus on the right job. My different heads are very strong as is all my leadership team, they are all top-notch people with a clear set of priorities for each country or region and we have an excellent communication process, which makes a positive difference in management. 

EF: How has the pandemic impacted Bayer?

AJ: The pandemic has made everything more of a concern, from putting together a new region to hiring new people from the market, my head of Mexico had been only 18 months on the job and we were forced into a zoom relationship for months. I was in Mexico in February and since then, I have not travelled to Colombia or Buenos Aires in my new role. I have had to intensify communications and am doing weekly virtual meetings as I couldn’t travel. It has been a challenge but in spite of Covid-19, starting a new region and a new team we are managing extremely well with remote communication.

EF: When in communication with the country managers, what are the key takeaways, what do you bring to the table to keep it fresh every time you talk to them, and what are your priorities?

AJ: Our communication is strongly related to the culture of the region which we all manage together, even if I have the final word. For instance, in certain cases, I empower my manager to deal with a situation on my behalf. We have very recently implemented a set of cultural beliefs to drive the region to a place we want over the next five years and it is a big topic in my weekly conversations as a lot of our energy is invested in our cultural beliefs. Growth also features in our talks, we are set to drive sustainable double-digit growth in Latam and we explore new opportunities and ideas of launching them, which is a big priority in our agenda.

EF: Has there been a shift in strategy this year towards institutional sales in Latam? 

AJ: That is correct but specifically for Brazil and Mexico. Until not that long ago we were basically surfing in the retail market with contraceptives (the pill) but since the company portfolio has shifted to more complex products, we have been addressing more complex diseases particularly oncology. Now we have quite a solid portfolio and pipeline for oncology, ophthalmology, haematology, and women’s health at an institutional business level.  We have cardiology but at the retail level, and with two great products coming out, they will be optimizing the self-paid market (retail). To build capability and optimize our business institutional market, we had to work around access, reimbursement, medical marketing, accounts management, and local clinical projects. It has been mostly about marketing and sales and over the last three years or so, we have been investing a lot of energy in this shift, building the right capabilities and institutional markets, particularly in Brazil and Mexico, and things are going quite well.  

EF: When you mentioned defining and mapping out the new set of cultural beliefs, is that for yourselves or for the HQ who maybe don’t understand the Latin American dynamics of methods of business?

AJ: Right before Covid in February, we had a face to face management meeting in Sao Paulo which was the last time the regional leadership team of the company met up, and it was there we defined our cultural beliefs, for example, focusing on growth. Bayer is a conservative company and we need to be more of a risk-taker, introducing a lot of innovation and innovative equipment, cutting bureaucracy to be more agile, and take our simple set of cultural beliefs with a very clear strategic direction to embrace this new cultural journey with the management team. In a few market research studies done by IPSOS and IQVIA, we are the most mentioned multinational when it comes to differentiating ourselves for pandemic-customer building, something I am quite proud of. 

EF: What is your personal definition of access? 

AJ: I am a very pragmatic person and from my position, the freedom for any doctor to prescribe the right drug for the right patient is access. My ultimate goal is for prescriptions to be accurate and it’s important that it be done by the right doctor. For example, you can’t have a GP prescribing a cancer drug, so the right doctor with the freedom to prescribe the correct medication regardless of access in terms of affordability, waiting times, or legal issues. To have the simple freedom to prescribe the right drug is access. 

EF: You mentioned risk-taking and working in a conservative company with a long history, could you exemplify a situation of unexpected risks taken and how you hope they will be successful moving forward?   

AJ: Our second largest franchise, Agreement Health, has a long-lasting contraceptive which is an intrauterine device and there are a lot of women, regardless of social classes, unaware this device exists and even less aware that it is covered by health insurance. We hired a very well-known influencer/singer who recorded a song on contraception -there are about 10 million views of that song- and this year we did a global version called ´Freedom comes from Within´ which also has been much viewed. We followed up the original song with a reality show on open TV where six middle-aged women spoke about their dilemmas in terms of relationships, having or not having children, etc., and these are rather original steps as the usual standard pharma company doesn’t do this sort of thing very often. Back in March when we knew visiting doctors on a face to face basis would not be possible, we backed a program with no face to face interaction and launched three products. For the (virtual) launching of one of the oncological products, we invited 700 oncologists and had a very famous Master of Ceremonies to do the launching (the David Letterman of Brazil). We have had over 2000 meetings including home catering for the doctors during the virtual meetings. Now we are doing drive-ins with the doctors, coming in their cars at night for medical lectures, so we are being very creative and nobody else is doing what we are. In Mexico, we are building something called Med-Flicks for medical doctors to access medical information as it is released, which is also very innovative. We have a partnership with UBER to take patients in a sanitized car to their consultation because the patients were afraid to go themselves and we were the first to do this when the pandemic hit. We have worked with telehealth, bought thousands of licenses of a particular App of telehealth and delivered them to our customers, another thing nobody thought of doing but of course, they later started copying us. I don’t mean to say we were perfect or that other companies weren’t innovative but I do know we are living our core beliefs in terms of innovation. We are thinking about our patients, about our core beliefs, and adapting to the patient’s needs. 

EF: What keeps you up at night? 

AJ: Not recovering from the pandemic fast enough is one thing that keeps me awake at night because we are set for a solid double-digit growth next year. We are facing several important problems, there is confusion about the patients coming back to the clinics, and physical interaction between patients and doctors as certain devices cannot be used virtually. For example, our product for different eye diseases is done by injection and must be done in a very specific set up and its the same for a few oncological products. That these interventions cannot advance keeps me up at night!

EF: What would you like your 2020 tenure to be remembered for?

AJ: That despite the crisis, we strived in terms of growth. The whole region is growing in high single digits but I would like to reach double digits because we have a lot of disbursements especially in the case of Brazil. Ten years down the road I want people to look at the numbers and believe there was no Covid in Brazil due to our success. I always tell my people, “if the pie gets smaller, I want a bigger share of that pie” and I repeat it again and again. I want a big market share and we are driving market-share growth across the company in key brands, we are taking chances, being bolder and sharper as an institution, and reacting faster than others.

September 2020
Latin America