Read the Conversation

EF: This year marks the 10th anniversary of Glenmark in key Latin American markets. Having participated in the success of the Venezuelan affiliate, how would you compare the strategies between there and Mexico?

EA: The goal when entering any market is to get in and grow—and, over time, Glenmark has realized that it’s important to define how to grow. The initial strategy in Mexico was to grow within Glenmark’s key therapeutic areas, respiratory and dermatology. In Venezuela, however, the model was different, and I selected a group of high-potential products to launch, with the fortunate result that Venezuela far outperformed expectations. We made a very impressive business case. Within five years, we were ranked 22nd among all pharmaceutical companies in Venezuela, becoming the third-largest affiliate for Glenmark worldwide!

The path in Mexico was different, very specialized, geographically expansive, with a huge number of physicians. Compare this reality to Venezuela, which is a smaller market with higher prices and a relatively small number of physicians. The Venezuelan affiliate also benefited from the fact that Glenmark positioned itself not so much as an Indian company—there was a negative halo around Indian companies at that time, from previous entrants who were just trying to make a quick buck with the government—and instead highlighted our Swiss research facilities.

EF: What was your mission upon your appointment to Mexico, and what lessons did you learn from the Mexican affiliate?

EA: The first mission was to grow the business since the company wasn’t growing the way top management wanted. I was brought here to replicate my success in Venezuela, to change the sales trajectory and put us in the black on the bottom line.

The first lesson I learned was to never try to replicate the past! Success tactics in one country won’t necessarily apply 100% to the next. For example, in Venezuela, we earned a lot of business from hospital physicians. There, you can call on hospital physicians, who can write a prescription to a private pharmacy, and thus capture new business. In Mexico, that’s overwhelmingly not the case. IMSS and ISSTE have their own list of approved products, the so-called “cuadro basico.” So we had to be much more selective in Mexico, because not all hospitals responded to our approach when a given physician was obliged to prescribe only the products a hospital carried in-stock.

The second lesson was that Mexico is a much more regulated country. Other countries—throughout the Caribbean, or the Dominican Republic, or Venezuela, for instance—are far less regulated, although that’s not to say you can do strictly wrong things. In Mexico, you’ll often find that COFEPRIS defines boundaries much more carefully.

EF: Having arrived here from a thriving success in Venezuela to find those past commercial strategies didn’t translate to Mexico, what were your change priorities?

EA: First of all, we needed to have an excellent local team, to assess how the team is comprised and make sure we had very committed people moving forward—experts who knew the key things needed to be successful. A second change was with marketing and sales, formerly two separated divisions. But when the results aren’t there, there tends to be a lot of finger-pointing back and forth, so we restructured to create just one combined head of marketing and sales.

Now, in upper LATAM, the strategy is to design the portfolio for Mexico, which is by far the largest market, then validate whether the portfolio applies to other markets, such as Colombia. Glenmark’s strategy, moving forward, is to position the company as a global innovation-based company. We are one of the few companies in India that invests a significant amount in innovation. In the next four to five years, the mix between branded generics and innovators will be much more skewed toward innovation, including unique combinations, concepts, and drug-delivery systems. Even within the branded generics space, we are differentiating ourselves. There’s no point in launching another aspirin or acetaminophen. The idea is to use the margin from our existing portfolio to prepare the ground for innovations to come. For example, we have created a combination acne gel that puts one of its molecules in a microsphere—to enter the pore and treat the acne—while the other molecule is the antibiotic that treats the germs generated by the acne. It’s a solution with a better vehicle, one that’s safer and works better.

We also speak a lot about the pipeline and our catalogue of many innovative products coming out of the research facilities in Switzerland. There’s a huge potential in launching a B2B line, leveraging our robust collection of existing molecules by approaching local companies to expand their own portfolios under their own brands, achieving a complementarity to the individual company’s pipeline.

Within a few years, Glenmark will launch its first innovative drug in the USA, a nasal spray combined with a topical antihistamine. Glenmark will be the first Indian company to launch an innovation in the US market. Back when I started in the industry in 1995, that would have been unheard of! Now we will be investing in a large salesforce in the US, and launching most likely in 2020.

EF: What advice would you give to the new administration in its first 100 days on how to best contribute to establishing healthcare as a priority?

EA: The spirit of the administration is correct—the question is how you implement it. As always, the devil’s in the details. We should learn from what other countries have been through, and be careful of who we choose to manage and implement the changes. We must first implement anti-corruption legislation, then worry about healthcare as a priority. Healthcare is about people; politics shouldn’t supersede the human element.  

July 2019