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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will bring?
GK: 2020 and 2021 held many challenges, Covid came from nowhere and was a huge learning curve for most of us, and I still feel we are still learning as new variants appear. We have done well, but remain watchful. 2021 has been a year of learning and implementation with a certain level of success. Two years ago, people were worried about getting masks, alcohol gel, hospital beds and today it is vaccines. We have been working on promoting many medications for treating COVID from Remidesivir to Molnupiravir & COVID Vaccines ( Sputnik V & Sputnik Light) in all the countries where we have marketing rights from RDIF (Russia Direct Investment funds) Sputnik Lite is the one-shot vaccine, which we are manufacturing under the licence of RDIF and have a license to launch this product in Mexico and many other countries. We are the biggest manufacturer of an antiviral used against Covid across the globe, adding value in the fight against the pandemic. We have invested in the value chain of treatment and are frontrunners in other products used in treatments related to Covid.
EF: Do you have any advice for business leaders interested and willing to invest in healthcare in Mexico?
GK: We have invested heavily in Mexico, creating intangible and tangible assets. Intangible refers to developing products, brands and value-added services in the country and offering them to the Mexican population. Tangible refers to infrastructure, warehouse, QC lab, manufacturing plant etc. We never stopped investing in intangibles. We continuously develop and offer new products to Mexico. Our pipeline is extremely robust & broad and we have never stopped churning out new generic drugs. A good thing that has come from the pandemic is that the healthcare sector has worked towards bringing solutions, and companies, in general, have had good growth in revenues, whereas most other sectors have suffered. Pharma, logistics, supply chain, and the hospital sector have grown mightily. Value can be added to a country with “tangibles”. Whoever invests in infrastructure will directly or indirectly help the country by creating jobs, including aligned sectors. A manufacturing plant will mean a workforce for production, maintenance, instrumentation, quality control etc., which indirectly creates work and benefits society. We have a vast manufacturing site in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, with the mission of manufacturing and offering them to the government sector. Since Mexico has opened up, the government sector has been purchasing internationally and being supplied by many companies that are not in Mexico. I believe there is a need to strengthen the Mexican industry so that we can encourage investment in Mexico. I have been in Mexico for fifteen years and am biased, and I prefer to invest in ´tangibles´ to help develop this part of the world. The government should offer a friendly atmosphere for investment.
EF: What will be the market dynamics in the future? There has been a massive emphasis on infectious diseases these last two years, but will the importance of non-communicable diseases be restored?
GK: Covid variants are less severe now (wait and watch), and despite working in the segment with many Covid-related products, we must not neglect other diseases. Scientists worldwide agree that Covid is getting weaker and finally will become localized. What will happen is still uncertain, but we all hope to work towards bringing affordable solutions to combat other diseases. It’s hard to say, but I think "normality" won’t be achieved until 2023 or 2024, now that many countries are opening up.
EF: What is the relative importance of Mexico to the Hetero Group?
GK: For us and for many big multinationals that come from India, the US and Europe are more important. It has always been that way and that perspective doesn’t change, even in Hetero as markets are huge and investments too. Having our HQ in Hyderabad - India, we are US and Europe-centric, and then we have the rest of the world. In Latin America, Mexico is our top priority. Mexico is a highly-regulated country, and the market is still huge for generic products. We are very ambitious about this market, we have grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years, and we have no issues with the product offering. We are doing extremely well and will keep investing in the country to offer high quality, affordable products and services to Mexico, and we look forward to gaining more market share moving forward.
EF: Five years on, what will you remember about the pandemic when you look back at this period?
GK: I will remember having to do home office; we have essential workers and non-essential workers, the essential workers were those doing finances, sales, logistics, and distribution, they are coming to the office and sometimes working tirelessly to meet the high demands of the market, be it private or government sector. There were a lot of challenges that we dealt with: logistics, the supply chain disruption, and the price increases that were directly proportional to the cost of the product, inflation and the demands of the patients. I am proud of Human Resource Management and how they looked after people and were constantly on the watch to give all possible helping hand need for our people. People from the IT sector could work from home easily and we know that the home office culture for us as a sector was a challenge that we managed to overcome.