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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will bring?
RO: 2022 will be the year of digital transformation and adoption. One way or another, all pharmaceutical companies have been encouraged to digitalize and this will be translated into a new market dynamic. It will challenge our industry, and we must ensure the stakeholders we work with see the value of digital initiatives. We need to re-educate and develop new capabilities of our sales team; we only covered 30 to 40% of our roster during the pandemic, not reaching those doctors who were not interested in virtual interactions. Today, we need to segment our physicians differently from three years ago, therefore we have been developing different strategies in order to better meet our customer’s profile and interactions preference
EF: How has digitalization changed the 'health journey' for physicians?
RO: Doctors in Brazil are now learning to provide health via telemedicine consultations, which wasn't possible before the pandemic. Patients are now adopting telemedicine as a tool to have immediate access to primary attention. The market dynamics have changed substantially, and we must learn to take advantage of this. Physicians over 50 prefer the status quo, but the younger generation thinks differently, and we need to rethink the way we interact with them in order to indeed get their attention. We want to be pioneers in new technologies, digital platforms, and gene/cell therapies because this is the future.
EF: If you had to create a Master in Pandemic Administration which two courses would you consider mandatory?
RO: I’d consider one single course focused on people strategy. That has been one of our key focuses of attention and despite the pandemic, we have grown more than 20% year over year in the last three years. We’ve been able to reach these outstanding results by focusing on people, caring for them and their families, keeping them safe at home, and enhancing our ability to interact with our customers through digital initiatives. We’ve created two crisis committees, one made up of the company's leadership team, and the other made up of members of the front line who maintain daily contact with our customers, to analyze the scenario, discuss the facts and have agility and representativeness in decision making and communication with the employees. We also maintained an open, frequent, and transparent communication channel to share everything that was happening in the market and what the company was doing to offer the best possible working conditions: taking care of our employees’ well-being and meeting the needs of our people through chats and space for group or individual dialogue, monthly web meetings with all employees and messages from me with reflections on the moment lived in a weekly basis. We were working apart, but the feeling was that we were together.
EF: How do you attract new talent to the organization?
RO: Part of my mission when joining Astellas was to consolidate the company's 10-year footprint in the country, which I have been doing by raising awareness of Brazil’s market potential and building a solid management team. The first actions I’ve taken along with HR was to create an environment of trust, transparency, define strategies to enhance our corporate image, and share a compelling and true potential growth story to external talents. Thanks to that, we’ve been able to attract very good people to the company even during the pandemic. The pandemic has also allowed us to focus on critical internal issues and improve processes and other areas that required immediate actions, which has helped the company to increase its financial performance significantly. We’ve been able to increase our Operating Profit by 18 points of percentage since 2015 which has been highly recognized by the top management as a complete successful turnaround. This has enabled us to become one of the major growth drivers of the company and a priority market for the international region. As part of our corporate strategic plan, we are also investing and planning the launch of innovative products (gene and cell therapies) in the future which has helped us to attract experienced and talented people who bring desired capabilities. For the third year in a row, Astellas Farma Brazil has been recognized as one of the best pharmaceutical companies to work for by GPTW and in 2021, we were ranked in the 8th position among mid-size companies. We are very proud of this result as it demonstrates how happy, engaged, and motivated our people are in being part of the team as well as it makes more people interested in joining our company.
EF: What is the relative importance of Brazil to Astellas?
RO: When I joined the company 3 years ago, Brazil was not considered a priority market for the company despite the many opportunities that we have in both the private and public sectors. After a complete business and financial turnaround, we’ve been finally seen as one of the major growth drivers of the company and have the privilege to be part of the global co-creation team for Astellas’ key strategic brands. Back in December 2019, we’ve had the honour to receive the visit of our global CEO for the first time since he took over the #1 position at the company. After one full day of a detailed business review meeting with the Brazilian Leadership team, he also had a chance to visit a local important hospital in São Paulo and met with some key opinion leaders. He got very impressed not only with the market potential of Brazil but especially with the quality of care provided by our private medical institutions as well as with our unified public health system. Thanks to that visit, Brazil has been considered for future clinical trials and got a lot of attention from Astellas’ executive committee.
EF: When you look back on this period in your professional career, how would you like your tenure to be remembered?
RO: I’d like people who have worked on this journey with me to remember how challenging, scary but at the same time transformational, and exciting this period has been for all Astellas’ employees. We have had to leave our safety zone behind so that we could explore new ways of working and business models, but never forgot how important it is to maintain the well-being of our people. I want Astellas Farma Brazil to become a launch powerhouse so that we can be one of the first affiliates of the company to bring to the market our innovative pipeline. I have no doubts that in the future, not so distant from today, our main competitors might be Google and Amazon and I’d like Astellas to be as prepared as possible to help patients to get access to innovative therapies or individualized medical solutions.