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Don’t care about the biases: Smita Holey

15th Nov, 2019
Don’t care about the biases: Smita Holey

She has been busy travelling around the globe developing business, meeting clients and closing projects from USA, Global Fund, UN, South Africa to Australia, Smita Holey, our Associate Vice President, International Business at Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited is constantly on the move. After 3 weeks of back and forth, we were finally able to catch up with her over an early morning tea. She was convinced if we keep the interview post lunch, she will be swept away with some emergency and would again have to postpone.

Smita is an accomplished Pharma professional with previous experience in international business development. “I was not initially in this industry and have no Pharma background. But fate had planned something else for me as now I have worked for over 15 years in the Pharma industry and let me tell you, it has been an exciting ride!” Smita remembers with a laugh.

When did you first realize that Business Development is the field you want to pursue?

I was always interested in international business. I always knew that I would travel the world. When I was doing my Post Graduate Diploma in Foreign Trade, people thought I was crazy. Women in those days, if they dared to dream about overseas career opportunity, could only think about a career as an air hostess. While here I was, dreaming of a career in business development in international markets.

When there’s a will, there’s a way. I secured second position in my course and I was then hired by Garware Wall Ropes Ltd. I was taken in the international team in Garware Wall Ropes as a Management Trainee. And I knew then, my dreams are about to come true.

Why did you decide to enter into the pharmaceutical business?

A lot of people call might call it luck, I feel it was my destiny. In my previous organization, I was handling polymers, fishing nets, mooring ropes for shipping line. At the age of 22, I got my chance to travel to an international market which was a surreal experience. Later, as my responsibilities started increasing, I realized I had to look for more lucrative opportunities. So I got an opportunity in Shri Krishna Pharmaceuticals in Hyderabad, the largest makers of Paracetamol. I was actually surprised to be given this chance as I do not come from a Pharmacy background. For one year it was a struggle and yet my boss and my team believed in me and supported me till I found my wings.

I always had great respect for the Pharmaceutical business as it is very challenging and dynamic. It is one of the few businesses that can never go out of business as humankind will always need medicines for healthier lives.

What is it about Cadila that you like the most?

The best part of Cadila is our culture. We believe in coming together as one and celebrating life. From festivals such as Diwali, Navratri and Holi to celebrating our successes and failures at the same time. This is deeply rooted in all of us which makes up keep looking forward to such events.

The second aspect that I like about Cadila is that I never felt discriminated against because of my gender or my background. I was always given the opportunities to do better. As soon as I enter the gates, I feel that all of my tags have been stripped off and I’m just an employee who is judged solely on her achievements and hard work.

And of course the beautiful campus is a treat to work in. I come from Mumbai, and having such huge spaces to work is literally a breath of fresh air.

What are the current projects you are working on that is exciting?

The international division in Cadila is a fast growing segment which gives us a lot of scope to experiment and innovate. We are currently focussing on growing the business organically and inorganically. We now partner with US Aid, Global Fund, Red Cross, Stop TB and other such institutions for our business. The vigour with which we now pursue opportunities in institutional sales now is one of the biggest change and it is paying us good dividends. We already have state of the art manufacturing facilities and our TB products are WHO- Prequalified, institutional sales is a natural fit for us. This year was a huge success as a significant amount of our business came from these tenders. This is just the tip of the iceberg and a whole mountain is left to be discovered.

For the first time in Cadila’s history, we are launching our own products in South Africa. Moreover, Cadia is the first Indian pharmaceutical company to be registered in the country. We plan to launch these products by January 2020, which is very exciting.

What are the qualities you look for in your team members?

I believe that a leader is someone who creates leaders. There are many bosses and managers but very few leaders. For my team, I look for leaders. People who have leadership qualities and can be nourished and polished. I provide my team with complete freedom and believe they are responsible enough to take correct actions.

I want my team members to be passionate about their work. Even if you are sincere and hardworking but not passionate enough, you can only go so far. One should have that fire in their persona to do great.

Henry Ford once said “You take away my factories and my business but give me my people and I will create history again.” I believe in people, team work. I don’t care about biases. I ensure that I keep interacting with all my team members, which also includes the factory workers who are currently working on my orders. I feel as a leader I should be aware of any difficulties they face. During my regular visits I can sense the excitement and the enthusiasm in the team because of all the new opportunity they are pursuing and delivering. This drives me to work even harder. Why should I use only two hands when I can have the support of so many!

Apart from work, how do you like to spend your free time?

Initially when I was just starting out, I would rarely get any free time to pursue my hobbies. But this hard work helped me reach the level I am at today. However I realized that I need time for myself too. So now my motto is – ‘Work hard, party harder.’ I like to try out new things such as Bungee Jumping from Victoria Falls in Zambia, sky diving, etc. Meeting an old friend for a coffee is also very therapeutic for me. I believe that if I am not happy, I will not be able to keep anyone else happy. Hence, my happiness has become my priority.

Any message to our women leaders?

In this age and time, women can achieve any dreams they set their heart onto. There is no dearth of opportunities for growth and can do wonders in their chosen fields. So never stop dreaming!

Pharma industry especially International marketing is considered as male dominated, some might get the image that it is not suitable for women. However, women are on a rise in this sector and there is immense scope for them to make a mark. Like me, even if they are from different background, it will not matter as long as they are passionate and hard working. Newer gates will keep on opening themselves.

Lastly, I would just encourage everyone to take up a profession that they love. Quit your job if you don’t feel excited to come to work every day. Do something you love. Only that passion will help you reach the pinnacle of success.