Interview With an Expert: Alok Kumar

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January 8, 2011

Alok Kumar is responsible for the successful and profitable strategic alliance between Glaxosmithkline and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories’ emerging generic market. Alok's track record of driving success in cross-functional, international teams is predicated on his strong ability to lead by example. Today, we accurately explore success, particularly, the necessary steps to achieve it in an expansive strategic background and current role. Learn why effective communication with international stakeholders is critical to project success. And analyze how to do it. Explore actionable tips to acquiring an effective partner. Alok Kumar is an extremely effective guide with whom to explore the evolving partnership long-term opportunities in India.

Jeff – Thank you very much for joining us today, Alok. You have previously identified communication as a strength of yours that translates to bottom-line value. Why is good communication so important with multinational cross-functional teams? What is at stake if communication falters or breaks down?

Alok – I have experience handling clients from almost all continents and the point to focus on is that all team members want to achieve the target assigned by their respective management. But the challenge is how to convince others – or get convinced by others – that their respective approach is right.

These problems get very challenging when people from different background/culture/countries interact. Effective and right communication can help us to set not only an agreed agenda but also to set the specific steps for achieving business targets.

Jeff – What is at stake if communication falters or breaks down?

Alok – Project viability is at stake if communications falter or break down, especially at the execution level. The project could otherwise be viable, but will fail without proper communication. Even if the project is carried out on cost, the delays in the timeline that result may impact project effectiveness and profitability and this will adversely impact the organization.

Jeff – How do you define success when it comes to launching a new product internationally?

Alok – Key to success in any international launch is that we have to believe that every country is different for launch, and we cannot have just one process to fulfill the requirement of every country. We can have some common-steps but there will be always different requirements in different countries. These requirements can be measured best, only after interacting with people from these respective countries and incorporating country specific requirements in our overall process for launching new products internationally. Thus in my view, success will be launching a product in the market while fulfilling all market-specific criteria.

Jeff – In all of your roles so far, you have had a lot of success when it comes to working effectively with diverse teams, why is this so important to you?

Alok – Well Jeff, the answer of this question lies in Indian culture, which says that every individual is different and we must respect his or her ideas and feelings. While working in a cross culture team there will be lot of instances when we will not agree with other team members. At that point of time, success lies in believing that we may not be able to convey our ides, or put them in a manner that the other person would understand. Or maybe the other person is right and we are being stubborn.

We need to take little more time and respect each other ideas and sometimes we should try to think by putting our self in the position of those with whom we are unable to agree. I have tried this many times and always got some way out of the problem. So working as a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieve More) is the main reason of my success.

Jeff – Given your broad experience bringing projects to market, is there a particular accomplishment or project on which you’ve worked that you are the most proud of, and why?

Alok – I have launched a couple of products. Those were the first generic products, and the only other option available to patient except innovator products. These launches were always very challenging as there were huge expectation from management / investor, and at the same time understanding and countering surprises from regulatory agencies & litigation from Innovator Company.

[Editor's Note: We will be adding a follow-up piece next week to explore these launches in more detail].

Jeff – What aspect of your work is the most important to you? How are you planning to incorporate this going forward?

Alok – I am always assigned projects that other people in my organization have said ‘no’ to, as there were more chances of failure than success. My current assignment is also one of them. Thanks to almighty God; I had always proved my credibility beyond expectation and led assigned project up to success.

One of the most important critical factors is handling & managing people involved in your process. Success of project lies in successful handling of this precious resource.

Another important factor is having complete understanding of the project at hand, as well as the processes involved from project initiation to project completion. We have to understand that there will always be surprises and we must not be surprised because of any surprise. Our plan must be flexible to incorporate these changes and time for this learning must be accounted for in the overall planning structure.

Jeff – The world is obviously becoming a smaller and more connected place. Given your vast experience, can you briefly explain why global cooperation and collaboration is now more important than ever?

Alok – Global cooperation and collaboration is more important now because we have to use other’s strength for our improvement for creating new business; as well as help others in areas of our expertise to develop more business and develop better technology/product for sustaining our competitiveness.

This new world gives us more work & better challenges like never before and we must be ready to adopt new ideas and exploit them for our advantage and benefit of society in large.

We have to understand that any organization cannot be the best & competitive in all areas of business. Wherever we are not competitive then, we should cooperate with more competitive companies. As an organization we must select and develop areas or sectors that can have distinctiveness and advantage over our competitor, this will help to create more business and profitability.

Jeff – Are there one or two key pieces of wisdom, or rules of thumb, that organizations in North America, Europe and the UK can keep in mind when trying to partner with a successful Indian-based company like yours?

Alok – I would say that India is not just destination for short-term benefit or for cost advantage, as India offers opportunities for future. This market can offer you huge opportunities for business and can work as base for business expansion in other emerging markets. Independent judiciary/Democracy/English speaking people are added advantage for any company.

Start with slow pace but be ready to accelerate rapidly. The Indian market offers opportunity beyond expectation. Government does not only drive the market, but private companies/entrepreneur and people of India.

Jeff – A lot of our listeners are concerned with finding an effective partner. How can organizations figure out a good fit?

Alok – Well the answer for this question lies in your specific requirement, as Indian companies offer product & services in different area like contact manufacturing / clinical trial s/ R&D / biotechnology and so on. You can evaluate your partner based on various parameters and especially their expertise and experience in handling their previous partners or similar products. People who have already worked in western countries, or may have collaborations with other companies are leading many of these Indian organizations and are easily approachable.

Jeff - Thank you very much for helping us and our listeners better understand what it takes to succeed when developing profitable and competitive international strategic alliances.

Free On-Demand Webinar! Watch the follow-up call with Alok Kumar.

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The information, opinions, data, and statements contained herein are not necessarily those of the Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) and should not be interpreted, acted on or represented as such. The interviewee does not represent himself as a member of DRL, nor should he present his information, statements, opinions, or data as those of DRL.

Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by DRL.

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