From April 1975 till now; long journey; and very happening. I joined at entry position in sales (medical representative) and ended up in the C-Suite. The Pharma Industry grew phenomenally and became a 400 billion rupees business from less than a billion.
It is the story of those years. It is a great story which will showcase some of the most wonderful people of Pharma business, Pharma Industry evolution, disruptions and industry leaders.
I use my personal story as a stage and backstage.
All names, wherever they appear, are actual.
Early 1975, I had appeared in the BSc exams from Government College Lahore and was waiting for result. I was a Bio student. I got a first division in FSc but could not get admission in the medical college. I got into BSc but I was a highly disengaged student; not knowing what I wanted to do. Not that I was dying to become a doctor either. I was not politically active but ideologically I fully related to the Left. In retrospect, I understand I was against status quo and its perpetrators. I could not vote in 1971 election due to age, but I was all for Peoples Party. I was introvert, intense, and rather unsocial. I was (and am) a romanticist and loved poetry and literature. I had above-average IQ, but below-average street smartness.
I saw a small ad in newspaper in early 1975 for medical representative job in Hoechst AG, a multinational company of German Origin (After several mergers it is now Sanofi). I applied and got a call for interview. I went to their Lahore office in Alfalah Building and met S H Javed, Field Manager of Lahore. He looked like to be a simple, kind person. After some time, I got call for final interview. S K Manzar, then Field Sales Manager in head office was there. I was wearing a coat and I had pinned a Swastika emblem on the collar. I loved it because I crafted it myself from some special leather. Swastika was the sign of Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler. My wearing Swastika was more of a rebellion, rather than affiliation for Nazis. I had read several books on the subject though, including Albert Speer’s ‘Third Reich’ and had mixed feelings.
The interview got stuck on Swastika. I was not selected though I am not sure how much Swastika was responsible for it.
I waited. Then someone knew someone and got me into Reko Pharmacal, a Lahore based company. And so, I got my first job. I had to undergo initial training and was to be posted at Multan. I met two people in this training who I want you to know about.
The Salesperson Par Excellence
We were a small group and our trainer was Imtiaz Ahmed Taj. He was Sales Manager, but he had a knack for training. He had talent for acting which gave him style in sales and he acted also. IAT worked in several films and TV dramas. I still remember him as Police Inspector in Director Hassan Tariq’s ‘Bahisht’. IAT taught us about products in detail. More importantly, he taught us how to carry ourselves as ‘Medical Representative’. Dress, manner of entering a doctor’s chamber, manner of speaking to customers, arrangement of promotional materials, handling of promotional literature and so on. This was the first, most basic yet comprehensive, life changing learning we received. I am ever so grateful to Imtiaz Taj for giving to me the most important training of my life.
IAT walked his talk. He was courteous, soft-spoken, cheerful, respectful, intently listening, patiently handling, and carefully replying. I did not understand then, but this was also my first introduction to Selling Skills. He did give us great basics.
In later years, I met many brilliant sales people but IAT stood out. It is said that great actors take on the role so deeply that they make their own personality disappear. IAT took on the profile of a Salesperson and became one with it.
I haven’t met IAT for a long time, but I pray for his health and well-being, wherever he is.
The other person is a life-long friend……………..