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At younger age, we are more impressionable. But at any age, inspiring people would get to us even if we try to resist.
The account of Hoechst in 70s would not be complete without talking about Syed Khalid Manzar. SKM started in Lahore as medical rep and reached Karachi. When he interviewed me in March 1975, he was Field Sales Manager based at Karachi. He then became National Sales Manager. He was finally nominated to become the first Pakistani Pharma Head, which position was always occupied by a foreigner, mostly Germans.
SKM was very hard working and believed in achievement. He was also a hardliner. If he did not like something, he would surely give a piece of his mind about it. During the sales meetings, he came hard upon low performance and spoke and spoke. He had a voice which could be heard even from a distance. It looked difficult to calm him down in such instances. As a person, he was gentle, kind and humble. Because he was achiever himself, he pushed everyone to achieve. If he saw poor achievement, be it sales, training or working, he would get upset. I can understand he wanted all of us to excel, like he did, or even better than him. We did not fully understand and thought he was too hard, and that his harshness was misplaced at times.
When SKM was delivering fire in the sales meeting, in general, or to someone, Iqbal Ahmed (IA of HiQ) came to the rescue of poor souls. IA was then RSM and SKM did give him leeway. IA smoked, SKM did not. However, in such times, IA would offer a cigarette to SKM which he would always accept. IA would give him light. Since SKM was not a smoker, he did not know how to deal with the cigarette. He would get worked up with his cigarette and clamed down early. It was a recurring performance and we loved it. It was an innocent, kind gesture which helped us.
SKM was active during initial training. He taught us Diabetes and Daonil (Glibenclamide), and it was a great training. Somehow it engraved the information on my mind. The Marketing Manager at that time was Arif Hussain. He was quieter and spoke only what was necessary. He taught us Cardiovascular system and products and it was wonderful training. The thing which made us uneasy was his rather snobbish style. He would ask questions and if he didn’t like the reply, he would make some harsh comment. It made us first scared and then unhappy and we actually complained to SKM during the training. He explained to us that he was a fine gentleman and it was only his style. We finally came to terms with it.
These were the early inspirers. Many more were to come during the career. We looked at them in awe and glorified them and their achievement in our minds. We wondered when shall we become one of them. We do not see this feeling anymore. It is not that juniors do not respect their seniors anymore; they still do. But some things have changed for sure. The seniors do not act as elders and rely more on their position and power. The level of personal authority, affiliation and charisma has diminished considerably.
Around this time, I had started a big turmoil in my mind. I felt I was in a wrong profession. I don’t remember how it started but it had something to do with the issues at Multan. I thought I did not belong to sales job. It was not exactly clear where I fit better, but I believed I would do better in a more creative profession. I thought about advertising.
I liked Karachi, but I didn’t like working there as med rep. I came back to Multan for a few days and met Shamshad Latafat Khan, ASM Glaxo. He also arranged interview with the Marketing Manager Mr. Zuberi and I was selected to join the training due a few weeks later.
I was restless and agitated. I talked to my friends. They were very sympathetic but could not help me to understand or handle this situation. I had spent four years in this job already and it looked like a waste. I was willing to forego the time investment if something better came up.
Some people recommended that I should switch to another pharmaceutical company, hence the contact with Glaxo. They thought I was upset with the team problem and changing to another team would bring comfort……