Asrar’s Note: Dear Pharma Veterans! I have created this space for ‘Pharma Veterans’; all of us. I am filling this space to begin with to keep it moving. You are most cordially invited to write your thoughts/ ideas/ experiences. Please send these to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Your contributions will be published promptly and without editing. Please join the Community and the Movement.
Wyeth was not a hard company to work for. As I said before, it was more of a ‘selling’ company owing to the nature of products it had at that time. I had two contradictory thoughts going on in my mind. I felt more and more unsettled in Pharma Sales. And, I also felt that I had gotten late in getting my first promotion. As per my thinking, the first promotion (becoming District Manager) should have come within first five years. I had completed five years, but I was nowhere near getting promoted. Wyeth had a long list of seniors before me in the queue. I knew that the delay had been largely due to my reasons. But it neither changed the fact nor gave me much consolation.
Business was rarely an issue at that time. You just focused on organized, regular work and business mostly followed. The race for growth, market share and ranking had not intensified. Generics had not started rising and it was generally peaceful.
I was continuously thinking of getting out of Pharma. Someone referred, and I went to Zamrock. The company was founded by a gentleman, Zamir, hence the name. Zamrock was a pioneer in fiberglass manufacturing in Pakistan, and partnered with the luggage giant, Samsonite. Fiberglass was new material and was catching up. It was lightweight, hard, resistant and moldable. It was not as refined then, as you see it today. Zamrock had developed a rooftop water tank for houses and were looking to market it. It would be a first. Their intended selling price was three thousand rupees for a three hundred liters tank. There USP was convenience, ease and quick installation. They asked me to do the feasibility for this product.
I met several architects and construction contractors, and gathered information. The summary was that the product was breakthrough and it would be very welcome. However, the cost was prohibitive and must be reconsidered, at least initially. The water tanks were traditionally constructed during the construction of the house, with the same materials and no one calculated or felt its cost. It was a small piece in the larger scheme of things. Spending three thousand rupees separately was difficult, considering that cement sold @ 50 rupees a bag and 1000 bricks cost from 200 – 300 rupees. I prepared the feasibility and presented it. We had long discussion on it and they offered me the job of marketing this product. We could not agree on compensation and I declined. As far as I remember, Zamrock did not sell a lot of water tanks at that price and later probably went out of business. The fiberglass water tanks did become a hit, and are now ubiquitously seen perched on every rooftop.
February 1981; I decided to abdicate from Pharma Sales. I packed my bags, put my Vespa scooter on the train and left for Karachi. Yes, it was easy at that time. You went to Railway station on your motorbike, put it on the train, board, disembark at destination, take your vehicle and off you go; piece of cake.
When I landed in Karachi, I had three thousand rupees in my pocket. I straight went to Saddar, rented a hotel room and later went to see my friend Aziz Razvi. I told him that I had shifted to Karachi. He talked around and got me a paying guest accommodation in North Nazimabad. It was with a small, nice family. The gentleman had come back after working in Middle East for several years and had constructed this house where he lived with his wife and three small children. He was young, but he had sort of uncontrolled diabetes and had retired himself. I knew a bit about diabetes and I talked to him many times about how to control diet and exercise. He was looking for miracle cure and went around finding it. One day, he told me that some spiritual lady had given him ‘ta’veez’ to put in a water bottle and drink only from that bottle. For a few days, he even thought he felt better; innocent of him. Few years later, I heard that he died (young), of diabetic complications.
I searched for jobs in advertising in the newspapers and sent applications to selected places. I was interviewed at SASA, a very well-known advertising agency of the time. I reached the final interview. They asked me to call two days later for final decision. On that day, I kept calling from various public phones but always got a busy line. Finally, I got the line in the afternoon. The gentleman said to me that I was the first choice, but they did not hear from me till noon. Meanwhile, the second guy contacted, and they offered him the job.
I interviewed at Manhattan, another big agency, and was almost selected. The guy later said to me that he had decided to take me, but another candidate came in who already had experience in advertising. I did not have any, and was dropped.
My dream of going into advertising was not coming through; not yet……