Asrar’s Note: Dear Pharma Veterans! I have created this space for ‘Pharma Veterans’; all of us, not just me. 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.
I did not want to continue working in Pharma Sales while my friends wanted me to. I met Sher Afgan in Karachi who was running Siegfried. He offered me sales job, but I politely deferred. I also met Syed Ahmad (ex-Upjohn, then Servier) at his residence in Karachi. Great guy. We sat in his drawing room. In the first few minutes, it was concluded that we would not talk about job. The atmosphere became relaxed. He offered me tea and talked to me for an hour and half. He was from the old guard and he sort of mentored me in that time.
I was not getting my desired job and I was getting poorer by the day. After all, how long three thousand rupees would go? Not long. I cut costs. I would eat one time in a day or even less. But I did not ask for help. My very respectable Bhabi, wife of Aziz Razvi, looked at me when I went there, which I did often, and insisted that I must eat. I owe her countless meals, teas, and uncountable kindness. I am eternally grateful to her and pray for her. Kindness of this level can never be repaid, should not even think of doing it. But this kindness should be learnt and forwarded to others. Life goes one way and kindness should be paid forward.
I found that my college buddy Jamshed Ismail was living in the next street. JI had become veterinary doctor and was doing job in Karachi. We spent time together when we could. He supported me a lot in that time in various forms. My gratitude is forever.
June 1981; I appeared for an interview for a sales position at Northern Traders Limited (sales again?). NTL was a private company dealing in welding equipment of all sorts; electric, gas, MIG, TIG etc. I was desperate; they offered sales rep position and I joined. I learned the types and methods of regular and specialized welding. I learnt electric and gas welding, hands on; how to set the oxy-acetylene flame for gas welding/cutting, how to set the voltage/amperage for electric welding. The other kinds were specialized, and I did not practice those; just learnt the theory.
Work started. I was assigned the huge SITE area. Welding is required in all industries where there is manufacturing/ processing equipment. I had to first visit the welding supervisor/foreman and convince him to use our electrodes, the biggest selling item. If he approved, the next step would be to deal with the procurement office. It was a far cry from the discussion I used to have with customers in Pharma. I tried to adapt and continued.
In hindsight, I believe I desperately needed a mentor at that time. My immediate seniors were fine people, but they did not know about mentoring. It is still the same situation. Even today, most managers, including senior ones, are not geared for mentoring. On the contrary, many seniors try to patronize. There is an absolute contrast between mentoring and patronizing. Mentor helps you to ‘enlarge and grow’, while Patron ‘reduces and protects’. A Mentor stimulates your thinking and encourages you to do more and bigger work. Patron takes the responsibility for thinking on to himself and puts you on directive. This factor could make or break you in professional, and even personal life. During the later years, as I learned more, I consciously learned to mentor. And since then, I try to mentor everyone with whom I work.
August 1981; after spending six months in Karachi, I sat down one day and asked myself what the hell I was trying to do. I was hard and blunt with myself. I reviewed not just my stay in Karachi, but my entire work life up to that time. I concluded that I had been wrong on several counts. I decided that it was time to change from the core. I also decided that I would go back to Pharma.
Next day, I tendered resignation to NTL. I paid farewell visits to my well-wishers and friends and told them I was going back; back to Lahore and back to Pharma. They were happy and wished me well.
Next day I put myself, my bags and my Vespa on a train and came to Lahore……