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Karachi stay was hard on me, but it did a world of good to me. I changed in many ways and I matured. It led to a new beginning and by Allah’s Grace, I never looked back again. From that fateful day in August 1981, started a new journey which nurtured me, enriched me, grew me and made me what I am today.
Immediately after reaching Lahore, I called my friends and inquired about jobs. My friend Safdar (squibb) told me that Abbott was interviewing on that day. Their Marketing Manager Ali Shabbir was conducting interviews at Hotel Falettis. I phoned Falettis, got his room and requested him to allow me to come for interview. He was generous and gave me a time slot. Safdar carried me there and stayed outside as my moral support. Due to my checkered career history, Ali Shabbir grilled me. Then he asked me an interesting question. He asked, ‘what is the reputation of Abbott in the market?’ I said, honestly, it was not good. People said Abbott was a very difficult company to work for. He then asked, ‘why then, do you want to join Abbott?’ I told him I had made a mess of my career and had wasted time. I should have become a manager by now, which I was not. I said Abbott was the only company where I could get promoted in a short time; no where else. He looked hard at me and asked me how could I be sure I would get promoted in Abbott. I said, ‘I ask you to give me the opportunity and rest is on me’. He said ‘fine’ and handed me the promotional folder of Enduron (hydrochlorothiazide) and asked me to memorize the full prescribing information and come back the next morning. I came out. Safdar was waiting and he eagerly asked me about what happened. I told him, but I said this memorization business did not sit well with me. I had a good memory, but I never memorized anything during studies. Safdar stayed with me till the evening. I came back home.
Abbott had pioneered in making its salespeople memorize everything, from product information to detailing. I didn’t know exactly but Ali Shabbir did mention that memorization was essential for qualifying the interview. Enduron was the hardest item in his armamentarium which he gave to me. I had been selling diuretic Lasix in Hoechst and was very familiar with all the terminology. Early next morning, I tried to memorize, and to my own surprise, I finished in one hour including rehearsing a few times. I presented myself to Ali Shabbir and reproduced 100% verbatim. He asked me how much time I took. I said one hour, and he was impressed and pleased. He took out a form, wrote my name on it, signed it and said I was selected for training. I would go to Karachi for six weeks training and would be appointed if I qualified the training. I thanked him and came out. I was happy and spread the news.
My happiness stemmed from more than one factor. I could get back to Pharma immediately, despite my unstable career history. It meant that I had not lost my potential and that I was still a force to reckon with. It meant that my decision to come back to Pharma had been put on track. It meant that a new opportunity had been given to me.
Couple of weeks later, I again boarded a train, this time without Vespa, reached Karachi and checked into Airport Inn. It was on the airport and was renamed later as Airport Hotel.
The Airport Inn had probably evolved from army barracks; it had that style. Otherwise, it was a reasonably comfortable place.
Other candidates from outside Karachi also stayed at the same hotel. Next day, we were transported to Saddar where Abbott had a city office. One portion of this was used for training. Abbott plant and head office were located in Landhi.
Training started with about 18 participants; probably 6 from Karachi and the rest from upcountry.
End of the first day, Training Manager Saleem Farooqi gave us the assignment to memorize several pages which we had studied on that day……