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Abbott description would be incomplete without Nasir Mahmood and Ali Shabbir.
During my time in Abbott, Nasir Mahmood was Director Marketing while Ali Shabbir was Marketing Manager.
As I got to know, NM had switched from SK&F to Abbott. NM was a legend in Pharmaceutical Industry. I was too junior then to grasp his professional caliber. I still would not comment on it. I shall mostly talk about my personal impressions and interactions.
NM was sharp-minded, quick-witted, street-smart, go-getter, high-adrenaline, high-powered, dominating, agile and hard-working person. Before I had seen him, someone said to me that you should listen to NM; “he mesmerizes when he speaks”. This might have been an overstatement, but his speech was filled with passion and energy and was excellent.
Using TOPS lingo, NM mostly displayed ‘Quadrant 1’ behavior; high concern for results, low concern for people.
NM management appeared to be based on the following principles.
- Discipline. NM was a believer and perpetrator of discipline. He started the system of working, grinded it, and instilled it into everyone. Follow the plan, report on time and do-as-directed. If you got out-of-line, you would be penalized swiftly and harshly. AR Valliani executed this system with great accuracy and efficiency. Many people, including sales staff, criticized the working system but did not dare to violate. Market was rife with stories of how this or that guy was thrown out of Abbott for a small mistake, the accuracy of which may not be vouched for.
- Consistency. He followed the same thing continuously, if it worked. The working system worked well for Abbott and NM stuck to it till the end. In fact, his successor also followed it. Consistency led to predictability and obviated distraction.
- Unity. Either you were Abbott (Abbottonian, you may say) or you were not in Abbott. NM did encourage diversity, but within rather narrow limits. He did not allow anyone to challenge his system, much less try to change it. Promotion in Abbott was much faster as compared to other MNCs. But if someone was not promoted it was understood that he had missed the bus, forever.
- Focus. Nothing distracted NM when he followed something. He pursued his goals relentlessly and achieved. He was a quick decision maker and did not procrastinate.
- Accessibility. It worked both ways. He was aware of what happened in the company, and he was always reachable. As a med rep, I had to contact him on couple of occasions for some business decision. He listened and decided on the spot. As DFM, I requested him for time during a meeting break and discussed about the episode of three med reps wishing to resign. I told him how I handled it. He listened intently and give me some very useful advice.
NM was surely a larger-than-life personality. And he was controversial. There were many who loved him, and many who hated him. NM has passed away. May Allah Bless his soul.
Ali Shabbir was Marketing Manager at the time. He was a true lieutenant of NM. He followed and practiced his ideology. He was a fine person in his own right, but probably he was too overwhelmed by NM.
A.S liked to talk. He would make long speeches whenever triggered. He spoke passionately and fervently and loudly, and we enjoyed his speech.
A.S acted to appear harsh, but he was a very considerate and caring person. Within the system he helped a lot of people and saved their careers. Generally, it was easier and safer to talk to Ali Shabbir on any matter.
A.S was more connected to sales team and we saw more of him. He knew all managers personally and liked to spend time with them whenever the occasion arose.
A.S ran the big machine day in, day out. He was an extremely hardworking person. I may say he remained in the shadow of NM and was not fully recognized for his ability and contribution.
Kamran Y Mirza remained MD of Abbott for many years. He appeared to be very refined person. He attended many sales meetings. NM always deferred to him with high respect.
We had more interaction with marketing colleagues, Ishtiaq-ur-Rahman, Shabbir Najmi, Mohammed Younus, Nawazish Jaffery. We worked together and enjoyed working together.
As mentioned, Abbott system brought predictability, but did not encourage new ideas, new thinking or new ways.
Sometimes, I thought if I could work in Abbott till the end of my career……