Conditions should be created where India can export pharma products to the world: Swati Piramal, Piramal Group
Swati Piramal, Vice Chairperson, Piramal Group, speaks about Navratri, women leadership, developmental programmes for the marginalized sections of society, COVID-19 & its vaccine, healthcare sector among others during a candid chat with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business.
Swati Piramal, Vice Chairperson, Piramal Group, speaks about Navratri, women leadership, developmental programmes for the marginalized sections of society, COVID-19 & its vaccine, healthcare sector among others during a candid chat with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
Q: How do you celebrate Navratri?
A: We uniquely celebrate Navratri. There are small dolls which we collect from Kolkata during the celebration of Durga Puja, Rajasthan during the celebration of Navratri, Gujarat where dance takes place and from South India during the Golu festival and these small dolls and goddesses are put on a tent. God comes first in the tent and then the normal people and it also includes the cricket team. It is liked even by the kids. These dolls are packed every year and unpacked during the Navratri and then the Navratri Puja is done along with them and the children. So, it is very interesting, it is a small collection and I will saw its photos to you.
Q: You have championed many causes related to women, especially in terms of women leadership. So, tell us about the challenges that you faced in your journey and how did you deal with them?
A: If there was any board than I was the only woman in it. We have ASSOCHAM, which is the apex chamber of commerce and is 100 years old now. In the 90th year, I was the first women president of the chamber and what I did is that I appointed ladies as the committee member, i.e. 100 women in banking, nuclear energy, roads, transport and economy segments. So, the leading ladies' experts were present in the committee and this was the first time when such a thing happened in the chamber. Here, I learnt this lesson that if you do not know anything about a subject or do not have an expertise in it, then read 1000 pages in that subject, for instance, nuclear energy, highways, transportation, logistics, banking among others and I didn’t have expertise in these as I am a scientist and a doctor. So, before any meeting I used to study 1000 pages, it helped in ending the gender bias because knowledge removes gender bias.
Q: You have played a key role in implementing several developmental programmes for the marginalized sections of society. Tell us something about your initiatives and the kind of success you got there and what you are doing as a woman leader?
A: As a medical student, maybe 20-year-old, and I saw a girl who was walking in the Mill District, Parel, who was paralyzed below the neck and I was very sad about it. I thought that something should be done about it and I started a no-polio zone there too with students to bust this myth that some Goddess has come in the child, which was a wrong fact. Then I started an immunization programme and within 10 years in which around 25,000 children used to come with this polio disease has stopped completely. So that was the first example that public health works and immunization work. Again, in COVID, vaccination is about to come and everyone needs to take it. Our foundation has worked a lot at the time of the COVID, like health education and water – we have cleaned/ purified around 8 billion litres of water all over India in 12 states. Our mobile clinic, which used to look just after the mother and child is now at the time of COVID-19 in form of a mobile van is visiting village by village, in Assam and far of places and remote areas. Such services are running in 10 states.
Q: Let’s talk about your core business that is related to pharma and you are quite connected with this sector. Importance of the healthcare sector has been felt after the COVID and it is being felt that India’s contribution to the area should be increased. What is your view on pharma and healthcare sector and what is needed in India and how will we grow in the segment going forward?
A: 1% less GDP is being spent in India, which is very low. It normally remains at 2.5% even in developing countries. Of course, it is high in England and the US. In our country, we have always been under-invested. Just 8% private healthcare facility was available in India at the time of the independence, while 92% was public. But the situation has reversed completely by now as 75% of healthcare is private and the remaining 25% is public. At the time of COVID, when the lockdown was in force the private healthcare was shut down due to which the public healthcare system was completely choked. That was a big problem in the initial phases but it is easing now and private healthcare system is working together. But the pharma sector is interesting as the exports of pharma sector were always good but it has dropped in the last five years because things are being imported from China. So, a reverse trend should happen in which India can export to the world.
Q: The world is trying to bring a vaccine and several companies are racing towards final trails for the COVID vaccine. What are your thoughts on this and which company and vaccine look most promising to you?
A: Vaccine is one of the answers it is not all the answers because there are 6 billion people in the world and when 6 billion doses will be made and who will be vaccinated first, i.e. first-line, elderly. Thus, there will be a need to think about how it will be distributed. It is a disease in which immunity is not lasting and we are seeing that the infection is happening twice. So even after the vaccine, the immunity will not last a few months. Thus, two doses will be required and, in many vaccines, one dose will be required. I prefer the one-dose vaccine but what are its side effects and it has not been discovered yet and the third phase clinical trials are going on. So, the vaccine is one answer.
The second answer is that the drugs which were used in the past, to reduce inflation, seem quite promising to me. There is a class of drugs that seems very promising to reduce the very bad side-effects of inflammatory drugs that reduces clotting and inflammation. The third is that the fundamental five steps, we have to wear the mask, you must wash your hands, you must take your temperature, must maintain social distancing and fifth, which is most important, is the culture in which everyone should be taught about what is COVID. I try to teach to everyone who works, like the vendor and business partners, that culture change is needed in the world, in the city and family and teach this to everyone that these are four important steps.
Q: Piramal Group is quite connected with the healthcare space. So, tell us about the outlook and the target that the group has kept for the next 3-5 years?
A: My daughter and son-in-law look after our global business, which is about contract research and manufacturing. We manufacture for other companies, which is a very difficult thing and requires huge R&D. Complex chemicals are manufactured at our place globally. We have our plants in the US, England, Japan and Germany among others. So, we have an office and plants in many places. Thus, there is a need for innovation & R&D. It is a critical care product and we manufacture gases, anaesthesia gases, for those who go to hospitals. So that’s the focus. That is a global business and critical care business,
See Zee Business Live TV Streaming Below:
Secondly, in India, we have a focus on OTC (over the counter) drugs. Yesterday my daughter had worked from home and during that she used an old brand Lacto Calamine on her face in the same manner as we take pictures on the TV. So, I really liked it, because I felt that so many women are doing work from home and I said Nandini you are doing a very nice campaign for work from home for a very old and trusted brand, Lacto Calamine. This means brands are also becoming very conscious of the new normal as we are working from home more and ladies have to face the camera. So, innovations are coming out from the new usage of trusted brands and I have seen that in several other companies like Nestle among others, where the trusted brands are getting new normal.
Get Latest Business News, Stock Market Updates and Videos; Check your tax outgo through Income Tax Calculator and save money through our Personal Finance coverage. Check Business Breaking News Live on Zee Business Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe on YouTube.