Originally from India and a physician by profession, I first started my post-internship training in emergency medicine after graduating from Bangalore University’s Medical College. Then, after completing an executive MBA, I joined the pharma industry some two decades ago. Today, I currently serve as Head of the geography that covers India, Ukraine, CIS countries, Middle East, Turkey & Africa at Takeda (ICMEA).
I joined Takeda in 2011 from my previous role in AstraZeneca, where I held various marketing roles for close to a decade. My first role at Takeda was Marketing Director for the Asia Pacific region, based out of Singapore. Since that time, I have had a fruitful career, gaining experience moving between Singapore, Zurich, Korea and the UAE, where I reside today.
In Singapore, I was appointed to become the head of portfolio management and business operations (just before the acquisition of Shire by Takeda). With expertise in performance-driven leadership, I played a vital role in the executive leadership team overseeing the merger between Takeda and Shire in 2019 and led on the integration of the company’s portfolios in Takeda’s Growth and Emerging Markets, namely – Russia; Brazil; China; South Cone, Andean, Mexico & Central America (SAM); Asia Pacific and ICMEA.
With the integration complete in record time, the process has thankfully been hailed as a success. Takeda today is in a more globally competitive position than ever before. Now my attention is focused on ensuring long-term growth across ICMEA, concentrating on supporting policy development, ongoing efforts to improve the standard of care for patients, and facilitating access to medicines across rare diseases, oncology, neuroscience, gastroenterology and vaccines.
How his international experience has benefited him in his role
As a global pharmaceutical company, Takeda offers its products and services in more than 80 different countries worldwide. As such, we have long been focused as an organization on developing a workforce to match our patients’ diversity. Today, our executive leadership come from 11 countries, and the global workforce is spread across Europe, the US, Canada, Japan and emerging markets.
Navigating diverse landscapes, cultures and ways of doing business, as such, have always been central to my leadership role. In a company such as Takeda, this is essential to collaborate between individual employees and a gaining a better understanding of our patients and their unique needs. Personally, working across diverse cities and regions across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and Korea in particular, has been a very enriching experiencing. By working with diverse background and cultures, employees across all levels of the organization and clients in the most remote of regions, I feel I have developed both professionally and socially, building upon skills and emotional intelligence and learning how to understand cultural sensitivities. (The bonus, of course, was getting to enjoy some amazing foods from various world cultures!)
A key takeaway from my experiences of working in new regions was understanding the cultural attitudes toward open communication and feedback. For example, in certain countries across Asia, staff are much less likely to question those in authority. Understanding this cultural condition, one initiative I introduced several years back was the introduction of anonymous channels for employees, which encouraged them to ask questions of the leadership during our regular town hall meetings. Such initiatives that draw from a layer of cultural awareness can go a long way in supporting organizational success.
How does Takeda leverage talent globally for local marketplaces?
Understanding the importance of cultural diversity, Takeda promotes the exchange of colleagues between different offices across all levels and geographical areas, with a view to making Takeda more vibrant and open-minded. These ongoing efforts are part of a broader commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse corporate culture at Takeda. With a conscious effort to promote a diverse workforce, Takeda is simultaneously keen to avoid the traditional organizational hierarchies that can often stifle innovation and is focused on creating an inclusive workforce and celebrates open communication.
With both local and global talent development initiatives in place across Takeda, we are dedicated as an organization to the ongoing exchange and learning of our staff, irrespective of their background. We believe that embracing and fostering diversity will, in fact, enable our organization to better respond to global challenges.
Our local market leaders, for example, attend the annual President’s Forum, bringing together 50 Takeda leaders from around the world. This forum is intended to provide them with a global overview, which they can then take back and implement in their geographies. For example, this forum provided a perfect setting for exchanging ideas and subsequent strategies and actions to facilitate our recent, successful acquisition of Shire.
The Takeda Accelerator Program is another excellent initiative in place designed to encourage exchange across the organization. Employees demonstrating high-potential are provided with the opportunity for cross-regional assignments, mentoring and learning events. There are currently 30 employees enrolled in the program.
Similarly, the Global Induction Forum for senior leaders offers new joiners a deep dive into the company’s culture, values and legacy. This has been especially critical on account of our acquisition of Shire. Such a forum provides a way for leaders to align across the organization’s shared values. And really, that is key – because Takeda-ism is a singular vein that unites our global workforce, despite the many cultural nuances that exist between us. And while appreciating cultural differences is absolutely essential to our work, we also need a common language that unites us. So, whether it’s a global leader visiting a new region, or a junior staff member joining an exchange program, we are all one Takeda.
How is international talent helping local talent develop?
Eventually, it’s all about people. At Takeda, we believe that our role as a global leader is to inspire and empower people, providing them with the right environment to allow them to shine. Indeed, it is one of Takeda’s four distinct leadership behaviors – to create an environment that inspires and enables people to move the organization forward. As an organization, this is how one encourages growth and innovation – by attracting, developing and retaining a diverse, talented and driven team. I feel that as a leader, it is my duty to foster a culture of growth and inspiration, to support employee development – to provide my staff with an inclusive and safe space where their growth knows no bounds. But don’t just take my word for it – Takeda has been awarded several times as a top global employer. For the fourth year in a row Takeda has received the prestigious global Top Employer® status. 38 Takeda local operating companies were accredited this year around the world.
I’m also a big advocate of encouraging people to have a growth mindset, being open to new challenges and learning new skills. I feel that people must be open to opportunities outside their country of origin, as the experiences one can gain are tremendous, as my firsthand experience attests. Of course, all these decisions come within the context of Takeda’s “Quality Conversations” framework. By stressing the need for constant, constructive and open communications between employees and their managers as part of their personal development, such conversations are designed to help identify how a particular employee’s growth can be best served. And our “Talking Talent” approach is key to this process. We look not only at current achievements but at the individual’s future potential, which enables us to take a long-term view to training and development.
It is through such an approach that, at Takeda, we remain attuned to the unique talents and needs of our employees. We understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development is not always appropriate. Consequently, as an organization, we provide diverse learning opportunities across our network. Partnering with world-class institutions to deliver training, from INSEAD to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we take the professional development of our staff as a key strategy to our future success. So, whether its spending time in a different office or region or pursuing an MBA, we support the growth of our staff according to their need and growth plan.
Over my career, I’ve received great satisfaction from seeing the successes and achievements of my colleagues. Over the years, I feel proud that there have been many of my team members, locally and globally, who have taken up challenges, grown leaps and bounds, and achieved outstanding accomplishments. Nothing is more satisfying than that. And I think, in the end, that’s what Takeda represents, with its deepest commitment to its people first and foremost, and dedication to their growth.
Mahender Nayak is the Area Head for Takeda Pharmaceuticals in the ICMEA region, which includes India, CIS, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. He enjoys over two decades of performance-driven leadership across the pharmaceutical and broader healthcare industries.
Driven by innovation, Nayak has a strong track record in strategic functional leadership and general management which spans more than 11 years of in-country leadership, eight years of regional successes as well as four years global experience.
In his current capacity, Nayak is overseeing the development and growth of Takeda in the ICMEA region. His proven ability to lead, motivate and develop people across geographies and cultures is key to ensure the success of the company in accommodating pharmaceutical growth trends.
Prior to joining the ICMEA region, Nayak was in charge of portfolio management for the Growth and Emerging markets while at Singapore between the years 2018 and 2020. Nayak was also the General Manager of Takeda’s operations in Korea.
During the period between 2013 and 2015, Nayak was the Senior Director of Global Marketing – Cardiovascular and the Executive Commercial Operations for Asia Pacific, where he established the regional commercial operations infrastructure to drive capabilities across a broad range of business functions. He was also the Marketing Director for Asia Pacific between July 2011 and May 2013.
An industry veteran, prior to joining Takeda, Nayak assumed various regional commercial responsibilities while at AstraZeneca, where he was a critical success factor in leading commercial growth across the region.
Mahender Nayak joined Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 2011, since then, grew within the company to hold various senior roles and responsibilities in different markets. His expertise and understanding of the healthcare sector’s dynamics, coupled with his ability to lead teams to achieve robust business results reflects his strategic insight and overall passion.