Make it Count, Build Memories and Inspire Impact!

As a pharmacist, I started my biopharmaceutical career in Brand Marketing with Pfizer India, shortly thereafter choosing to pursue an MBA in the United States. This only reaffirmed my commitment to build a career within the commercial space, in the biopharmaceutical industry.

I moved to my first Brand Marketing in the United States at Alcon, a leading specialty company and spent over 10 truly memorable years taking on roles with increasing responsibility working in the US market before moving onto Global Franchise leadership roles with commercial and operational responsibility, for the US and International Markets.

When I joined Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, I expressed a desire to take on roles for the Emerging Markets, having spent my formative and early years working in the US market. I then started my career with Portfolio Marketing responsibilities for the Emerging Markets, based out of the US.

Shortly thereafter, I relocated to Mumbai, India as General Manager to establish and operationalize a first of its kind pan Emerging Markets joint venture, a truly entrepreneurial experience. After about three years in that role, I expressed a desire to stay within the Asia Pacific region and took on Country leadership roles, first as Managing Director for MSD in Indonesia and then as Managing Director for the Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei Cluster.

Working and living across markets as diverse as Indonesia and the United States has been an experience, I would trade for nothing else! The diversity of each market and what it takes to drive sustainable organizational impact has taught me so much. Moreover, each role brings completely unexpected challenges and opportunities, which continues to make it a very rewarding professional and personal journey.

There is no experience that can quite replicate living and working in the markets. In-country leadership roles, inspire and drive you to learn so much, in an exceptionally short span of time.

In addition to learning the intricacies of the market, the payor systems, understanding the needs of the health care professionals and the policy access environment, it is paramount that you stay an avid listener and observer so you can recognize and begin to understand cultural nuances, sensitivities and subtleties, that are unique to each country.

Nothing…. nothing matters more!

Living, recognizing and embracing cultural nuances, has and continues to be one of my most cherished and memorable life lessons.

As I reflect on my journey across geographies, driving sustainable organizational transformation(s), building passionate agile, digitally enabled teams and playing critical policy leadership roles, here are some of the questions I have and continue to ask myself:

• How do I make a heartfelt effort to understand each colleague on my leadership team and the enterprise at large?

• How do I align on a common vision and lead sustainable organizational transformation, while taking each colleague along, to make it their journey and not just mine?

• How do I rapidly understand the needs of health care professionals alongside understanding the market, its nuances and the payor systems?

• How can I rapidly learn and potentially navigate the policy environment? What are its implications today and into the future? Who are the key stakeholders and what policy leadership role(s) can I potentially play, to try and affect change? How can I most effectively play this role as a company or industry association leader?

• What do I need to stop doing? What are my learn lessons as I reflect on each day?

• Given our relentless focus on ethics and integrity, how do I best institutionalize this across the enterprise, today and each day?

• What can we as a leadership team do each day towards ensuring that colleague safety and mental well-being remains our leading priority? How do we ensure that we ‘walk the talk’?

• How do we best take the enterprise along, when we have to make tough strategic choices?

• What behaviours and capabilities are essential to lead in the new normal? What do we need to un-learn and quickly?

Through my formative years and through today, I make an active effort to nurture and build mentor relationships from within and outside the biopharmaceutical industry.

I owe the many choices I have made in my continuing journey, in large part to my inspiring mentors.

My mentors did not make the choices for me. Rather, they helped me better distinguish the ‘musts’ from the ‘nice to have’s’ that mattered most to me, given my continued passion to learn, grow and inspire impact.

Fostering strong relationships with mentors from diverse sectors and geographies plays an invaluable role in my continuing growth journey.

My father continues to be one of my greatest sources of inspiration today and played an amazing mentor to me. He inspired me to challenge and redefine my comfort zone, through the choices I made.

Having lost his father at the age of 4, the hardships he endured towards realizing the distinguished biopharmaceutical career he had, was no accident. He personified the highest levels of integrity, resilience, vision and grit. He was not just an amazing father but my best friend who has and continues to inspire me each day, to be the best version of myself.

My global and in-country experiences have inspired me to truly appreciate the differences in thought and approach that stem from diversity of cultures.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to mentor colleagues both within and outside MSD and continue to find it a very enriching experience. Each interaction also provides me with an opportunity for introspection and teaches me something about myself that I should consider approaching differently, or further enhancing.

Nothing is more gratifying then seeing my teams and mentees evolve to become the best version of themselves! Seeing them succeed only reaffirms the choices that I will continue to make, as I build on my journey of continuing self-development and upskilling.

These times more than ever before call for a greater focus on diversity and inclusion.

This has been an integral and conscious element in the choices that my leadership team(s) and I make, towards attracting the most diverse of talent. On several occasions, we recruit colleagues from outside the biopharmaceutical industry, as this new normal inspires even greater learning agility and often in areas you least anticipate or expect.

Today, over 60% of my Cluster leadership team are women. Women represent over 65% of our amazing colleagues and across Malaysia and Singapore, over 50% of all external hires are women!

As I reflect on the past and look to the future, three principles continue to guide the choices I have and will make; Make it Count, Build Memories and Inspire Impact!

About the author

Ashish Pal

Ashish Pal

MSD, Managing Director, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Cluster

Ashish has a strong track record for inspiring sustainable organizational transformation(s), innovation, digital acceleration and developing talent across geographies.

Driven by purpose, Ashish started his career with Pfizer in India and after his MBA, continued at Alcon in the United States, where he held commercial leadership roles of increasing responsibility to include U.S. and Global leadership positions for both pharmaceutical and surgical device franchises.

He then joined Merck in the United States as Senior Director, Global Women’s health care Marketing before moving onto becoming Senior Director, Portfolio Marketing for the Emerging Markets.

His continuing career at MSD inspired him to relocate to Mumbai, India as General Manager to establish and operationalize a pan Emerging Markets joint venture. He then moved to Jakarta, Indonesia as Managing Director for MSD in Indonesia, before his current role as Cluster Managing Director for MSD Singapore, Malaysia & Brunei.

Ashish also plays an active policy leadership role. He serves as President for the Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (SAPI) and Vice President for the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PHAMA), the industry associations for innovative biopharmaceutical companies. In these roles, Ashish works in close partnership with both association board(s) alongside local, regional and global stakeholders towards preserving and enhancing access to innovative medicines and vaccines.

A relentless champion for diversity and inclusion, Ashish enjoys mentoring colleagues to redefine their comfort zone. He is energized about constantly learning and re-skilling across the enterprise and at a personal level.

Ashish was a part of the Future Leaders Program at MSD, in conjunction with Harvard Business School. Ashish has an MBA in Marketing and International Business from the University of Illinois, Chicago and a Bachelors in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Mumbai, India.

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