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7Jan/110

Exclusive Interview: Dr. Vivek Varma on Sales and Success in Contract Manufacturing

This feature is permanently archived in our library, available here. For more exclusive interviews, added regularly to the blog please check back, or browse the library.

Dr. Vivek Varma, Joint Director of Indian-based Premier Medical Corporation, which manufactures rapid response diagnostic kits, is responsible for increasing sales by 300% in the last Indian fiscal year. Read on to learn how:

Jeff Waite: It's great to finally have you here, Dr. Varma. In all of our conversations, you have presented yourself with the utmost modesty. And yet in the last year you’ve increased sales turnover by more than 300%. Can you comment on the role modesty and grace play in your ongoing success?

Dr. Varma: I am just the face of the team who managed this increased turnover. It would not be appropriate to take credit for their efforts in this achievement. My only role has been to ensure that they are kept motivated at all times. I recognize the supposedly small, but very effective, suggestions given by all the members of the team (including those at the shop floor level) and give due credit to them.

Jeff Waite: Another thing that we’ve seen you do throughout a variety of past roles, is continue to improve incrementally. Each year you seem to be able to increase sales and productivity by a significant percentage. Is there a specific attitude or mindset you focus on to keep moving forward?

Dr. Varma: As mentioned earlier, I do not hesitate in acknowledging in public the originator of any idea. This helps me get more out of them. Insecurity and lack of self-confidence at higher levels are the major factors that keeps the productivity low.

Jeff Waite: Increasingly, team work and group collaboration are becoming the norm. In all of your roles so far, you have had a lot of success when it comes to working effectively and leading diverse teams, especially sales people. You’ve obviously and intelligently made it a priority, why is this so important to you?

Dr. Varma: As I have had the opportunity to work my way upwards towards higher responsibilities, it has helped me hone my attitude towards the sales team members. I always interact with each member of the Sales team at the individual level and have always looked at improving his / her career by giving suggestions. This has had an significant effect in their approach towards me and helped create a personal rapport. I always believed that “They are not working for me, but I am working to help them achieve their goals”

Jeff Waite: Given your broad experience setting up contract research and manufacturing facilities and organizations, is there a particular accomplishment or project on which you’ve worked that you are the most proud of, and why?

Dr. Varma: In my present company, we had a major challenge in improving the productivity of the packaging department. We were in the process of installing a machine that would improve the productivity dramatically. Initially, there was a lot of opposition from the shopfloor about the performance of the machine. In fact, people refused to work on the machine and at times deliberately misused the same. Once, there was a tremendous pressure on the team and they were unable to cope up with the timelines. At that point, I got the team together and explained to them about the benefits of the machine and how it would help them achieve the deadlines effortlessly. Though they took it up reluctantly, I stood with them and constantly motivated them to use the machine. After a few days, they realized that the machine was indeed helping them achieve deadlines easily. This realization made them more enthusiastic about the machine. In fact, when we were planning to add another machine, the team came up with very interesting recommendations that the productivity went up even further.

This is one accomplishment that I am very proud of. One of the major reasons is the fact that I could manage to convince them to use the machine for improving productivity. The team actually comprises of uneducated, but extremely intelligent people.The icing was the enthusiastic recommendations that we received for the subsequent machines.

Jeff Waite: A lot of our audience are students. Today, students in faculties from biomedical engineering, to commerce and economics, have more options than ever before. The most successful long-term commitments require a degree of passion, or vested enthusiasm to keep us going. What aspect of your work gets you the most excited? How are you planning to incorporate this going forward?

Dr. Varma: Yes. The options are more now than before. But, the students are generally unaware of them due to the limited exposure that they have during their studies. They are usually frustrated during the initial years of their career. This causes a lot of job changes as they are in the process of understanding their passion for a particular career. The most successful long-term commitments are achieved after about 3 years in a particular direction and the perceived achievements therein. Recognition of their contributions in the growth of the company adds to their long-term commitment. Thus, engaging them in situations that would enable me to understand their passion keeps me very excited. I have been using this strategy quite successfully over the years and am yet to find a better option.

Jeff Waite: The world is obviously becoming a smaller and more connected place. Given your vast international experience, can you briefly explain why global cooperation and collaboration is now more important than ever?

Dr. Varma: As the world is getting connected due to fast changing technologies, the ability to work in teams has just become globalised. I believe in working towards using strengths and complementing weaknesses. In order to use such a strategy, it is imperative that companies collaborate so that the entire team benefits on the outcome.

Jeff Waite: We have done some very comprehensive primary research over the last few months, reaching out to international stakeholders looking to learn more about India. Increasingly, people are interested in contract manufacturing, but worried about finding a good partner. Can you please explain a few of the things companies looking to partner with contract manufacturing providers in India should consider when they are trying to establish a good fit?

Dr. Varma: Contract manufacturing companies in India are being setup by highly educated individuals with a passion to deliver the best product. In order to achieve quality, quality labour is also essential. Usually, companies look towards India for contract manufacturing only to reduce costs as it is implied that the labour is relatively cheap.

While looking at partners for contract manufacturing in India, the key points that could be considered are:

Management Team passion

Quality processes and consciousness

Ability to contribute towards reducing costs

Flexibility in operations

Operational location

[Editor's Note: We will be following-up on these specific aspects in more detail, with related experts].

Jeff Waite: Like a lot of people, our listeners are concerned with finding the best information or knowledge. Nowadays more than ever, the problem seems to be sorting through the absolutely massive haystack to find a proverbial needle. How do you prefer to stay up to date on important evolving issues?

Dr. Varma: Reading up on trends and looking at opportunities to use the Technology effectively and efficiently in the area of operations. The best way is to first focus on a particular area that needs improvement and then look for Technology that can help you achieve the same.

Jeff Waite: It was an absolute pleasure to have spoken with you today, Dr. Varma. Thanks.

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