Mr Ajay Kumar Pal was recently appointed Cipla Quality Chemicals chief executive officer. He replaces Mr Nevin Bradford, who retired on September 30 after serving the company for eight years. Mr Kumar comes at a time when Covid-19 has caused a number of disruptions but presented opportunities on the other hand. He was interviewed to discuss a number of issues, key among them recovery and the wider plan for Cipla.
How long have you been working with Cipla Quality Chemicals?
I have been with Cipla Quality Chemicals since February 2020, serving as chief operating officer.
However, before coming to Uganda, I had served as a senior director, head of manufacturing at Cipla South Africa.
Cipla exports drugs worth Shs33.3b in three months. The job comes at a time when the world is struggling to shake off of Covid-19.
How do you plan to navigate?
I have a passion for learning and creative problem solving. I believe, I am an inquisitive thinker. I set ambitious goals and work hard to achieve them.
Do you see yourself delivering Cipla to new heights?
I believe so. I am driven by the purpose of caring for life and Cipla’s quest to provide affordable medicines in Africa.
I bring good experience in technical, operations, commercial and business management based on various roles I have played in my 16 years’ career in the pharmaceutical industry across geographies.
I have always worked with a strong professional will and personal humility. Therefore, given the team that I have worked with in the past months, I believe we shall achieve more and beyond our targets. Of course the ground has already been set, so mine is to build and consolidate further.
Lets talk about leadership. What would you say is your style?
I believe, I am a transformational leader. Whereas I will be seeking to consolidate the gains so far reached, I will as well as push new lines to transform Cipla for not only today, but for the future as well.
Which improvements are you looking at the moment?
My immediate priority is to turn the business into a profitable entity, after which I will focus on sustainability and profit growth.
As we plan our growth, the shareholders should also benefit from their investment. Our plan is to return to profitability in two or three years. Of course, this will be achieved with rigorous planning and sacrifice.
We are in the process of formulating a strategy, which will enable us to achieve our short and long-term goals. To improve agility of the business, a big focus will be on putting in place a solid governance framework.
How do you plan to do this?
We operate in a highly competitive segment of the pharmaceutical industry and in therapeutic areas with consolidated customers and a clientele that continuously exert pressure on product pricing.
On the other hand, Africa has more than 25 million HIV patients and we are currently only able to reach a very small population with affordable treatment. This gives me hope and I shall seek to increase access of our products to patients.
We will do this by adopting a market acceleration growth strategy for our existing portfolio of products. This strategy will be complemented by a product expansion strategy to fuel future growth.
Your shareholders must be keenly watching. How do you plan to engage them?
Truthfully, shareholders are the single most important aspect of our business. And for that matter, we must see to it that we forge a sense of belonging for them. To do this we shall create a two-way interaction.
We will continue with the practice of shareholder newsletters every quarter along with half year and off-season engagement sessions. But beyond this, we shall proactively seek and shall be open to feedback from shareholders.
Why would anyone invest in Cipla?
Cipla has a strong track record. We are involved in providing solutions to the biggest problems in Africa. We are physically present across the continent with a state of art facility manned by a dedicated team of more than 350 staff.
We lead the local pharmaceutical industry in eastern and sub-Saharan Africa. I think this and our future prospects are strong reasons for anyone to invest in Cipla.
Your stock at the Uganda Securities Exchange has not been performing well. What will be your strategy to drive its value?
A company’s share value is a reflection of many things, key among them, market sentiments. There are various factors that influence market sentiments.
Nevertheless, I will have to do some homework. I will put focus on how to improve the performance of the company, which will eventually create higher returns for shareholders.
Once we have achieved this, I am sure the share price will automatically reflect positively.
Where do you see Cipla in the next two years?
It will be a very agile company, which responds to changes with great speed. We will bring solutions for other disease burdens that are growing significantly on the African continent.
About Mr. Ajay Kumar Pal
Appointment and experience
Mr. Ajay Kumar Pal was appointed as Cipla Quality Chemicals chief executive officer or executive director in August. He effectively took over on September 30. Mr. Kumar joined the Cipla Quality Chemicals in February 2020 to serve as chief operating officer. Prior to that he was senior director, head of manufacturing at Cipla South Africa.
He holds a Master of Business Administration in Management and Leadership from Nelson Mandela University – South Africa and a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences – India.
He has more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry spreading across South Africa and India.
He took over from Nevin Bradford who chose to retire from the Company effective September 30. Mr Bradford had been with Cipla since 2013.
Interviewer; Martin Luther Oketch