It’s not easy to run a global pharmaceutical business. The pharma sector is very competitive, highly regulated, driven by constant innovation. And now according to futurists, the industry is on the cusp of significant disruption by emerging technologies. Used to punching above their weight in the global arena through a focus on scientific excellence and manufacturing rigour, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. (Dr. Reddy’s) provides pharmaceutical products, services and active ingredients to 30 countries across the globe. Accelerating access to affordable and innovative medicines is at the core of Dr. Reddy’s work. Mr. G V Prasad, Co-Chairman and CEO, leads the core team at Dr. Reddy’s that has contributed significantly to its transformation from a mid-sized domestic operation into a global pharmaceutical major.
The company’s philosophy of taking health to the masses is institutionalised in many forms such as patient centricity, product innovation and environmental consciousness. The company has been an early adopter of sustainable practices because of Prasad’s belief that circular systems which are based on zero waste and no harm to the environment must be a critical focus for any business. He says, “To create true value we must function in harmony with nature. Businesses that harm the natural systems don’t create value instead they just shift value and create long-term harm for themselves and everyone around them.” Continuous improvement in environmental performance has been a significant part of the company’s sustainability journey. In 2004, Dr. Reddy’s became one of the first companies in India to ensure “zero liquid discharge” by treating and recycling all wastewater, leaving zero discharge at the end of the treatment cycle. In 2017 the company achieved another important milestone: zero hazardous waste to landfill across all manufacturing units in India. This has also been enabled by the company’s focus on “Green chemistry”, which is focused on the designing of products and processes that minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances. The company has institutionalized; Environmental Commitment Statement; that articulates measurable targets for each key environmental performance indicator: energy, emissions, water and waste.
Though Prasad believes that to stall climate change collaborative efforts are necessary and that these efforts need to be driven by public policy and enabling legislation. He says, “Dumping plastic is not a necessity and neither is polluting the water and air. We need good legislation to prevent people from taking the shortest way to prosperity. We need enlightened leadership that can enable this; because people only think creatively when they are put into a box. Right now there is no limit to the amount of carbon anyone can emit. This must be controlled if we are to make an impact.” Dr. Reddy’s is one of a handful of top Indian companies that educates and encourages its vendors and partners to adopt environment-friendly practices.
The biggest challenges in implementing these changes though have been internal. According to Prasad, “We can always find solutions to problems by shining a light on them. However, long-term change needs a commitment from the people who are going to implement it. There can always be a new way, a more sustainable way of working but getting people to commit to it is an uphill task”. Prasad takes every opportunity to highlight that environmental consciousness is part of everyday decision making. On his birthday, he requested employees to stop using paper cups and single-use plastic bottles. People willingly complied and today, across all company offices and factories single-use PET water bottles have been replaced with reusable water bottles that employees carry from home; single-use plastic or paper cups have been replaced with washable cutlery.
Realizing that sustainability commitments need to be institutionalized, the company partners with its suppliers to find innovative solutions and continually improve performance. This ensures high quality products and also helps the organization in mitigating supply chain risk. “We need to be conscious about the social responsibility of business and realise the impact we have on everyone – suppliers, customers and society at large”, says Prasad.
The company pursues community care with the same zeal as the healthcare business. The company was set up in 1984 by Dr Kallam Anji Reddy who was a well-known scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. About a decade after setting up Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, he started the Dr Reddy’s Foundation in 1996, with the vision of assisting young disadvantaged people to have access to quality education and developing skills to keep pace with modern day challenges. The foundation works with children, youth (including persons with disabilities), women and households in 20 states across India. DRF has touched the lives of 5,00,000 socially marginalized people from all across the country.
Dr. Reddy’s has launched several patient programmes to ensure product affordability. In 2006 they launched Sparsh, a program designed to reach out to cancer patients with financial support in India. More recently, the company partnered with a leading diagnostic lab to provide access to interior parts of the country to improve and confirm the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and thereby reduce the time between diagnosis and treatment. Recognising that medicines work only when they are taken in the right dosage at the right time, Dr. Reddy’s deployed design thinking to help treatment become more effective, not just through better medicines, but through intelligent packaging.
Today, the healthcare sector is abuzz with new developments; collaborations between information technology giants and major pharmaceutical companies, big data and IT-driven care pathways, 3D printing and more.
Prasad believes that responsibility in the context of these changes needs a rethink. For instance, the next step of using technology to create personalized medicine will be the fabrication of complex specialty drugs through the 3D printing of living tissues. 3D printing is a type of manufacturing through a process that creates a three-dimensional object by building successive layers of raw material. The flexibility of 3D printing allows designers to make changes quickly, and it enables manufacturers to create patient-specific devices matched to a person’s anatomy as well as those with very complex internal structures. This raises a host of patient privacy and data issues. The next generation pharma company would then equally be a data company.
“We, therefore, need to improve environmental performance without tradeoffs and think about data without compromising on ethics and privacy of our customers. Today, the world has the technology to solve many of the problems we see, but to enable this we need a better definition of long-term success Moreover, we need to do this now. Responsibility can’t wait!” says Prasad.
Based on a conversation with Mr. G V Prasad, Co-Chairman & CEO, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.