PHILIPE HAYDON – Chief Executive Officer HIMALAYA DRUG COMPANY
Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
A wellness company with a range of head-to-heel herbal therapeutics, personal care, baby care, nutrition, wellness and animal health products.
What is the big idea behind your business?
Himalaya pioneered contemporary Ayurveda way back in 1930.
The answer to how we arrived at contemporary Ayurveda lies in the story of our Founder and Chairman, Mr. M. Manal. Riding through the forests of Burma (now Myanmar), Mr. M. Manal, noticed restless elephants being fed the root of a plant that seemed to have a calming effect on them. The plant was Rauwolfiaserpentina. Fascinated by the plant’s effect on elephants, he had it scientifically evaluated and found that it possessed anti-hypertensive properties. Mr. Manal could have sold the herb in the form of a powder or potion, which was a common practice at the time. Instead, he decided to make herbal tablets in a quest to contemporize Ayurveda and make it relevant to modern society.
Contemporary Ayurveda is based on validating the traditional knowledge of Ayurveda through modern science and research. We focus on empirical evidence to prove the safety and efficacy of herbal medicine. Himalaya has one of the world’s best R&D centres for herbal products! We have a team of over 300 multidisciplinary scientists at our research facility, with the best equipment, following the most stringent processes. It is what distinguishes us from other brands.
Our mission today is to establish Himalaya as a science- based, problem solving, head to heel brand, harnessed from nature’s wealth and characterized by trust and healthy lives.
It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
All companies today operate in a dynamic environment. Disruptions are always just around the corner and as a leader you need to predict and prepare for this volatility. It’s not always easy and you can’t always get it right, but I’ve found that keeping an ear to the ground, working closely with customer research teams, maintaining open and transparent communication with employees, bringing innovation to the front and centre and being agile and adaptable helps mitigate risks and futureproofs the company.
A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
Our Chairman, Mr. Meraj Manal, expects us to deliver ‘customer delight’ every single time. Our journey starts with product development, where our R&D comes into sharp focus, giving us a distinct advantage. We have some of the best minds in our research team, including pharmacists, Ayurvedic doctors, biochemists, phytochemists and agricultural scientists. The cross functional product development team ensures that every product in our portfolio delivers a tangible benefit.
We aim to give our customers the best quality herbal products that are safe, effective, affordable and easily accessible. Till 1999, the year we launched our personal care range, we never advertised any of our products and yet we were registering a healthy growth on the back of doctor recommendations and a loyal consumer base. Even today, word of mouth continues to be a big growth driver for Himalaya. The core essence of our brand that makes consumers love us is our obsession with product safety, efficacy and quality. Unless the product delivers on its promise no amount of clever communication can sustain growth.
Today Himalaya is a brand that has become synonymous with trust and is one amongst the top 100 ‘Most Trusted Brands in India’.
What was your first paying job?
My first and only job has been with Himalaya! I am a second-generation Himalayan. My father worked in this company and when I was nine years old I would help pack his bags for him earning my pocket money this way. So you could say that my first ‘paying’ job, both formally and informally, began with Himalaya.
I joined the company in 1979 as a medical representative and spent nearly two decades on the field learning the ins and outs of pharmaceutical marketing. I was very fortunate to handle various assignments, including a couple of years managing the APAC business, before finally moving into the role of CEO for Himalaya India.
Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
We have several processes to stay in touch with employees – from email communiques to regular meetings with different teams. Today, we are a 10,000- strong organisation, so it’s difficult to stay in touch with everyone personally. But I do communicate through newsletters and email updates. Besides, each and every employee at Himalaya has my direct number.
As for customers, we are proud to say that we are obsessed with being a customer- centric organisation! Responding to customer queries within 24 hours, paying close attention to customer feedback, doing extensive customer research before and after product launches, regular testing of communication with our TG, all this and more is ingrained in our culture.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
The best business advice I follow is to never give precedence to short-term over long-term goals. While short-term goals are important, obsession with quarterly results makes people risk-averse and unwilling to try new things. For a business to grow, you need to change, innovate and be willing to make a few mistakes along the way so long as you’re clear about the bigger picture. I have five to seven year plans for each of our verticals that are aligned to our Chairman’s vision of becoming a billion dollar company in 2020.
What has surprised you about being a leader?
For me being a leader has always been about inspiring employees to realize their full potential. It is amazing to see the immense success you can achieve when you put your team’s personal and professional growth at the forefront of your organization’s long-term goals. Finally, success is about great products and great people!
What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
I started my career with Himalaya and it is the only company I’ve worked for! 37 years and counting!
Right now my only goal is to make Himalaya the most loved and trusted Indian healthcare multinational.
Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
I don’t get too much time to read books. My passion lies in music and I devote whatever spare time I get to playing my guitar.
A mantra that I have coined for myself is the ‘IEG’ principle, where I focus on Intentions and Effort and leave the rest to the Grace of God. I believe that when your intentions are good for everyone or everything, be it people, customers or your organisation, and you put in serious effort to realise your goals, you will succeed by the grace of God.
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