PORTUGAL - Health & Education
General Manager, Takeda Farmacéuticos Portugal
Carla Benedito started her career at a Pharmacy in Lisbon, having later worked in a production unit where she got to know up close how the production of medicines works. She began her career in the medical device industry at a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). At BMS, the opportunity arises to go to the US, starting an international career that kept her out of Portugal for about 16 years. In the US, she worked in various roles at the BMS headquarters, having experiences in the American market, but also in the global market. It was 10 years in which it consolidated the way to address challenges, to understand that open communication and transparency between teams are essential to achieve our goals. Still at BMS, she returns to Europe to work in Paris, at the European headquarters. Here, she worked in the management of commercial teams located in multiple countries, but also in more corporate functions such as managing strategic plans, risk management and participating in mergers and acquisitions work teams. From Paris, she went to Madrid for two years, as the commercial manager of several business units, still at BMS. She returned to Portugal as general manager for BMS Portugal, one of the most important challenges in her career that allowed her to develop a great team and establish immuno-oncology in Portugal. In 2017, she assumed the direction of Shire Portugal, where rare diseases are the focus. With the acquisition of Shire by Takeda in 2019, she was invited to take on the leadership of the Japanese company in Portugal.
TBY talks to Carla Benedito, General Manager of Takeda Farmacéuticos Portugal, about international operations, competition in Portugal, and goals for the coming year.
What is the relevance of Portugal for Takeda, in light of its international activity?
For Takeda, Portugal is one of the key countries in Europe. We are associated with Spain, and Iberia is one of the growing markets for this Europe and Canada (EUCAN) region. We are fairly important for the region, not because we are the biggest, but because of the importance that Portugal places on innovation and Portugal being an ideal platform for creating new ways of reaching customers. We are extremely ahead in terms of digital, using an omni-channel approach to develop campaigns for our customer that accelerated through the pandemic. Without doubt, Portugal is the innovation hub for Iberia. We are smaller, which also allows us to be more flexible and agile.
What does innovation mean at Takeda, and how do you apply it in your daily operations?
For us, innovation starts by making sure we develop our people and give them the tools that might not look like innovation. We spend a lot of time talking about people and giving our people tools, resources, courses, and development opportunities. In more spaces of innovation, we have developed a group created by the employees called CRER, where our teams talk about their development, speak about opportunities, and bring up their challenges for the future. It has a huge impact across the region and is a way of innovating through our people, preparing our team to face all the challenges around us. With this, we successfully implemented a new business model. We are accelerating heavily in digitalization. The majority of the campaigns that we develop to reach HCPs, physicians, and associations already include a component of digital and remote interactions. We will venture out to all countries in Europe, and we are measuring the impact and connecting all these different channels through one single portal, so that there is one single entry for physicians to receive information. It is remarkable, considering that the pharma industry is a conservative sector that is heavily regulated and with many compliance rules. It is challenging to change all bureaucratic processes that characterize our industry, and with this premise in mind, all the initiatives and actions we are implementing are extremely meaningful.
How do you defend your position in such a small and competitive market?
At Takeda, the most important assets are values. Our vision and objectives are based on the concept of “Takedaism,” a philosophy based on the concepts of Integrity, Fairness, Honesty and Perseverance that define who we are.. This is the biggest source of our competitive advantages. We firmly believe that if we do the right things, if we are fair with our customers, if we are integrated, and if we are honest, everything else will follow. We even have a decision-making mantra that we call PTRB (patient, trust, reputation, and business, respectively). When we have a decision to make, first and foremost, we look at what is best for the patient, then what is best for building trust, and so on. Human capital is our leading asset, and we have robust processes and programs to support our employees. The impact of the pandemic was positive in the sense that they felt protected, and we gave them benefits in terms of materials, and working conditions for home. Our culture is truly people oriented, which is why we have been recognized as TOP Employer company for third consecutive year. Having said that, we continue to invest and apply the concept of innovation to our products, working in rare diseases and oncology to bring innovative medicines to the market.
As far as Takeda R&D activity is concerned, what emphasis are you placing on establishing solid and fruitful partnerships with local institutions, universities, and research centers?
We definitely invest heavily in the concept of partnerships. First, we have partnerships with local companies, associations, HDP, physician associations, and societies. We partner with the Red Cross, for example, and with local associations that ensure access to those people who cannot afford medication. We have partnerships with many universities for trainees. One of our aims in terms of developing people is an open door for trainees. Every year, we enroll trainees through partnerships with leading universities. We are very much focused on establishing important partnerships and developing a strong relationship with the environment surrounding us.
Do you have any specific target, objective, or goal in your agenda for the coming year?
We definitely have goals for the coming year. We have specific KPIs that are defined more broadly as well as goals in terms of launching our products. For example, we have a strong focus on outsourcing plasma, which is in shortage right now but is needed to create the right therapies for special diseases. In Portugal, we have been creating the base for this business for being a provider of plasma-derived therapy products. From a business standpoint, our short-term goal for this coming year is to expand this business to truly become the partner in plasma-derived therapies in Portugal. Then, we want to launch other products that we have within rare diseases and transplants. We also have vaccines that we plan to launch in the next few years for Portugal, Spain, and Europe. Those are our product objectives, while we will continue to invest in our culture and our people. We are also developing a metric that will allow us to track how many talented people we export to other countries. For example, we just exported one to Boston.
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