“I always hold on to the saying ‘If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together’. I apply both concepts in order to go fast and far.”
Dato’ Farshila Binti Emran was entrusted to helm Pharmaniaga in 2011 when the company had just signed a concession agreement with the Ministry of Health and was given a tall order to meet several stringent requirements which included ensuring all deliveries of pharmaceutical products were made within seven working days in Peninsular Malaysia and ten working days in Sabah and Sarawak, compared to the 60 days in the previous agreement.
Pharmaniaga was also required to develop and implement a Pharmaceutical Information System (PhIS), an online real-time pharmaceutical information system to be used at all government hospitals and clinics.
As Dato’ Farshila recalls, “My management team and I rolled up our sleeves and went on ground to understand the operational challenges, especially those faced by the employees, and quickly developed multiple strategies to address the issues. This resulted in a surge of improvements on work efficiency and productivity, and the new delivery target was met within six months, and the performance maintained to date. PhIS was also completed within the stipulated time. These challenges could only be managed with strong teamwork and deep trust between the employees and management. The strong bond between the two parties has resulted in continuous success for Pharmaniaga until today.”
The Singapore-born Managing Director graduated from MARA Institute of Technology and is currently working on her Masters of Business Administration in Northern University of Malaysia. “Though these two universities have given me strong foundations to who I am and what I do now, I learned a lot more from many ‘teachers’ whom I met throughout my life, who shared their knowledge and experiences, and guided me to be successful in my career.
Finding and learning from the right teachers are very important,” opines the 51-year-old, who considers the former Deputy Chairman of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop her mentor. “He is very smart and visionary. He always advised me to keep working on my strengths as he said they would be my foundation as I continued to develop my career.”
Pharmaniaga was acquired by Boustead Holdings Berhad in 2011, a move facilitated by Dato’ Farshila, who was then appointed as the pharmaceutical powerhouse’s Managing Director. Under her leadership Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd (PLS), a specialised sterile small volume injectable (SVI) plant located in Puchong, Selangor was awarded with the European Union (EU) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificate by Infarmed Portugal in 2013. Dato’ Farshila was also instrumental in helping Pharmaniaga acquired PT Errita Pharma, a general pharma manufacturing plant with about 400 employees in Bandung, Indonesia which marked the Malaysian company’s major step into that country.
Pharmaniaga is also proud that four of its six manufacturing plants in Malaysia are certified halal by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM). The remaining two are in the process of obtaining the certification. The company’s product portfolio stands at 430, including 62 products that are certified halal. By end of 2018, it is expected to have more than 200 products that are certified halal.
“Pharmaniaga offers seamless end-to-end pharmaceutical services. Our mission statement is to provide quality products and superior services by professional, committed and caring employees. We are guided by our philosophy of ‘doing business with conscience’ and empowered by the motto ‘Passion for Patients’.
It is important for us to ensure our clients are satisfied with our products and services, and so we have established a Customer Care Call centre which operates daily. In addition, we are highly engaged with our clients through regular dialogues to address their issues and needs. We have also consistently achieved Good and Highly Satisfactory scores during our biannual Customer Feedback Survey,” shares Dato’ Farshila, who is very hands-on in the running of the company.
“I always hold on to the saying ‘if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together,’ I apply both concepts in order to go fast and far. There are times, as entrepreneurs, we must have the guts to take chances by simply doing it. However, I always believe more heads are better than one, thus I seek opinions from my trusted team before I make any critical decisions,” says the people-centric leader who is a strong believer in work-life balance. “Success is meaningless if we are all alone and unable to share it with our loved ones, whom we could have neglected on our way to the top. Equal attention must be given to this part of our life, as it also reflects our success,” she says firmly.
When asked about her leadership style, Dato’ Farshila reveals that even though she has capable managers who run the day-to-day operations, she believes in meeting and talking to employees in order to understand them better and mitigate any issues that would affect business operations. “Many times, this employee engagement process would churn up new ideas from the staff to enhance business operations, which, at the same time would boost their morale and commitment towards the company. I hold dearly to the belief that the secret of success in any organisation lies in strong teamwork.”
Pharmaniaga employs almost 2,000 staff in Malaysia, and 1,000 in Indonesia. The company has been rated highly in Employee Engagement Surveys (EES) conducted by Aon in 2016, scoring 18 percent higher than the National norms/average engagement score.
When asked about the characteristics of a good entrepreneur, Dato’ Farshila shared that a good entrepreneur must have a strong vision of what he or she plans to achieve, and be able to work hard towards it. “Next, he or she must be able to translate the vision into a mission statement and business objectives, and have them embraced by the whole organisation so that everyone moves together in one direction.”
As a woman captain of industry, she wants young women wanting to start their own businesses to “be equipped with as much knowledge as possible. I read a lot. I love to read entrepreneurship and self-development books that share how successful people think, and how they find the motivation they need when facing challenges. I would also advise women entrepreneurs to seek a few credible teachers or mentors to guide them in their journey of becoming successful entrepreneurs. Yes, along the way you will learn from your own mistakes, but you will grow faster by learning from the mistakes and also the successes of others.”
“Gender has never been an issue for me in this industry because I believe that performance speaks the loudest. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman because the challenges faced are the same,” says the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and strong advocate of work-life balance.
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