Business Time

Good innings for Kiwi company

Mark 03 May 2017, 10:10AM
Good innings for Kiwi companyPharmaco managing director Chandra Selvadurai, health minister Jonathan Coleman and chairman Murray Jamieson

Pharmaco managing director Chandra Selvadurai is fond of using sporting analogies when talking about business.

At the company's recent 50th birthday celebration, he made a speech during which he used a cricketing analogy.

The company, he said, had reached a half century and was raising its bat to the pavilion, before settling back down at the crease to go on to a hundred and hopefully beyond.

Mr Selvadurai is the third managing director, the first two were the company's founders Tom Jamieson and Lionel Young.  

So to use a cricketing analogy he is so keen on, the company is actually 50-3. 

The opening pair laid the foundation with a solid partnership and Mr Selvadurai is hoping to take them a good way towards the ­century.

Fifty for three may not, in reality, be a great cricket score, but it is an admirable business record, ­particularly for a New Zealand company.

Established in 1967 by messers Jamieson and Young along with Ken Webster, the company has grown from a small pharmaceutical company to one of the largest distributors and marketers of healthcare products in the country.

The company celebrated the milestone at an event at The Wharf in Auckland in March, a venue nestled at the foot of the northern end of the harbour bridge. 

It was a grand affair, with a string quartet, current and ex-staff members, family, guests and health minister Jonathan Coleman. 

Mr Jamieson and Mr Young have both passed away; however,
Mr Webster spoke. 

A number of other people either currently or previously connected with the company spoke, and an overriding theme was the family values running through the ­company.

Many Kiwi companies that were set up by entrepreneurs boast of being founded on family values. Sir James Fletcher is said to have known each of his staff members by name. Sir Graeme Douglas fostered a family spirit at Douglas Pharmaceuticals.

The same is true at Pharmaco and Mr Selvadurai says when he eventually hands over to his successor, he will pass on the same advice he was given: that he is responsible for the welfare of his staff.

While they are not actual family, they are part of the fabric of the company.

"When I became the CEO of the company Lionel said 'you are the steward of the people who work in this company. You have to steer the company well, with care and compassion,'" Mr Selvadurai says.

"I think that speaks as to who we are as an organisation. There are no real airs and graces here, if someone wants to have a chat with me they can knock on my door.

"I think it is a compassion for people. The culture of the company is based on compassion for the people who work here. It is based on our individual integrity and how you really want to be with people."

Mr Selvadurai has been the chief executive of the company since 2002 and was appointed managing director earlier this year. The first managing director was Mr Jamieson, who held the post from 1967 until 1995 when Mr Young stepped into the role. He retired in 2002 when Mr Selvadurai was appointed into the newly created chief executive role. 

Pharmaco started out half a century ago as a business partner to a number of global pharmaceutical firms, who had no presence in New Zealand. 

Companies such as Organon, Warner Lambert, and Pharmacia and Upjohn, who have since been swallowed up by other companies. 

"We started them out in New Zealand, we got their products registered and started selling them. Products such as early insulins and oral contraceptive pills."

The business grew, ­forming more partnerships with overseas companies to represent their products in New Zealand. 

By the 1980s, Pharmaco was the largest pharmaceutical company here, and was still privately held.

By the 1990s, the pharmaceutical landscape in New Zealand was starting to change with the emergence of Pharmac. 

Mr Young recognised this and a decision was made to set up a diagnostic side to the business, which is when Mr Selvadurai was brought on.

He was headhunted and was interviewed by Mr Jamieson and Mr Young and recollects it as a "lovely interview with two lovely guys".

He told his wife "I've found my career home" and Pharmaco was the place he wanted to work.

He was initially employed as sales and marketing manager for the diagnostic side of the business.

Today, he oversees a company that manages the sales, marketing and distribution for over 2500 products, including blood transfusion equipment, diagnostics, blood glucose meters, pharmaceutical supplies and emergency equipment. 

They represent over 20 pharmaceutical and medical technology companies.   

During the interview, it doesn't take Mr Selvadurai too much time to return to a cricketing analogy when asked about the future of the company. 

"In the business setting you have to take the quick runs, you have to take the safe runs. You have to block the good balls because you also need to keep your wicket," he says. 

"In business not everything is a win, but it is about staying there, and then the one ball comes and it's a four or a six.

"Business is about playing every ball on its merit and staying at the crease to be able to do that."

He is not sure what the score will be when he hands the bat on to the next player, but whenever that is he's determined to make sure there is a solid foundation for another strong innings.


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