When Lakish Hatalkar was growing up in Mumbai, India, his mother encouraged him to have ambitious dreams, to stand by his convictions and forge his own path in life.
In the decades since, he has followed that advice faithfully, leaving India for the US at the age of just 16 and embarking on a career that would take him to China, Switzerland, Indonesia and Singapore and working for producers of consumer goods and medical devices.
Today, as Area Managing Director for Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Consumer Health in Russia, Ukraine and CIS, Lakish continues his lifelong adventure.
After 13 years at Procter & Gamble and nearly six years at Novartis, what initially drew Lakish to J&J was the company’s credo: ‘We’re responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well.
We must help people be healthier by supporting better access and care in more places around the world,’ it reads. "We blend heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. I find that humbling," Lakish says.
"Having the opportunity to play a role in helping people throughout their lifetime is a huge honour and responsibility. That’s why I am at J&J."
The history of J&J in Russia dates back almost 30 years, during which time the company has been helping the country modernise its healthcare sector and localise production of medicines and other products with the help of strategic partners, including the Skolkovo Innovation Fund – one of the leading centres for innovation in Russia.
"J&J has been implementing a number of projects aimed at the development of innovative ecosystems and supporting local healthcare startups. We are an integral part of Russia’s healthcare system and the communities in which we live and work," Lakish says.
"We remain committed to supporting our patients and vulnerable groups in Russia, which is especially relevant in the current environment." When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Russia, Ukraine and the CIS region, Lakish and his team in Consumer Health worked to ensure that these countries had uninterrupted supplies of products and medicines.
He also committed J&J Consumer Health to supporting frontline healthcare workers and other at-risk groups, such as the elderly and people with chronic diseases.
"We’re closely monitoring product demand and supply levels across our global network to ensure adequate and effective distribution, and we are working diligently to meet patient, customer and consumer needs," he says.
However, helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic is only one way in which Lakish and his team, along with Janssen and Medical Device colleagues, are seeking to improve the healthcare system in Russia.
As perhaps the most broad-based healthcare company in the world, J&J’s collective purview includes total health, from acute and chronic conditions to various types of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
"In Consumer Health, we serve people through the products they use every single day to take care of themselves. And because we take a total health approach to helping people live their healthiest lives, we are investing US$800 million between now and 2030 to improve the health of people and our planet through our Healthy Lives Mission," he says.
"In every market around the world, including Russia, we have made a very strong, focused priority to bring in the best talent, create the right portfolio, build the right partnerships and continue to drive where consumers are shopping these days.
"Our purpose at Consumer Health is to help more than 1.2 billion consumers around the world live healthier lives every day, from their first day." Because this period of expansion coincides with a rapidly evolving health landscape in Russia, Ukraine and the CIS region, J&J Consumer Health must become more agile than ever, keepings its eye on shifts in consumer needs and on the development of future healthcare trends.
We blend heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. I find that humbling.
"This ability to be agile and think about today, tomorrow and the future – I think that continues to be a challenge that we’re all working through," Lakish says. His solution is what he refers to as the ‘70-20-10 principle’.
"First, 70% of your organisation, as a rule, must stay focused on what’s happening today. We’ve got to deliver the business today," he says.
"20% should be focused on tomorrow and then 10% on the future. This can also manifest itself not just in the organisation as a whole, but even within a specific person’s responsibilities."
To keep every one of his 500 team members agile and comfortable dealing with ambiguity, Lakish ensures that they are all exposed to a diverse array of experiences early on in their career at J&J. Another way to stay ahead of trends is through technology.
"We push the boundaries of innovation, we harness the power of data and we relentlessly strive to advance our understanding of human insights to help people take better care of themselves and their loved ones," Lakish says. For example, J&J recently teamed up with behavioural scientists in the development of Nicorette QuickMist SmartTrack – a personalised app to help people quit smoking.
"It allows consumers to get a personalised quit plan in the app and works in the same way as a contactless bank card. You simply spray, then tap into your phone to record product usage, input your objectives and get your personal quit plan," Lakish explains.
"By using a product such as this, enhanced by technology data personalisation, consumers are up to two and a half times more likely to give up smoking than through willpower alone."
J&J Consumer Health’s successful ability to leverage science, scale and reach to improve the health of both people and the planet has been recognised by a variety of awards bodies including Universum, Randstad, and even the Russian government.
"We are channelling our employees’ passions to create even more sustainable products, processes and workplaces," Lakish says.