The past two years have been a powerful demonstration of the important steps we can all take to slow the spread of a dangerous virus. But while we’ve learned to wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and use hand sanitiser, companies like Advanced Sterilization Products (ASP) have been at the forefront of pioneering products and technologies to protect patients and healthcare workers from harmful bacteria for decades.
Vice President and General Manager Global Commercial Nilesh Shah also moved quickly to design a Coronavirus Resource Centre to help healthcare communities navigate the significant challenges they suddenly faced by giving up-to-the-minute facts and updates from various governments.
"COVID-19 changed the world forever. Now more than ever, cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising are crucial to our lives," he tells The CEO Magazine. "With a prevailing pandemic, working conditions for our engineering teams may be extremely challenging, yet they continued servicing the healthcare community because they understood how critical it was to keep machines up and running. If a machine goes down, crucial surgeries might have to be postponed."
I love spending time in the field with engineers and sales reps. It helps me better understand their challenges so we can work together to find solutions with Fortive’s range of business systems.
Nilesh joined ASP in June 2019 after 10 years at GE Healthcare to oversee its Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia–Pacific and Latin America operations. He assumed his current role two years later.
Prior to that, he was at Johnson & Johnson, the company that sold ASP to industrial tech conglomerate Fortive for US$2.8 billion in 2018. The change in ownership had wide-ranging repercussions for the business.
"ASP represents a quarter of the business for Fortive while before, it was a mere fraction of the business for Johnson & Johnson," Nilesh says. "When we went under the ownership of Fortive, our company culture was dramatically transformed. We suddenly had more autonomy and accountability, and had to move with much more speed."
Nilesh had to transition the ASP operations in more than 135 countries and establish new enterprise resource planning systems, finance structures, compliance standards and quality assurance, not to mention deal with some radically diverse regulatory frameworks. Each territory had to become a self-sustained business. "Some countries reacted differently to the changes. They all asked, ‘What’s in it for me? How do I benefit?’" he recalls.
For example, in Japan, a lot of people were resistant to change because they wanted to carry on doing things their way. "I love spending time in the field with engineers and sales reps," he explains. "It helps me better understand their challenges so we can work together to find solutions with Fortive’s range of business systems."
One day, a patient could be a family member or loved one. My life’s purpose is to help them and keep them safe.
Once the Japanese saw that Nilesh had turned around their commercial and sales operations, they became believers. "We always start at the bottom and work upwards, never from the top down," he says. "In the past two years, we have enjoyed phenomenal success in Europe, China and Latin America with outstanding scores for revenues, customer satisfaction and employee engagement. It is fantastic to know we are doing something right!"
Proof of staff engagement came when the Singapore, Vietnam and Chinese businesses were certified on a list of companies that were the ‘best places to work’. But the sky-high engagement doesn’t stop with the staff.
Down to Destiny
"When I left J&J to join GE, during the course of my work one day, I found myself at the same hospital where my mum was admitted before she passed away. This really had a huge impact then and still does today," Nilesh says. "Some might consider this a coincidence, but I choose to think of it this way: that I’m truly meant to be in this industry and to keep using my skills and experience to continue doing good for people all over the world."
"I have spent more than 20 grateful years in the healthcare business, and there has not been a single day I get up and feel I don’t want to go to work, even after an 18-hour day," Nilesh smiles. "Just seeing the impact that we have on the healthcare community is reward enough. Just think, one day, a patient could be a family member or loved one. My life’s purpose is to help them and keep them safe."