‘Gen Y’: Contemporary Mindset For Pharma Transformation

Global Pharma industry, for various reasons, is still not adequately aligned with the legitimate needs and expectations of the civil society, which are some of the key purposes for its existence, across the world. Consequently, there seems to be a gradually increasing trust deficit between various governments and the pharma industry. This has been continuing over a long period of time, primarily due to opacity in the business conduct of the industry, spanning across a number of critical areas, especially related to R&D, Clinical Trials, Pricing, and Brand Marketing.

As a result, various stakeholders do not seem to be on the same page, when it comes to important issues and concerns related to patients’ interest.

A key differentiation for pharma consumers:

Ultimate consumers not being the purchase decision makers for prescription medicines, in general, unlike most other products, additionally, the market being highly monopolistic for many critical life-saving patented products, the argument of market force driven drug pricing does not hold much water. Even for branded generics in India, one can find a wide variation in retail prices within the same molecule and the higher priced brands in many cases, intriguingly, enjoy the brand leadership status too.

Thus, for prescription medicines, the following common question is reportedly being very often raised:

“If the one who decides, does not pay and the one who pays, does not decide and if the one who decides is ‘paid’, will truth stand any chance?”

This leads to a key question on one of the many important areas of opacity in the pharma industry, which is:

“If market forces decide product pricing, why do the doctors prescribe a particular company’s higher priced brand more often, instead of available replaceable brands of other pharma companies of equal repute, but with much lesser price?

Need for ‘fresh eyes’: 

It is imperative that such questions need effective resolution, sooner. However, this will require fresh pairs of eyes and not the existing ones.

Noting together various other similar examples, as well, of long unresolved growing discontent, as mentioned above, there is an urgent need for the industry to expedite a radical transformation in those areas with a new and contemporary vision for the interest of all – Pharma Players, the Governments and the Society at large.

‘Baby Boomers’ traditional mindset seems outdated:

Overall mindset of the senior leadership in the pharma sector, right from the country level up to their respective global headquarters, appears to have been insensitive to contemporary societal needs, too much self-serving, lacking innovativeness in problem solving approach, charting in a make- believe world with rigid views and suffering from an ‘Ostrich like Syndrome’, as it were.

One of the reasons of the above ‘Syndrome’ could well be that these leadership positions are still being driven by the ‘Pre-Baby Boomers’, ‘Baby Boomers’ and very few ‘Gen X’, including the one at the helm.  Interestingly, this is quite unlike other science driven sectors such as the ‘Digital Industry’ and their leaders like, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Incidentally, Zuckerberg also tops 2013 charity giving list.

Consequently, the long standing important pharma issues with the outside world, though are much known to all concerned, have still remained mostly unresolved. One of its reasons could possibly be attributed to the traditional mindset of the senior leadership of the industry, predominantly cultivating values of the ‘Baby Boomers’, which override the fast changing societal aspirations, expectations and demands. 

A time for ‘Gen Y’ leadership:

In such a scenario, to trigger a transformation in the pharma industry, the ‘Gen Y’, who reportedly looks at ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ very differently, quite in tune with the time, as deliberated below, should be put on the saddle of the key leadership positions, sooner.

Handing over the baton should follow a well thought out and structured time-bound process. This is quite feasible, as those of ‘Gen Y’ born in 1983. have become over 30 years old now.

Mindset of ‘Gen Y’ is different and contemporary:

Various studies have clearly shown that the interplay between ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ has undergone a fundamental change from the era of ‘Baby Boomers’ to Gen Y, as follows:

  • The generation ‘prior to the Baby Boomers’ (born before 1946) worked to live.
  • The ‘Baby Boomers’ (born between 1946 and 1964) live to work, which also becomes a very important part of their social status, identity and pride.
  • ‘Gen X’ (born between 1965 and 1982) works along with other interests and aspirations too, seeking a balance between work and life.
  • ‘Gen Y’ (born between 1983 and 2001) wants work and life to merge. Besides, according to a recent study, around 92 percent of Gen Y believes that business should be measured by more than just profit, having a clear societal focus along with the changing needs and aspirations of the people. As stated above, ‘Gen Y’ like, Mark Zuckerberg has already demonstrated it.

‘Inclusive’ approach of ‘Gen Y’, different from ‘Baby Boomers’:

Leadership behavior, as we know, is predominantly driven by values, which may either be sustainable over a longer period of time or just situation specific, working wonders in a given situation and ineffective when the situation changes. Thus there is a greater need for the organizations to help nurturing and developing leadership behavior, which is sustainable and not just situation specific.

In today’s scenario, to catalyze a transformation in the pharma industry, persons in leadership roles, especially if these are held by ‘Baby Boomers’, need to change the way they usually behave, directly or indirectly, with their colleagues and subordinates, as a typical ‘Gen Y’ person would not be inclined to respond to formal authority, social status or even power.

For ‘Gen Y’, as studies indicate, much important ‘Innovation’ agenda would not be restricted to just products and services, they would explore more innovative ways of doing business, making it more inclusive for all.

They would not focus on ‘Excellence’ only at the place of work, mainly for career progression and increased remuneration. ‘Excellence’ for the ‘Gen Y’, would extend to social and personal lives, as work and life merge for them. 

Unlike ‘Baby Boomers’ and for that matter even ‘Gen X’, the terminologies like. ‘Socialistic’ or ‘Nationalistic’ are not bad words for ‘Gen Y’, only used for making condescending remarks, as the new generation would ensure that the purpose of ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ flow in the same direction, seamlessly.


At least the ‘Baby Boomers’, born approximately between 1946 and 1956, who live to work making it a very important part of their social identity and are still holding the key pharma leadership positions, should decide to gradually fade away, instead of pulling all available levers and tricks to keep hanging-on to the job. This is absolutely essential to create enough room for the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ to take charge for much needed transformation in the pharma industry, 

The eternal tricks of many ‘Baby Boomers’ to keep the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ waiting under their wings and thus making them impatient, could ultimately prove to be self-defeating, if not demeaning, affecting both individual and corporate performance.

I reckon, given an opportunity in a systematic manner, sooner, the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ with their contemporary mindsets, would catalyze a meaningful transformation within the pharma industry ushering in much needed transparency for patients’ interest, aligning it well with the healthcare needs, aspirations and demands of the society and thereby, effectively bridging the trust deficit.

This is not just a wish. At least one younger top global pharma leader, probably belonging to ‘Gen X’, has started demonstrating the refreshing mindset of a change agent to the pharma world at large. As growing numbers of such pathfinders start taking charge, much awaited metamorphosis of the industry would help creating a glorious image that the sector so deserves for its otherwise yeomen contribution in the battle against diseases, the world over.

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.