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Working Life: Georg Toufar, director, Mundipharma

Published on 21/02/12 at 10:47am
Georg Toufar

Georg Toufar is director of European marketing and sales and member of the executive committee at Mundipharma International Limited (MINT). 

In this role he has responsibility for the company’s four main franchises of pain, respiratory, rheumatoid arthritis and oncology, as well as overseeing the market access and congress & communications teams. 

An Austrian by birth, he has a strong international background, having previously held the position of head of marketing and sales for Northern & Central Europe at Novartis, and working at Mars as marketing manager, Chocolate.

How did you find your way into your current role?

I have always had an international perspective on business, having grown up in Austria before studying at Harvard Business School and London Business School, from which I received my MBA in 2003.

During my time at London Business School I was also working as marketing manager for Mars Confectionery, which equipped me with valuable experience in communications around an iconic consumer brand. 

Using this insight, I moved to Novartis where I held three different roles over the period of five years. Beginning in Novartis UK as Go-To-Launch leader for high blood pressure treatment Co-Diovan, I then took a European role as franchise director for cholesterol disorder Dyslipidemia. I spent my final two years at Novartis in the more general and senior role of head of marketing and sales for Northern and Central Europe before making the move to Mundipharma. 

I am currently the director of European marketing and sales and member of the executive committee at Mundipharma, with responsibility for the company’s four main franchises of pain, respiratory, rheumatoid arthritis and oncology, as well as overseeing the market access and congress & communications teams.

I was attracted to Mundipharma because its business model encouraged a groundbreaking new ‘Pharma Sans Frontiers’ approach to the industry. Literally translated as ‘Pharma Without Borders’, this challenger approach drives commercial success and delivers innovative solutions to patients by challenging industry conventions. It is an approach to business that is developed from my own experience in bringing pharma-ceutical products to market across Europe, and is an ideal fit for those that live and breathe entrepreneurship as a way of life.

The greatest innovations are often the ones least expected and much of my experience has been gained from working on innovative, challenger brands; products that are either extremely novel in their concept or offering, or have been considered the underdog within the marketplace. At Mundipharma I have had the opportunity to bring a range of genuinely unique products to market that have reshaped the treatment landscape and ultimately benefitted the patient. 

How is your field changing?

The pharma industry is going through a similar process to the consumer goods market at the end of the last millennium, with customers increasingly consolidating their purchasing power. The customer has become empowered through expanded choice, which allows them to base purchase decisions on a combination of cost and quality, the traditional value equation. 

In response to this development, pricing and marketing are both becoming increasingly pivotal components of the wider business approach and is changing the communication landscape at an exponential pace. 

What are the most enjoyable things about your role?

The whole team at Mundipharma has worked to create an entrepreneurial culture and flat structure across the business.

This decentralised structure allows all our people the freedom to carve out their own roles and contribute to the wider direction of the business.

As a network of independent associated companies across Europe, Mundipharma works to ensure an entrepreneurial spirit thrives across all business functions. It has helped the whole organisation deliver more fluid and constructive ways of working and allowed us to bring innovative new offerings to market that meet the unmet needs of patients.

And the least enjoyable?

The continuous cycle of travel and hotels can be tiring, but there are many more advantages than disadvantages to working in an international network. I appreciate the opportunity to work across Mundipharma’s network of independent associated comp-anies throughout Europe, and the insights that all our geographies contribute to the wider business direction. 

What are the most common misconceptions about your field and the people in it?

Frequently, there is a misconception among the stakeholders and audiences from outside the pharmaceutical industry that the landscape is shaped and driven by the ‘big pharma fish’. This may have been the case previously, but the industry’s value equation is markedly different today compared to ten years ago, the moment that heralded the end of the blockbuster drug era.

Today pharma companies are expected to do more with less, and need to adapt to a rapidly changing external environment since the beginning of the economic downturn. In contrast to a widely held belief, this is a moment of danger for the ‘big pharma fish’ and a moment of opportunity for the challenger brands in the industry. 

The bureaucracy, red tape and sluggishness that blight the larger operations provide a chance for more nimble competitors to take advantage of market potential, and drive commercial advantage. The days of business predominance through scope and scale are over; business success in the pharmaceutical industry is coming to be defined by rapid response and fluid, agile business networks. This is set to drive a permanent and revolutionary change in the competitive landscape in the months and years to come.

Is there someone in your field who has inspired you or from whom you have learnt a lot?

Thomas Ebeling, the former chief executive of Novartis Pharma AG, who joined from Pepsi and in a short space of time changed the culture of the company and left an indelible mark with a legacy of blockbusters.             

Importantly, he optimised the success of the business to deliver a clear and credible corporate identity which has provided a legacy for future success that has outlived his tenure. 

Similarly, is there someone (or something) outside your field who has been a source of inspiration for you?

Professor Rajesh Chandy, (Professor of marketing and chair of the Entrepreneurship Faculty at the London Business School), is one of the most stimulating people you can meet and a great dinner companion.

Professor Chandy has carried out various pieces of award-winning research, examining the crucial role of corporate culture in driving innovation and entrepreneurship.

He has fundamentally questioned the static manner in which previous researchers have measured the key role of innovation, and specifically pinpoints the significant role that corporate culture plays in fostering and supporting the radical innovations necessary to compete in business today.

Professor Chandy has inspired me to fully commit to the Mundipharma corporate culture of ‘Pharma Sans Frontiers’ to ensure that the business remains responsive to growth, and stays at the cutting edge of the industry. It also means that the company can continue to deliver innovative solutions across its core therapy areas.

What is the secret to a happy working life?

Finding the time to eat healthily, exercising wherever and as often as possible, and avoiding late night business dinners (as far as possible).

If you had advice for anyone starting out in your field now, what would it be?

When we search for new recruits at Mundipharma, we look for people who will respond to a nimble environment, people who have more to offer than the two basic criteria of capability and chemistry. We look for people who are eager to own, define and develop their own futures, people who are resilient to change and challenge in exchange for responsibility, recognition and reward.

My advice to individuals entering into the pharmaceuticals job market now would be to think about how the industry will look in 2020, rather than what it used to look like in 1990; and plan your career accordingly!

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