Probir Das | Terumo Corporation
As medtech visionary and leadership coach Mr Probir Das rudders the century old Terumo Corporation’s journey of reimagining market leadership in turbulent times with the touch of technology, he scripts an abiding autograph of excellence - one that is inspiring a new generation of healthcare leaders.
To say that Mr Probir Das is the Chairman & Managing Director of Terumo Corporation (APAC & India) is to merely skim off the tip of a rather mammoth ice-berg. For there is much more than meets the eye. As the Board Member of APAC Med, Founding Board Member of MTal and a former member of the leadership at FICCI & NATHEALTH, Mr Das carries 20 yrs of mission critical Medtech leadership across Asia, 3 decades of commercial experience and 10 years of teaching experience with BD University and Terumo India Learning Council (Leadership Development, Coaching, Performance Management and Selecting the Best).
By his own admission, Mr. Probir Das likes to “leave a place better than the state in which I had inherited it.” As it turns out, the domain he straddles – medical technology – affords him ample scope to do that. During a pandemic - when the best chance of addressing a confused planet’s search for answers is a blend of cutting edge lateral thinking (read innovation) and good old fashioned values like commitment, courage and conviction – Probir is bringing these qualities to engineer tangible impact, leaving every endeavour he guides and every team he mentors richer, smarter and wiser than before.
It’s nothing new for him, of course. Over three eventful decades, these stellar traits have made him a sought after expert and lighthouse by an entire industry fraternity – be it transnational companies in search of new thinking, bootstrapped startups looking to optimize growth or a ‘gen-next’ foraging for direction. Be it elevating organizations to the next level of growth, training entrepreneurs to punch above their weight or inspiring young professionals to be the best version of themselves, Mr. Probir Das hasn’t disappointed anyone.
A graduate in Human Physiology, Mr Das started his professional journey with a dream of impacting human minds – and by extension their lives – in a measurable and significant way. His career started three decades ago as a Sales Representative with a reputed medical technology company. There couldn’t have been a better university to pick up the fundamentals of the game, so to speak. “In my work place, I had colleagues, almost all of whom were more qualified and knowledgeable than me. This early career experience of being amongst better qualified collegues helped me pick up the traits of working harder and remaining constantly in an observation / learning mode. Writing this right now, I realise that it is these fundamental traits that have brought me to where I am today.”
It was during this defining phase of his journey that he also stumbled upon what would turn out to be his lifelong calling : Developing new therapies such as infection control, surgical stapling, laparoscopy. He took to the opportunity like a duck to water. Probir’s relish for the domain became increasingly evident as he went from milestone to milestone, sculpting a growth curve that was compelling in every sense. Parallely, his natural qualities as a ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ – to use a maxim – were beginning to make their impact felt. This knack for mentoring would arguably leave a deeper imprint on the latter (recent) part of Mr Das’ career.
A true leader, they say, doesn’t create followers but more leaders. That’s exactly what Probir has been doing. As he says, “In the first ten to twelve years of my career, I was rather focused on material appreciation, seeking titular growth for myself. It was around 2002 / 2003 that I realised that I derive more satisfaction in seeing others develop and become more successful. From that point on, I was able to attract more teaching, mentoring and coaching experiences – which I found to be more fulfilling than pure play commercial success. This realisation and experience has made my subsequent years the most fulfilling possible.”
“It is most important for me to uphold the Terumo mission of ‘Contributing to Society through Healthcare’ in this uncertain pandemic times, while ensuring safety and stability of our Associates”, says Probir Das, capturing the scope and depth of his current mandate.
Terumo Corporation – for those who may not be initiated - is a century old Japanese global medical technology company that operates in the domains of cardiac and vascular treatments, blood and cell technologies, pharmaceutical injection systems, and general hospital supplies. Today, spurred with the tailwinds of Probir’s dynamic and strategic stewardship, the organization is lending a vital hand of support to health ecosystems around Asia Pacific region. Mr Das and his teams are supporting hospitals and healthcare providers raise their competency benchmarks to the next level with innovative and impactful technology.
Their technologies are performing miracles during the pandemic – be it via driving extra corporeal membrane oxygenation when patients suffer multi-organ failure, blood component separation technology that enables convalescent plasma therapy of COVID patients, UV light germ zapping robots that can rapidly disinfect large contaminated areas, or syringes and infusion pumps that deliver life saving medicine with the highest precision. Apart from COVID related devices, Terumo’s technology is proving to be a game changer, as is evident in Probir’s words, “We also continue to provide innovative interventional devices which allow angiography and angioplasty through the wrist, which is a well recognised Terumo innovation, so that physicians are able to release patients faster and preventing prolonged hospital stays.” That apart, their multiple drug delivery devices – such as syringes and needles – are acting as the life blood of health systems around the world.
That said, technology alone – no matter how pioneering or advanced – cannot change reality. “For that, we need heroes who are willing to stake everything to change the world. Heroes who believe in their power of their mission and are ready to back themselves all the way. And at Terumo, in an empowering and enabling culture, they rise and shine… everyday” says Probir.
What propels Probir’s quests? What keeps him going? “In spite of all the advancements that medical technology has made in the last century, high quality healthcare is only accessible to 1/3 of the world’s population. My passion is to see this significantly improved within my lifetime”, confides Probir.
When asked about his achievements - especially the parts that make him proud & happy – this intrepid Change Maker shares, “I have been fortunate to have been able to contribute to several therapy and modality launches through the past three decades – across areas like cold sterilization, surgical stapling, laparoscopy, drug eluting stents, evacuated blood collection, automated blood & TB culture, liquid cytology for women’s health, transradial intervention and others. But what makes me most proud and happy is to see several of my past team members doing so well in large leadership roles, and themselves developing an ecosystem of future leaders. Nothing can be more fulfilling.”
Not even awards and accolades, we enquire? “Like I said, my biggest recognition has been the endorsement of my leaders and my teams, and so many of my past collegues holding steller roles in the medical technology industry. Perhaps, no award can be bigger than that."
The company of good Samaritans who have stood by him through thick and thin is also an evergreen source of fond memories. “When one has been in the industry for three decades, failures and road blocks become part and parcel of the day. What does stand out, though, is the shoulders of support that can buffer out the thorns that inevitably feature in every saga of roses, including mine. I have been very lucky with a lot of helping hands along the way all through my career – be it capable team members, supportive bosses or helpful peers. Their presence allowed me to remain energised and drive past the road blocks when they show up."
What about the learnings and takeaways that his kaleidoscopic odyssey in healthcare – across vital functions like growth, innovation and talent grooming - are sure to have left behind? What advice would you leave to the next generation of aspirants in your domain?
Probir hits flashback mode and digs up a special episode from the past, “Somewhat early in my career, I joined a start-up venture that was designed to manufacture the highest quality medical devices in some categories with German technology. The promoters of this venture left no stone unturned to make every single high technology investment possible in a manufacturing and quality set up that was truly unparalleled even globally. Yet, this was a disastrous venture that failed completely, and I was not able to make any significant impact. Through this, I learnt the hard way that no matter how high the quality or innovation, it won’t come to anything without effective systems and functions in place. Finding the right mix of marketing, communication engines, commercial channels and the right talent - and stitching them all up together – is the secret recipe for success.”
Continues Mr. Das, now in a broader context, with a more expansive perspective: “No matter how smart others tell you are, the most important thing is to be the one who strives the hardest in the room. I read this somewhere - Wake up, dress up, show up and never give up! It stuck with me. Another very important learning is that medical technology is a TRUST business. Honesty and integrity matters far more than technology and innovation.”
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room”. So how would ‘Brand Probir’ like to be described? What would he want his legacy to be? Das volunteers with the candor of a true achiever, “In the current universe of great medical technology leaders, my contributions are rather small to leave any legacy. That said, if I am to be remembered at all, I would like it to be as someone who worked harder than most, and tried to make his work life his life’s work”.
“Healthcare is perhaps the most complex industry of the world. In being so, no one player, or one kind of players will ever be able to straddle its entire spectrum. Thus, collaboration, coalition and co-creation is key, and therefore platforms – such as Voice of Healthcare - which unite people with similar objectives and passion are the most effective tools to create value in healthcare. The role of such platforms is no less than even technology and innovation”, says Probir with characteristic sunshine.
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