Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

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Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

Sometimes when you think about one particular country or another, and admire it for a great government, a transparent press, a robust healthcare ecosystem, and so on. Or when you believe the doctor when he tells you your child has an attention-deficit disorder, as he or she prescribes medication for it. Or when the little discomfort you went to the doctor with, suddenly transformed into something lethal-sounding. And urgently needing surgery. Let’s not always be so trusting and naive.

Here’s a talk by ex-Director of pharmaceutical major Eli Lilly. The global company ranks 132nd on the Fortune 500 list, with a 2017 topline of USD 22.87 billion. Late ex-director of the company, Dr. John Virapen, worked over 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, climbing from a sales executive to becoming director. And as he climbed the corporate ladder, he realized, and even participated in the dirt his company was involved in. Bribing governments and media houses, the pharma industry is in a dirty loop to make people sick and then treat them.

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Design Thinking – Shelters for the Homeless

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Design Thinking – Shelters for the Homeless [3.5 minute read]

Here’s the next post, towards sharing stories and incidents around design thinking in daily lives, towards a better collective understanding. My earlier post was about taps at home, and why house helps might be wasting water. If you missed that, here’s the link.

Now, in developing India, as the nouveau riche buy vacation home after home after home, we are still home to an astronomical 18 lakh homeless (as of 2011)!

Now this post is not on wasteful spending, or on “prudent, realty investments” either. Actually on second thoughts, prudent realty related investments might be right at the centre of this one.

I had read about this story over 2 years ago, and was so fascinated with the design thinking connect, I’d shared it on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook’s random annual reminders, this one popped back up recently. It showcases a classic design thinking flaw, of thinking for the user, instead of simply observing and asking them.

New Delhi faces some really bitter winters. I’ve spent some time there on work over different winters, and on some of those nights, the cold was mind-numbing. So one can only try to imagine how tough it would be for Delhi’s homeless people. Right? Think again!

Some years ago, the state government in New Delhi, with good intentions for its homeless, built 218 shelters with a capacity exceeding 17,000 people! Impressive, right?

Now you probably imagine that as winters approach, these places must be getting mobbed with homeless folk rushing in to keep warm? Especially considering there are about 125,000 homeless people in Delhi.

To the contrary, even on the coldest of nights, apparently these places were sparsely occupied. As per government estimates back then, at its highest occupancy, there were only 8500 people at the shelters.

The homeless somehow preferred enduring the cold in the open, to these warm shelters. According to the statistics, for every person who huddled up in one of these shelters, about 15 remained in the open. The government even had cops spotting and taking any homeless to the shelters. But the homeless were like mischievous children, waiting for an opportunity to sneak out of this situation they didn’t like.

Does that even make sense? Who, in their right mind, would prefer to freeze outdoors, as opposed to being warm in?

Unless a bigger picture was missed out. About them and the lives they lived.

It turned out, the homeless were afraid of contracting fleas from other homeless folk packed into these shelters. Which in turn would make even their waking hours miserable. The shelters also didn’t have any storage areas for people to keep their few but priceless belongings safely. And the few belongings they probably had on them, were always at risk of being stolen at such places.

In total, a somewhat hostile place for them to stay in, even in the most unrelenting of winters.

In their empathetic and genuine concern for these people, the government somehow assumed many things about their lives, or conveniently skipped them out in light of the greater good they were doing for them. They forgot to actually involve the very people who would be using those facilities. To know what they could be like. To know if they’d missed out on some aspect. They too are, humans after all. Or if even that didn’t matter (as seldom does for our elected rot from across the country), at least to justify their investment in the project.

Some observation. Some asking. And then more of both, could’ve truly taken India a step closer to being a concerned and inclusive society.

You can read about it here: link

Would love your thoughts on it.

And if you’d like my to look at some complex business problem you’ve been grappling with, drop me a mail at shrutin[at]ateamstrategy[dot]in Hopefully, I’d be able to give you a fresh perspective in an effort to help you solve it.

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Our Right to Privacy

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Our Right to Privacy

Image source

Towards the last week of August this year, here in India there was a landmark Supreme Court verdict that a lot of you must have heard/read about. It had something to do with the citizens of India, and our right to privacy. After the initial petitions that were filed long ago, a panel of eminent judges finally ruled that privacy is in fact, a fundamental right.

In an age where information sharing is growing at an astronomical pace, an attempt to safeguard privacy almost sounds ironical. And though our smartphones and apps make it difficult for a lot of us to even fathom if and how much we need privacy, we must be grateful to this bench of judges for thinking on our behalf and ruling in favour of the citizens.

Of course, the ruling wasn’t a no-questions-asked-right, but it does safeguard the core.

Chances are most of us would never get to reading the 547-page report ever. However, I do urge you to read just the verdict given by each of the judges. The choice of words and sentences are almost melodious. The depth of the analysis, and the absolute fairness and clarity of thought, is simply admirable. And it is something we should appreciate; it is your privacy and mine that they were safeguarding after all.

Here’s the link to the article: SC Verdict on Right to Privacy – What Each Judge Had to Say

And in case you’d want to go through the report too, here’s the link: Right To Privacy

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IPL-6 and its fans, Suck

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On the one hand:

Since 1950, the government has spent INR 3.5 lakh crore on building dams and reservoirs over major rivers. Maharashtra is the state with the highest number of dams in the country, with many in 17 of its most drought-prone districts. Most of these were built after 1972. And despite half of these areas receiving more rain than they did in 1972, in this year Maharashtra is facing the worst drought since 1972.  [!]

On the other:

Here’s a message I got recently.

The Indian Premier League, IPL 6 (this season) runs for 8 weeks. Severely drought-hit Maharashtra hosts 16 matches. Each week, 3,00,000 litres of water is required for the grass & pitches. So for matches hosted in Maharashtra, IPL 6 will consume 48 lakh litres of water. [!]

Yet a shameless, traitor, if I may, called rajiv shukla, who is the IPL chairman and who also happens to be Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, GoI rubbished demands to reconsider holding of the games. He said “IPL matches do not consume so much of water that there will be drought. People in Mumbai should consume less water in their bungalows.” [!]

On one hand:

The Chief Minister’s drought relief fund has so far managed to collect around INR 55 crore. [!]

On the other:

Nearly USD 11.9 mn (about INR 65 crore) was spent on 37 players in IPL 6. The IPL match passes retail at anything between INR 500 – 19,500. [!]

On one hand:

We, in cities and towns, the highly educated, highly qualified, the ones capable of rational thought; we had the choice of discouraging IPL in any manner necessary, knowing that it would further significantly affect millions of lives.

On the other hand:

Many, if not most of you continue to enjoy watching the IPL matches.

Even as people are dying in some obscure part of Maharashtra.

Even as there are growing concerns by drought-hit people over the possibility of girls from these areas being allegedly trafficked to Goa for flesh trade. [!]

Maybe that is why people don’t earn my respect simply based on their qualifications or corporate experience, tastes, hobbies or preferences. Not that I’m important.

What I’ve tried to highlight is the magnitude of the damage. I probably see things a little simpler than they are. Which is why, for me, the solution was staring me in the face. That we should boycott (for lack of a better word) IPL-6. Because am sure we still give priority to human life over a few weeks of entertainment. The boycott will pass a strong message to politicians (read IPL chairman), that even if they don’t mind a few thousand casualties, we the citizens still do.

I am still thinking and hoping to find a simpler solution that the common man can implement. But things like asking societies to use less water, showering on alternate days or not shaving for a month or two. Those are not solutions, right? hahaha.

There was a huge media hungama about a water-less holi. Not sure how effective it was, surely those who implemented it felt they were making a difference. Then don’t you feel 48 lakh litres would make a slightly bigger difference?

It’s ironic that I heard the following quote in the movie 2012.

“The moment we stop fighting for each other, that’s the moment we lose our humanity.”

2012