Nitin Kapoor - doing the right thing with AstraZeneca Vietnam

June 22, 2021 | 11:00
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“So, if our collective goal is to build a fairer, healthier society in a post-pandemic era, cross-sectoral, cross-border cooperation is more important than ever. As no-one is safe until everyone is safe, we all share the responsibility to care for one another.”
Nitin Kapoor - doing the right thing with AstraZeneca Vietnam
Nitin Kapoor, chairman and general director of AstraZeneca Vietnam

This statement made by Nitin Kapoor, chairman and general director of AstraZeneca Vietnam, in an op-ed on World Health Day this year succinctly sums up the purpose and philosophy he is trying to inspire others through his work.

Kapoor, a British business leader with 25 years of extensive experience across the finance, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries in several continents, is a shining example for how visionary, decisive and empathetic leadership can transform an organisation – especially in times like these.

Kapoor has been prominent at many special healthcare-related events, particularly in Hanoi. His impressive understanding of the Vietnamese health system suggested he had been a resident in Vietnam for a long time, but he moved to Ho Chi Minh City for the job only three years ago. He described Vietnam as “an amazing country with tremendous potential for growth,” and decided immediately that he would spend the next few years leading AstraZeneca Vietnam (AZVN) into its limelight.

Nitin Kapoor - doing the right thing with AstraZeneca Vietnam
AstraZeneca has become a key part of Vietnam’s pharmaceutical sphere in recent years

Recognition for AstraZeneca and Nitin Kapoor

- Minister of Health’s Award of Excellence for outstanding contributions to advancing cancer treatment in Vietnam, 2019

- Minister of Health’s Award of Excellence for outstanding contributions to Vietnam’s fight against COVID-19, 2020

- Vietnam’s Top 100 Places to Work Award, 2018-2020

- Ho Chi Minh City People Committee’s Investment Recognition as one of the most prominent enterprises in Ho Chi Minh City, 2021

- Medal and certificate from the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union for significant contributions for young people, 2021

- BritCham’s “Great Contribution to Healthcare” and “25+ Years Milestone” awards, 2021

Visionary and decisive

Back in 2018, AstraZeneca was already amongst the largest pharmaceutical companies worldwide, and soon to be celebrating 25 years in Vietnam. The pharma giant was known for its leading research and development (R&D) capabilities, as well as its innovative, high-quality prescription medicines to treat non-communicable diseases.

Soon upon his arrival at AZVN, Kapoor rebuilt the company’s strategy on four pillars: expansion, patient-centric innovation, impactful partnerships, and sustainability and people development. His first major move was to launch a massive project to transform the company into a local entity – a foreign-invested enterprise (FIE), in response to a 2017 decree that significantly limited the operations of multinational companies like AstraZeneca.

In 2020, AstraZeneca Vietnam Co., Ltd. became one of the first pharma FIEs in Vietnam, with a landmark distribution partnership that would ensure the supply of medicines for local patients.

Another milestone that exemplified Kapoor’s expansion strategy and AZVN’s desire to contribute holistically to the Vietnamese health sector was its $220 million investment into Vietnam from 2020-2024, which was announced in mid-2019 during then-Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to an AstraZeneca manufacturing plant in Sweden. Kapoor met with the current President and shared the firm’s ambition to invest in R&D, healthcare capacity, and talent development in Vietnam as one of their fastest-growing markets.

Kapoor’s strategy seems to have been highly effective. Within fewer than three years, AZVN has been consistently outperforming the market with a double-digit growth rate, even throughout the pandemic, and its market ranking moved up three positions. Every year, the company helps improve the lives of millions of patients who are struggling with chronic diseases. And 96 per cent of the company’s 470 local employees believe that AZVN is a great place to work.

“We simply can’t deliver on our purpose without our people. We want to provide a place of work where our employees wake up excited about their day in the office or in the field,” Kapoor said.

Doing the right thing

Fast-forward to 2021 and AstraZeneca is more of a household name than ever. Its COVID-19 vaccine supplied to more than 165 countries was the first to be authorised for and used in Vietnam’s vaccination programme.

Kapoor said often that AZVN was proud to contribute to the country’s fight against COVID-19 and economic recovery in such a meaningful way with their vaccine supply, at no profit during the pandemic. But even before the vaccine deal was secured, he and his team had stepped up and built strong public-private partnerships to comprehensively support the health sector. As the leader of a top healthcare organisation, Kapoor recognised the company’s responsibility to not only ensure the safety of its own employees, but to extend care for the larger society, especially more vulnerable groups. This echoes AstraZeneca’s “We do the right thing” mantra.

Besides various medical supply donations, AZVN’s initiatives also included supporting hospitals on their telehealth programmes, to ensure patients’ access to critical treatments during travel restrictions, and partnering with the Health Strategy and Policy Institute under the Ministry of Health (MoH) to study the Vietnamese health system and propose solutions to strengthen its sustainability and resilience.

Explaining why, Kapoor said, “Each gesture or programme that demonstrate and promote kindness will go a long way in not only ensuring vital care for the communities they serve, but inspiring others to do their part in times of hardships.”

AZVN has truly been leading by example. Its efforts to advance health equity have been recognised with many awards, including the minister of health’s award for excellent contributions to the country’s fight against COVID-19, BritCham’s Healthcare award, and the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union’s medal for contributions to young people.

For a sustainable Vietnam

Sustainability has been a long-term key priority at AstraZeneca. The company is committed to operating in a way that recognises the interconnection between business growth, the needs of society, and the limitations of the planet.

Under Kapoor’s leadership, AZVN’s sustainability programmes have flourished. He emphasises the importance of adapting sustainability programmes to suit local needs and challenges. The Green Energy for Health programme is a good example where AZVN team built it from scratch with the support of the UK government in Vietnam, working with a local vendor to set up and donate solar power systems to grassroots-level health facilities in Vietnam’s central provinces most severely affected by floods and landslides. Thanks to this programme, these centres not only save money and promote green energy, but also increase the electrical stability that is critical for emergency services and surgeries.

AstraZeneca’s other signature community investment programmes such as Healthy Lung and Young Health Programme are making an impact on hundreds of thousands of patients and young people each year, solidifying AZVN’s position as a top trusted partner for the Vietnamese government, the MoH, and cross-sectoral organisations to enhance the health and wellness of local communities.

Kapoor’s leadership has played an instrumental role in the success of AZVN, with a style that was summed up by one of his staff. “Nitin is a unique leader who is visionary, bold, and compassionate. He inspires and encourages us to perform our best, while always looking out for us and making sure we have what we need to succeed.”

By Bich Thuy

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