This is the first of the episode series on “informational interviews”. Here IndiaBioscience chats with Rajesh Nair about his experiences in the field of business management in the life sciences. The conversation is styled in the format of an information interview, thus providing a science graduate useful insights both about the field itself and on how to approach an expert, seeking knowledge about the field that one wishes to explore! Be sure to subscribe to our season on our podcast page here!
TRANSCRIPT WITH TIMESTAMP
Lakshmi Ganesan 0:01
You're listening to IndiaBiospeaks, your one stop resource for science news and careers.
Welcome everyone to our next instalment of crafting your career in science. In the last episode, we saw the means to research various career paths. In this set of episodes, we will be talking to various science professionals about their work and journey. These interviews will be in the style of informational interviews, which we saw are great tools to connect directly with experts to find out all you wanted to know about a career path as well as to expand your network. So without delay, let me introduce you to our guest speaker for today - Rajesh Nair, the principal CEO of Basil Biosolutions, which is a leading distributor associated with market leaders to cater to all research needs. Rajesh has over 19 years of experience in sales in the field of life sciences across geographies. He was the Business Manager, South Asia at Life Technologies for their genetic analysis products. Prior to this, he had a 12 year stint in sales and marketing at Applied Biosystems. He also has experience working with microscopy products at Leica Histopathology.
Thank you very much Rajesh for joining us today on this informational interview chat.
Rajesh Nair 1:30
Thank you for inviting me for this small discussion.
Lakshmi Ganesan 1:34
Rajesh, let me begin by asking you about your career path. What is it that sparked your interest in business management that caters to research needs? What are the events in your life that led you to embark on this career trajectory.
Rajesh Nair 1:50
I did my post graduation in zoology which was way back in the early 90s. And if you asked me, or anyone, they would only talk about careers in academics in those days. When somebody does postgraduate studies in science, the path they normally take is they do a research program, they do a PhD, postdoc and so on. But I always felt that this was not the right path for me. I always felt like I should do something very enterprising, and seek a job that can entertain me in the long run. And that's the point at which I started exploring different options. And also, it was very early to think about a career as a businessman in those days. So I considered sales would be an apt career for me to achieve something towards the goal of becoming a businessman. Being a student of biology, I also did not want to move away from what I had studied. This is when I got to interview with a company named Lab India for histopathology and microscopy products. I thought that could be the right choice and the right time to start my career. This was way back in 1995. The journey was quite a long one, moved into different directions, different territories, different products and technologies. Now I have settled as an entrepreneur at Basil Biosolutions, a small young company. We are five years old, with an aim to bringing more technologies in this field.
Lakshmi Ganesan 3:32
That's great. So you mentioned Basil Biosolutions, which is a young enterprise. So in Basil Biosolutions as its CEO, what are your responsibilities? What kind of decisions do you make? What are the issues that you typically deal with in a day?
Rajesh Nair 3:49
The primary responsibility is to make sure that there is operational excellence in the company. I also need to make sure that the performance or the top line growth is maintained. We bring a lot of new core technologies to the market, explore the needs of the market, understand the needs of the customers, and research groups. And ultimately, my goal is to make sure that Basil as a company should be one among the known, young and upcoming companies in the market.
Lakshmi Ganesan 4:21
Rajesh, I'm really curious what a typical day or a week is like for you?
Rajesh Nair 4:31
Yes that's an interesting question. Describing a week is very complex, as it is somewhat unpredictable. You may get into unscheduled travel and business meetings. But normally, I try to plan in advance. When I am in Bangalore, where I live, I normally wake up at around six o'clock, do some workout, followed by yoga and meditation. I also try to connect with my friends on social media for some time. I then plan the day. Most of my team members send their daily plan early in the morning. So I try to fix that, and note these down in my diary. At 9:30am, I am at work, and retire home in the evening around 8 PM. I then spend some time with the family. I usually go to bed by around 11 PM. I have always believed that you need to really take care of yourself throughout the day so that you will be able to attend to each and every need of your team members, as well as your family members. So it's very important to plan the day and keep yourself energetic.
Lakshmi Ganesan 5:42
That's great Rajesh. I can see that your schedule for a day is long, as well as busy. And it's a great way to start the day as you said with a great morning routine that involves a workout or meditation that helps you attend to yourself first, before you put yourself out there in the world.
I'm sure your work involves a lot of traveling, is this something you enjoy? And how does it integrate into your lifestyle or impact it?
Rajesh Nair 6:09
A fundamental thing is that I'm not a salesperson, or a businessman by accident. Rather, I am here by intent. So for that reason alone, I enjoy each and every aspect of this job. So if you asked me if there is anything I do not really like about this job, I don't think I have anything to say. I definitely like to meet a lot of people. I like meeting different complex characters. Traveling is something I really like. And I like to keep it light. I always have a small bag in my home ready to be packed, so I can travel on a very quick note.
Lakshmi Ganesan 6:54
Rajesh it is great to see the enthusiasm that you have for every aspect of your work. Since you say that meeting people is an essential component of your work, would you then call yourself an extrovert?
Rajesh Nair 7:05
I'm really comfortable meeting a lot of people and interacting with them. Dealing with many people, makes me feel comfortable with myself as well. Interacting with the people makes me feel more energetic. And as a businessman, the more you go around to meet customers, the more business opportunities will come in. Everyday is a learning curve for me. But that does not make me really an extrovert. I probably may be a little bit of an extrovert, and a little bit of an introvert, maybe somewhere in-between.
Lakshmi Ganesan 7:47
So Rajesh, you know with the growing needs in the market, I'm sure there must be a lot of competition. So, how do you deal with competition from other players in the field?
Rajesh Nair 8:00
I think the scenario in the market is quite open, it is quite diverse. There are two sides to this coin. While on the one hand, there are opportunities to grow, on the other hand there are also many new players coming into the field. And as you know, competition is there in every field, be it research or finance or academics or whatsoever, you name it. We do counter competition, by bringing new technologies. We also need to support the existing technologies that we provide to the customers and make sure that we are supporting them very well so that the customers are satisfied.
But as a whole from the industry’s perspective, one of the challenges that we face is getting the right talent for the right job. And that's a place where IndiaBioscience comes into play. Your help is required to guide a lot of upcoming graduates and postgraduates by bringing the awareness right from a very early stage of their careers about the various opportunities available. This awareness will help determine what career path best suits an individual. Organisations like IndiaBioscience is doing a great job now. You should ramp-up whatever you do today to make sure that you give everyone the opportunity to understand the various options available in the field besides academics.
Lakshmi Ganesan 9:32
Now about the field in general, what opportunities exist for graduates that might want to consider this career trajectory? What are the issues and trends in business management and in the sciences, especially in the life science ecosystem in India?
Rajesh Nair 9:47
If you looked at this life sciences market, maybe 20-25 years back, it may be limited to plant science, animal science, ecology, environment, etc. Around 2000, it started diversifying into several branches. There are sub branches within the basic sciences. Even within cell biology and molecular biology, there are specialisations. Example, nanotechnology, stem cell technology etc. The technologies also have to therefore become more and more specialised to cater to the growing research needs. So, the opportunities for people who are coming up is much more than older days. But at the same point of time, I emphasise again that there is a huge responsibility here for the role of mentors. Mentors should introduce graduates to many different pathways available within the science ecosystem. I have seen many people who have worked in the lab become successful product managers, product specialists, app scientists, business managers etc. Unless we branch-out or take the plunge, we will never know what is good for us. So some form of mentoring from the college level is very important to understand each and every person's skill sets and aptitude.
Lakshmi Ganesan 11:28
I couldn't agree more. Now, you mentioned the different opportunities that exists for a graduate. So let us come to how does one prepare for it? What kind of accomplishments tend to get valued in this in this line of work? What pre existing experience can one pitch and say, I have these experiences that would matter towards getting a job or would be valued in the job market?
Rajesh Nair 11:52
I always emphasise on the capacity building and that should start at a very early stage of one's career. At a very young age, one should identify one's aptitude and work towards building a skill set around that. For example, there are people who are very good at communication, some others have very sound technical knowledge. There are people who can execute certain experiments with flair. Once this is known, navigating your career will be much more easier. In preparing towards one's goal, the role of the education system, especially peers, friends and family is also very important.
Especially if you look in to the field of sales or business, one should understand how a technology really works, and what are the benefits of any technology to the customer. One should be able to communicate this to the customer. For instance, if somebody is going to sell a pipette, which is the most essential tool in a lab, they should be able to communicate to the customer how the product, i.e., the new pipette which he is bringing into the lab, differs from what they're using already.
I think in my opinion, sales and business management is one of the most beautiful jobs anybody can take. Because everyday is a new day. You will not do the same thing the next day. You travel to different territories and meet and interact with the different kinds of people. When your skill set is known to customers, it will be automatically known in the market and then opportunities will automatically come to one's doorstep. Then your growth to the next level will be very easy.
I have also seen there are many parallel tracks here as well. Example, science students can do an MBA, take up management jobs, do marketing and finance. I can give a classical example from an organisation where I had worked. One of the top-level executives there was actually a PhD in cell biology. He then went and studied business at Stanford University. And from there, he joined McKinsey and then he went on to do corporate management. So he was a successful scientist, who went the management way. So opportunities are always there, the only thing one needs to understand is: what are we good at, and hone those skills and then move ahead and look for opportunities.
Lakshmi Ganesan 14:13
That's very well put Rajesh. It's very inspiring to see the enthusiasm that you have for your line of work. And also for explaining to us really nicely what are the different opportunities, challenges, and the importance of preparing from very early on. Besides this, from your experiences and your journey, are there any words of career wisdom that you would like to leave our listeners with today?
Rajesh Nair 14:37
One important thing, which I want to tell everyone is that "never get into any job with a preset mind". When you go with a preset mind, your mind always works in the same way. But at some point you should open out like a parachute. So when you open out, you will see a wide scope of opportunities. For example, you can ask somebody to look through a peephole, or you can ask someone to open a window and see. If you look through the peephole you will see two or three cows, but when you open the window, you can see a herd of cows grazing over there. And if you look historically, there are many Nobel Prize winners in biology, that may not be a pure biologist. They all have a background of chemistry. Although they studied chemistry, they applied those principles in biology and discovered the structures of RNA, DNA, proteins, etc. So never ever dive into anything with preconceived notions. Take it as it comes and plan out your career in a way that works best for you.
Lakshmi Ganesan 15:31
Thank you Rajesh for the interesting and inspiring message. It was a pleasure talking to you and hearing valuable experiences from your career journey. Thank you all for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe for more such exciting episodes only at crafting your career in science.
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