He let go of Billions of $ in Profits to save Millions from Death

Imagine you have a product that can make you at least $10,000 to $15,000 per year per person.

Imagine that you have a global market that absolutely needs a minimum of 10 million units every year.

Your product stands between life and death of the user.

Your cost of manufacturing that product is practically zilch.

Your competitors are selling that product at nothing less than $15,000 USD.

How much would you price it at?

For Dr. Yusuf Hamied, Scientist and Chairman of Cipla, the answer was very clear.

I am enrolled in a program offered by edx from MITx titled “U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self” and one of the films I had to watch, as part of the program, was “Fire In The Blood”. This is one gut wrenching movie that I won’t be able to forget in a long time. It talks about a horrendous tragedy that could have been prevented, but for the insatiable greed of large businesses, their leaders and governments. It could have been a very dark movie, but it isn’t, for it shows that a small, handful of committed people, and most importantly, socially conscious business leaders, can indeed make a difference.

The film tells the story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low cost AIDS drugs to third world countries, especially, countries in Africa leading to the death of over 10 million people. As the documentary’s website puts it, it is an intricate tale of “medicine, monopoly and malice” and also highlights the improbable group of people who decide to fight back. This is a film that needs to be seen by everyone who works for large businesses to understand how the desire for insatiable profits harms the world.

While the 3rd world was being ravaged by HIV/AIDS due to the non availability of affordable medicines to treat the disease, the Pharma companies were not willing to drop the prices, and the US Govt working hand in hand with the pharma companies threatened to impose harsh sanctions on countries that import generics. The absurd patent laws were another barrier. This was a huge man made disaster that killed over 10 million people.

It was in this scenario, that Cipla was approached and they stepped in with a generic drug that contained a cocktail of 3 antiretroviral drug at a price point of less than a dollar a day. Dr. Hamied, chairman of Cipla, decided not to profit from the drug.Putting the issues of access and cost in the right context, he is quoted, as saying, “We are being humanitarian. But we are not doing charity. We are not making money, but we are not losing money either.”

Do yourself a favor, watch the film. This film isn’t about Dr. Hamied, but many conscious individuals, doctors and NGO activists who fought their way through to bring the medicines to Africa. I have picked Dr. Hamied out here in the context of my series on Conscious leaders. His responsiveness to the challenge was to expand his circle of concern to every human being suffering from this disease. He took a conscious decision not to profit from someone else’s misery.

There are lessons out there, on how a business leader by being socially conscious, can impact humanity, so much so, that apparently in Africa Cipla is a temple and Dr. Hamied is a God! Dr. Yusuf lays out one primary lesson that will serve us all well, that the purpose of business is just not to profit, but to respond to business situations, with awareness and with a sense of belongingness with the community at large irrespective of their nationality, color, religion or any other biases.

While businesses do have to make money in order to succeed, monetary benefits shouldn’t be the only driver. Serving others always takes higher precedence over everything else.

Thanks a lot Padma Bhushan Dr. Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, you do us all proud.

PS: The Art of Living Foundation is holding a conference on Corporate Culture and Spirituality on 31st Jan and 1st Feb in Bangalore. If you are interested in learning how ethics, consciousness, spirituality etc. can make a difference in business, then come attend the conference and listen to some brilliant conversation athttp://www.ccsconference.in/

I also teach the Art of Living Foundations, corporate leadership programs, should there be an interest, feel free to drop me a note at RajWaghray (at) gmail (dot) com

(This is the second article in a series I am writing featuring Conscious Businesses and Awakened Leaders, under the tag: “Under The Bodhi Tree”)