A Stalwart Leader Paving The Way For Women in the Pharma Industry
Born and brought up in an Odia family, Sumita Mohapatro Pani is the youngest of three siblings in a closeknit family and is driven by solid values and principles such as integrity, respect and hard work. Due to her father’s job in Military Engineering Services and regular transfers, she and her family moved to different states and cities every 2-3 years. Moving to different parts of the country granted her deep exposure to help her understand various Indian cultures. Sumita completed 12 years of schooling in 5 different Kendriya Vidyalayas, which enabled her to make new friends everywhere she went, also shaping her to become more adaptable and understanding towards the cultural nuances of diverse people. As a kid, her parents and siblings encouraged her to study well and excel, which as a result, helped her do exceedingly well in her studies and other activities like painting, public speaking, creative writing and others. “I remember my parents sitting in the front rows during the school’s Annual functions and feeling proud to see me bag various prizes. I always harboured the dream of studying in Miranda House, Delhi University, India’s No.1 college for over 50 years and is known for its legacy & rich alumni.” Sumita graduated from Miranda House in Zoology (H) and did her PGDBM in Marketing from Ishan Institute of Management & Technology. She exclaims that her family helped her unlock the strength and stamina that she had in her arsenal to always rise to the occasion in life. She is married to Mr. Shubhranshu Pani, a visionary and progressive partner. She exclaims ‘He is my friend, philosopher and guide and my biggest cheerleader and wind beneath my wings’! She values support from her in- laws that has helped her achieve more at work.
Started her career in the pharmaceutical industry Lupin Limited, a pharmaceutical major, in sales & marketing function, for her, it just happened without any specific plans. After joining the industry at a very young age, she figured out that this was the industry to be in. An industry that develops new treatments, therapies, and medicines that help people live longer, healthier lives. An industry that indeed touches people’s lives meaningfully. Currently the VP and Head of Business Development & Licensing, she shares, “Lupin is my first company, and I have continued to work here for over two and half decades in different roles and capacities. I always resonated with Lupin’s values because they overlapped with my own family values, like respect and care, Integrity, and passion for excellence. The values were truly practised & echoed by our founder late Dr. Desh Bandhu Gupta, Mr. Nilesh Gupta, Managing Director and others at Lupin.”
In the Pharmaceutical Industry, especially the sales and marketing/ business roles have always been male-dominated, she shares. Sumita was amongst the first woman business leaders in the industry. Her then leader, Mr. R.S. Raghav, on announcing her promotion to a leadership role, said, ‘Your success in the leadership role will help unlock other women’s career path. You do not have a reference point; remember you are the reference point for the others’’. Unconscious gender biases, the expectation to act, speak and dress in a certain way, travelling intercity for days, being questioned for being ambitious, figuring out how to break through the glass ceiling at every level of her career ascend, proving herself in every role and shine through were some challenges she faced. But despite the challenges, she learned to embrace them and overcame them along the way, realizing that challenges made her discover about herself that she never knew earlier and every time she addressed a challenge, she learnt to challenge her own limits.
Sumita throws light on how she has made humble contributions towards the organisation’s growth by being instrumental in scripting its foray into different therapy areas like cardiology, diabetes, neuropsychiatry etc., creating sustainable business units, building market-leading therapy segments, spreading health awareness among the patients, creating mega brands & bringing in differentiated products. She says that she is fortunate to have a leader like Mr.Rajeev Sibal (President, Lupin India) who believes in her capabilities and inspires her to push her’ limits and brings out the best in her. She has been featured among Asia’s 100 Women Power Leaders (2023) listing by White Page International, was awarded the Woman Personality of the Year Pharma Industry (2022) by Top Notch Foundation, was the Best Woman Leader in Pharma (2022) by NMChamber of business and Industries, Outstanding Woman leader Award (2021) at the 8TH World woman Leadership Congress and The Best Woman Leader in Pharma (2021) award by ET Health at India Pharma World Awards. ‘However, there is no reward and award that matches my son Samarth Pani’s proud eyes on my achievements’ she says with a smile on her face!
“Hard-work, resilience, persistence, preparation, walking the extra mile and commitment to do every work in hand to the best of my ability while parallelly working on improving my abilities with a smile, poise and humility intact have helped me achieve whatever little I have accomplished in life.” Not obsessing over perfecting every task in hand instead prioritize and work towards excellence in the chosen tasks is something that Sumita has slowly learned. Constantly doubting our doubts and mastering our inner critic is what she suggests. Lastly, she urges people to believe in themselves and be unique because most people tend to live in a restricted circle of their potential due to self-doubt. She emphasizes that one should never underestimate the power of dressing for success. If one wants to be seen as successful and competent, dress the part. ‘That means dressing impeccably every time you walk out that door’!
Have a larger purpose than just building a career, a purpose that inspires commitment and resolve and helps find deeper meaning in work. This will instill the passion that can help create magic! She says with a smile ‘Life is a gift, Life is beautiful. Romanticize life, enjoy the moment and make the most of it!’