Business Today

Developing Local Talent

An HR chatbot is among the several initiatives Abbott India has taken to give its hires a fast path to career growth
twitter-logoPB Jayakumar | Print Edition: April 4, 2021
Developing Local Talent
Photograph by Mandar Deodhar

Abbott India, which sells popular brands such as nutrition product PediaSure and antacid Digene, employs about 12,500 people in its four companies in India. This is the highest outside the US and shows the kind of talent the company has been able to on-board in the country. "I am privileged to be leading a high performing team, committed to strengthening the legacy of Abbott and enhancing our promise to help millions of people live a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life," says Ambati Venu, Vice President, Pharmaceuticals, Abbott India.

Abbott, which earns over $1.5 billion revenue in India and views the country as one of its fastest growing long-term markets, has been following an India-specific talent strategy since 2014. One of its recent additions has been a smart chatbot, SMART HR, on which employees can give feedback and frank views to the human resources team and organisation leaders. "The main theme of our employee connect programmes is 'Your Voice Counts'. We have also launched a 'career connect' initiative for employees to grow up the ladder," says Deepshikha Mukerji, Regional Human Resources Director at Abbott India.

Professional growth of employees is top priority for the company's management. Abbott's growth in India is rooted in a simple, clear and powerful value proposition, Grow with the Leader'. That is why over 80 per cent of Abbott's front-line and senior sales management vacancies are filled through internal assessment and development route. The Employer Value Proposition programme helps it engage with senior business leaders to influence high potential talent to pursue a career in healthcare.

No wonder Abbott India has a rare distinction of being a winner in the 'Indias Coolest Workplaces' survey for the 7th year in a row. One of the top healthcare companies in India in terms of domestic market share and sales revenues, Abbott has been able to maintain the 'coolest workplace' position despite the coronavirus disruption. Its overall ranking has improved from 12th last year to 10th this year.

A Helping Hand

A counselling service, Employee Assistance Programme, Abbott Shop, an online discount pharmacy service for employees and their families and developing women leaders of Abbott are some of the programmes introduced in the last few years to support employees. Over 10 per cent of the 12,500 employees are women. More than 10,000 are in sales or work as medical representatives.

Abbott, operating in India for over a century, has a young team. The average age of employees is about 40. For the sales team, it is only 30. "Despite the Covid-19 crisis, we have recruited over 500 people in the last few months," says Deepshikha Mukerji.

Abbott has tie-ups for management training programmes with educational institutions. Most post-graduate and management entry-level talent is hired from the six leading colleges. Those who work at Abbott's global R&D centre in India are hired from leading pharmacy colleges like Bombay College of Pharmacy.

The company also swears by diversity. "We value diversity in our team, because as part of our DNA, we believe that different perspectives combined with shared goals inspire new ideas and better ways of addressing changing health needs," says Ambati Venu.

Abbot India's attrition rate is 10-15 per cent compared with the industry's 20-25 per cent. "During the last one year, attrition was only in single digits," says the HR head. Abbott has three plants in India, at Baddi, Goa and Jagadiya, besides a global R&D Centre in Mumbai.

Managing Pandemic

Last year was challenging for the company due to disruption caused by the pandemic. However, it was quick in its response and formed a crisis response team and a business advisory council to ensure smooth functioning. It also enforced high levels of health and hygiene protocols across plants and offices. While manufacturing plants continued to work, sales and administration teams started working from home. "By May, sales teams also started working from offices," says Deepshikha Mukerji.

Abbott India must be hoping for even better days as Covid vaccine rollout gets under way.


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