By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Royal Philips has gone through several phases over its 125 years of existence. It was first engaged in lighting, and was the first to commercialize x-rays around the world. It has conquered the imaging and precision diagnostics and medical equipment market. Philips also popularized the radio, television sets, and invented the CDs.
“There are lots of innovation and Philips was behind it,” says Philips Philippines Country Manager ASHWIN CHARI.
For the past five years, Philips has reorganized to become a complete health and wellness company. Everything they produce, including consumer products and kitchen appliances, touch on health and wellness. More than that, Philips has adopted sustainable business by reducing waste and carbon footprint in all its processes.
Headquartered in Netherlands, Royal Philips is a leading health technology company focused on improving people’s health and enabling better outcomes across the health continuum from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care.
Philips leverages advanced technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions. The company is a leader in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as in consumer health and home care.
In 2018, Philips generated sales of EUR 18.1 billion and employs approximately 80,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. Philips’ global just reported its third quarter 2019 financial report of EUR 4.7 B and sales growth of 6 percent over comparative period.
As the new country leader for the Philippines, Ashwin seeks to create awareness of its new integrated healthcare solutions. He is not just focusing on hardware but also on the software or the underlying informatics that comes with it.
“What brings the hardware to life is the software which can be seen in different ways through various data analysis,” says Ashwin stressing that without the software one cannot get the maximum benefit from the equipment.
Healthcare has become a bigger problem in both developed and emerging markets. As such, governments and the private sectors are investing in this sector by modernizing hospitals and adopting new medical equipment.
An electronics engineer with specialization in the telecommunication sector, Ashwin said the telco sector was abuzz with the term connectivity two decades ago with the medical sector as a game changer.
“That’s why the integration part of the medical solutions is close to my heart. At that time, we were talking about healthcare and connectivity, and it is happening now,” says Ashwin noting that connectivity is already in the hands of people.
All these are geared towards connected healthcare. For instance, Philips as the word’s leading provider of ICU solutions ensures that vital signs are monitored not just for ICU patients but even for out patients with the use of a badge allowing patients to be completely mobile.
Inside the hospital, a Philips device can be plugged into a stretcher so the patient is completely monitored wherever she is from the operating room to recovery and to the ward. “We are increasingly wiring the customers and the readings are transferred wirelessly to the central data unit monitor. This way, doctors and nurses can always track the patient,” he adds.
“There is no need for doctors to be within the hospital to get the results because the data can be transmitted to them wherever they may be. We call this connected care,” he adds.
In addition, Philips also leads in electronic charting solutions to electronically collect medical records. This ensures doctors to focus on their work and hospitals benefitting from reduced cost due to higher efficiencies and improved experience for patients.
“This is the philosophy we want to bring to the Philippines. We are well placed to make this transformation happens for the benefit of customers, who are really interested in moving forward,” he adds.
Although there is a gaping real need for efficient public health system in the Philippines. Ashwin although noted of the real amount of efforts to transform into a connected care. Most public and private hospitals have yet to fully adopt a connected care system.
“I am so excited to see this transformation in public hospitals,” he adds noting that some private hospitals are slowly transitioning by integrating their processes.
The Philippines is not so different from other emerging countries in the region where healthcare is largely an out of pocket expenditure and where hospitals have affordability issues.
But Ashwin believes that government and the private sector are investing to address healthcare needs. He saw the needs though for more awareness about how solutions can benefit by looking at value and benefits instead of cost when one has to decide for lifetime solutions.
“Philippines is not a small country but with a big number of islands, connectivity is a challenge,” says Ashwin. To leapfrog, Ashwin sees the potential of the Philippines to adapt connectivity.
“Philippines can become a leader in healthcare connectivity by spreading its resources to remote provinces. Technology can connect medical expertise to remote areas with more tech savvy population. So, why cannot be Philippines a connectivity capital for healthcare?” he asks.
Philips’ hand-held ultrasound called Lumify, a stethoscope of the future, can be operated by a registered medical practitioner in a remote area using a smartphone and a probe to do the scanning. During a pilot project in the Philippines, many high-risk pregnancies have been treated and fatalities prevented.
Sure, these medical equipment demands high cost of capital. This is where Philips Capital can help customers understand and evaluate financing options to make their medical solutions accessible.
Its stature as the world’s leading medical equipment provider with over the past 125 years of experience is what sets Philips apart from competition. Philips continues to be in the forefront of innovation and new inventions amid several new big electronics firms that have forayed in the healthcare business.
Ashwin viewed this competition as best for consumers and for healthcare firms, which have become more relevant as they addressed about saving lives and making lives easier.
“With this kind of technology and from this perspective, I welcome competition. As technology players, we have to compete our best,” he adds.
In the case of Philips, Ashwin stressed, “We’ve been around for more than 100 years so we have built a full supply chain across the world may it be US Food and Drug Administration, EU regulations, CE Markings, we’ve been here offering our best because quality is something we don’t compromise.”
Secondly, they do not just offer the hardware but a real integration with the software to address what the doctors and patients really need. So, there has been substantial amount of skills and experience that go into its products and processes.
Ashwin is proud of Philips Azurion, the next generation image-guided therapy platform for cardio vascular procedures like stenting with superior care and improved user and patient experience. The game changer Azurion has been developed over a number of years in close collaboration with clinicians and cardio vascular surgeons over the years.
“This is not something easily replicable, but requires deep collaborations so whatever we do we ensure that we address the real need,” he adds.
Philips has built such an expertise that its services extend beyond medical equipment but also in the physical infrastructure of hospitals. Philips can help in the overall design of a hospital or medical centers to ensure seamless work flow. They can help you understand recruitment because they have done so across the world.
“There are lots of opportunities for us to have a bigger share of the healthcare here,” he adds. In fact, Philips has collaborations with small clinics that offer medical care for outpatients. These clinics or health centers have offloaded some hospital traffic because they can treat patients with minor issues attended by general practitioners, and can perform some diagnostics.
Ashwin’s appointment to lead the Philippines was a strong indication of how Philips views this country. His assignment to the Philippines from his regional post in Singapore is more of doing justice to the business in this very dynamic market.
As he took on the challenge, Ashwin has to do a few things differently to pursue growth. He also finds the Philippines so welcoming as it reminds him of his humble roots in India.
“I spent half of my life in India and half in developed economies like Finland and Singapore. So, coming to the Philippines is like coming home to my early childhood because there are lots of similarities,” he adds.
“The family ties are deep and the warmth of the Filipinos are something I cherish. It is pretty welcoming and that makes me feel at home,” says Ashwin, who has been in the country for less than a year and a half and more than five years with Philips.
As he realized the opportunities in the Philippine market, he could not be more than thankful for his new assignment.
He was also astonished by the phenomenal beauty of the Philippines calling it “Asia’s best kept secret” citing preserved, pristine and untapped tourism destinations of Palawan and Batanes where the water is the best he has ever seen.
The Philippines is part of Philips’ 80,000 global workforce. He remembers every time his company holds regional gatherings and each country had to perform, “The Philippines had the most fun, they are the most open to having a good time so the office is a reflection of the family. I hope that will continue because I am not here to disrupt this culture, this is a culture that has to be nurtured. This is a caring culture that I want to nurture.”
As a boss, Ashwin has an adaptive kind of management.
“I believe you have to lead from the front, but sometimes you just have to lead with your heart, roll up your sleeves, boost confidence, sometimes more directional, sometimes you take risks and make a call and stick to the call, sometimes you want people to bring up solutions even if you know the solutions already,” says Ashwin who holds an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering (Communications) from Nanyang Technological University.
He also learned that time is a great teacher so there is a need to change as he welcomes suggestions and feedback. Ashwin also always advocates balance among his people. He himself makes it a point to keep fit because he is in a healthcare business, after all.
Ashwin is no stickler to physical office attendance. “What is important is you think of impact and bring in value,” adds Ashwin, who brings over 18 years of experience in the telco industry across Asia Pacific and Europe having worked with Nokia, McKinsey & Co and StarHub.
“I am learning lessons everyday,” says Ashwin. When he came to the Philippines, he was in a hurry to accomplish things, but soon realized to pace himself and harmonize priorities with his team, otherwise he would set unreal expectations that do not have happy results.
Personally, his heroes are his great grandparents for being able to empower themselves through education. But the most important lesson he learned was from his grandfather: kindness. “It is one common thread in his life and in business. Kindness is very powerful that two decades after his death, people still remember his kindness. If there is one legacy I would like to leave behind, it is kindness. People need to be treated the way they need to be, with respect,” he adds.
“This is the hero I would like to look up to.”
Ashwin would like to see a sustainable Philips, one that grows beyond his assignment. “I would like to see a sustainable organization, self-sufficient, adaptable, improved, and able to address opportunities because this is a decade of connectivity. I want Philips to be at the forefront in healthcare connectivity,” he sums up his hopes for Philips Philippines.
He views sustainability from the environment perspective and staying relevant to society. Ashwin lamented that Bangalore, who used to be a retirees’ paradise had been overtaken by technology.
“What I feel bad about is there is a trade off. Progress is a trade off,” he adds.
At Philips, everything they do is related to its mission of reducing waste and carbon footprint to protect the environment and society.
Its new MRI equipment has substantially reduced the use of helium, a coolant needed to create a magnetic field, from 1,500 liters of helium and is continuously topped off during its lifespan as helium evaporates. The new Philips MRI, which was launched early this year, only uses 7 liters of helium and no more top off. Its new low-dose scanning x-ray machines now allow the collection of more data and information to lessen radiation exposure, especially for kids.
“That is why I like the vision of Philips because it is about touching lives,” says Ashwin citing Philips has re-aligned its ‘Lives Improved’ target with the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda following the completion of its portfolio transformation.
Building on the 1.54 billion lives improved globally in 2018, Philips targets a long-term, average annual “Lives Improved” growth rate of around 6% resulting in 3 billion lives improved annually by 2030. Company targets to improve access to healthcare in underserved communities to 400 million people a year by 2030.
“These are measurable targets, so how close are you to that target is something that makes coming to work everyday exciting. So, what am I doing is improving lives, a phenomenal vision. It is business with a heart as we make changes in life and society. That is something that motivates me. I grew up in a developing country and spent half of my life in developed economies, it is time to give back to society,” he concludes.