• 3 minute read

Teaming for Success

How a small virtual team uses a synergistic network to penetrate the pharmaceutical consulting business in China

By China Business Knowledge @ CUHK

KintelHealth provides tailored consulting services for the healthcare industry, helping foreign companies understand, adjust to and penetrate the Chinese market, and Chinese companies develop products for the global market. Lise Fraissinet, founding partner of the company and MBA alumna at CUHK Business School, shares with us the challenges of her role.

With more than a decade of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and working as a scientist, project and portfolio manager as well as head of R&D for multinational corporations and SMEs, including Pfizer, Ethypharm, Piezoptic, Pierre-Fabre and Dragonite, Fraissinet has a deep understanding of products and the medical and regulatory challenges in various countries, ranging from the EU to North America, India and China.

KintelHealth was formed by four ex-colleagues with extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry. They saw the pressing need of foreign pharmaceutical companies for punctual and specific help in establishing their operations in China. At the same time, they found a strong demand by domestic Chinese companies to penetrate the global market.

“As each single healthcare product or device is subjected to its own regulations and specifications, companies, even established ones, do not always have the appropriate in-house knowledge to handle the myriads of procedures to bring products to the market. With complementary skills and expertise as well as a wide network of manufacturers, labs, lawyers, recruiters and more, the four founding partners of KintelHealth are able to help their clients fill their knowledge and operational gaps and provide solutions that fit like a glove,” she says.

Entering the pharmaceutical market in China presents the following difficulties: understanding local procedures, identifying strategic partners, ensuring the quality of local operations and protecting the intellectual property (IP) of products.

To address these challenges faced by clients, KintelHealth has built a collaborative and operational network over time, which consists of:

  • established pharmaceutical companies with manufacturing facilities in China
  • regulatory experts connected with the China Food and Drug Administration (SFDA)
  • clinical research organizations with extensive knowledge of local and international standards
  • specialized recruitment agencies
  • intellectual property rights specialists
  • quality assurance experts with years of practical experience in handling local and international standards

“Being able to have access to this network of experts and facilities allows us to move from project to project, with clients ranging from multinational corporations with specific needs in niche areas, to SMEs that need guidance and help with the entire chain of procedures to bring products to market,” she says.

The key challenge at this stage is to establish sustainability. The company is very lean in its structure and operations, and has not invested in business development activities. It finds itself caught in the following conundrum: All contracts have been obtained via personal connections and word of mouth so far. None of the current partners can spend time on identifying opportunities and further developing the business.  The current business visibility is at 4 to 6 months, so hiring a full-time staff to solely focus on commercial activities would be risky.

“KintelHealth would like to establish a business sustainable enough before hiring such a person but this probably cannot be achieved if it relies only on the current mode of operations,” she says.
“At this stage we find it hard to estimate the best time to jump into a full business model by hiring additional staff, instead of running a 100 percent safe business but with uncertain and limited growth.”

The team found two possible solutions: Take the plunge, invest and try to grow rapidly to target larger customers; carry on activities on a safe base by remaining small and catering for SMEs for another year before investing in growth.

“We are eager to hear about others’ business experiences, as clients or business owners. Any lessons learnt are welcome!” she says.

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