Marathon man sets Bayer’s pace

Lessons learned in run­ning help in­still a spirit of suc­cess for top chem­i­cal com­pany

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By ZHU WENQIAN in Dus­sel­dorf, Ger­many zhuwen­qian@chi­

Liam Con­don knows what the long haul is like and­howto plan for the road ahead. Con­don, head of the crop science di­vi­sion ofGer­man life science gi­ant Bayer AG, has run the Bei­jing marathon twice, and the spirit of long-dis­tance run­ning gar­nered over 25 years has helped the Man­darin­speak­ing ex­ec­u­tive to set the pace at work.

Con­don hails from Ire­land and is aBayer vet­er­an­who­can break into a num­ber of for­eign lan­guages with con­sum­mate ease. Apart from English, he can speak Ger­man, Gaelic, French, Ja­panese and Man­darin, and has risen through the ranks over the past 10 years of his ca­reer at the com­pany.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view at a stu­dent lab at Bayer’s head­quar­ters in Lev­erkusen, Ger­many, Con­don showed an ami­able and nat­u­ral, down-toearth at­ti­tude and was sharply turned out in a dark suit and pur­ple tie.

“It takes a long time to train for marathons, with many tough times. If you have a clear pic­ture of the goal, you keep go­ing, no mat­ter what hap­pens. Agri­cul­ture is a longterm in­dus­try and of­ten it takes 10 years to de­velop a prod­uct. Even if we have a lot of quar­terly fi­nan­cial pres­sures, we think about the long term,” said Con­don, who is also a mem­ber of the board of man­age­ment at Bayer AG.

“For me, it helps a lot to have a kind of marathon spirit to think about the long term, and also be very dis­ci­plined, will­ing to make some sac­ri­fices, man­age the time and do the things ef­fec­tively. Those habits help when run­ning a com­pany.”

The Ger­man pharmaceuticals, chem­i­cals and agri­cul­tural leader has been in the China mar­ket for more than 130 years. In­re­cent years, the com­pany has been con­tin­u­ously in­creas­ing its in­vest­ments in China, and the coun­try now serves as its largest mar­ket in Asia.

In the se­cond quar­ter of this year, Bayer’s crop science busi­ness posted global sales of 2.52 bil­lion euros ($2.79 bil­lion). In the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, its sales growth rate was 8.4 per­cent year-on-year in the quar­ter. The rosy per­for­mance in the China and Aus­tralia mar­ket helped off­set flat global sales.

“China is one of our big­gest and most im­por­tant mar­kets. We have a very strong phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and con­sumer health busi­ness in China, and a rel­a­tively small crop science busi­ness,” he said.

“We be­lieve there is tremen­dous growth po­ten­tial for our crop science busi­ness in China,’’ he said, as the over­all trend in China fo­cused more on pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion, big­ger farms, food safety and the en­vi­ron­ment.

He said that China would like to en­sure that the coun­try can feed it­self, and not be overly de­pen­dent on im­ports. So, Bayer, he added, will need to be in the fore­front in in­no­va­tion of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts in­China, and it is com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to in­vest in China.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Con­don be­gan his ca­reer at Ger­man phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Scher­ing AG, which was ac­quired by Bayer in 2006. He has held var­i­ous sales and mar­ket­ing po­si­tions in the gyne­col­ogy busi­ness in Ger­many, be­fore he took lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the com­pany in China, Ja­pan and Ger­many.

While work­ing in China, Con­don was in­stru­men­tal in lead­ing the in­te­gra­tion of the Scher­ing op­er­a­tions into the Bayer busi­ness in the coun­try.

“From a com­bined sixth mar­ket po­si­tion, we man­aged to get to the over­all third po­si­tion in the Chi­nese phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­ket in only two years. Dur­ing this time, we achieved an av­er­age an­nual growth rate in turnover of 40 per­cent,” he said.

“We also de­vel­oped the ‘ Go West’ med­i­cal train­ing pro­gram to pro­mote train­ing for med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, and thus im­prove med­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in un­de­vel­oped ru­ral ar­eas in China.”

In the next five years, Bayer has com­mit­ted to in­vest at least 200 mil­lion euros in dig­i­tal farm­ing, where it uti­lizes satel­lite tech­nolo­gies and big data to help grow­ers solve agri­cul­tural is­sues, for ex­am­ple, dis­tin­guish­ing weeds and the in­sec­ti­cide so­lu­tions, by up­load­ing the photo of the weed on a phone app.

“Cur­rently, we are sell­ing and test­ing dig­i­tal farm­ing prod­ucts in 10 coun­tries, with the goal to rapidly ex­pand fur­ther and de­velop a best-in­class crop pro­tec­tion dig­i­tal sup­port sys­tem,” Con­don said.

“We are com­mit­ted to bring­ing dig­i­tal farm­ing prod­ucts to China. It is im­por­tant that these prod­ucts are spe­cific and rel­e­vant for the China mar­ket, and I be­lieve that we will be able to bring the prod­ucts to China in the course of 2018.”

When work­ing with staff mem­bers, Con­don said he is very team-ori­ented and fo­cuses on clear val­ues. He is col­lab­o­ra­tive, but will never ac­cept com­pla­cency.

We are com­mit­ted to bring­ing dig­i­tal farm­ing prod­ucts to China.” Liam Con­don, head of the crop science di­vi­sion of Ger­man life science gi­ant Bayer AG

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