A healthy dose of op­ti­mism

Dou­glasHamil­ton re­veals howit all went so right for Glas­gow-based en­tre­pre­neur Rabinder But­tar, who­has­built ClinTec In­ter­na­tional into aworld­wide leader in clin­i­cal re­search

The Herald Business - - Entrepreneurs -

IN the late 1990s, when Rabinder But­tar was run­ning ClinTec from her house while look­ing af­ter her two young sons, she could hardly have imag­ined that it would even­tu­ally be a global leader in clin­i­cal re­search.

To­day, the Glas­gow-based busi­ness, nowknow­nasClinTec In­ter­na­tional, em­ploys a global staff of around 270 peo­ple, pro­vides spe­cial­ist clin­i­cal con­sul­tancy in ar­eas such as can­cer, rheuma­tism, asthma and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and biotech com­pa­nies in 40 coun­tries and is on track to re­port £20 mil­lion in sales this year.

Last month Ele­phant Cap­i­tal, an AIM-listed pri­vate eq­uity firm, an­nounced that it was in­vest­ing £8m to ac­quire an eq­uity stake in the com­pany.

Born in In­dia and brought up in Glas­gow, But­tar is the firm’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive and one of Scot­land’s most suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs. She­was­re­cent­ly­namedDirec­tor of the Year by the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors in Scot­land. She is also the re­cip­i­ent of a host of other awards in­clud­ing Scots Busi­ness­woman of the Year for 2008 and was hon­oured as one of Bri­tain’s top 100 En­tre­pre­neur­ial Women. In June of this year, she was given the Ernst & Young Scot­tish En­tre­pre­neur of the Year Award in a cer­e­mony at the Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel in Perthshire.

She is an hon­orary fel­low of ICR UK, a fel­low of the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine, a mem­ber of the Lon­don­based In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors and a grad­u­ate in man­age­ment stud­ies from Read­ing Uni­ver­sity.

She has more than 20 years’ clin­i­cal re­search ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing held key po­si­tions at ma­jor phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Well­come (now GSK), WyethandFu­ji­sawa(nowAstel­las). She has also un­der­taken con­sult­ing as­sign­ments, sup­port­ing man­age­ment in No­var­tis, Bayer and Takeda.

But­tar, who also holds de­grees from Glas­gow and Strath­clyde uni­ver­si­ties, came to Scot­land from the Pun­jab re­gion of In­dia when she was five years old. She moved to Ger­many af­ter her uni­ver­sity years and worked for a Ja­panese pharma- ceu­ti­cal com­pany in Mu­nich, help­ing to bring im­por­tant new drugs to mar­ket.

She later went to Dinslaken, a city of nearly 69,000 peo­ple near Dus­sel­dorf, with her den­tist hus­band. Lo­cated in the state of North RhineWest­phalia. Dinslaken is best known for its me­dieval parish church, St Vin­cen­tius, which was re­built af­ter the Sec­ond World War, and its wealthy neigh­bour­hoods Hies­feld and Obrighoven.

It was in the in­dus­trial pow­er­house of west­ernGer­many­wherethei­deaof Clin­tTec took root. But­tar, a pe­tite wom­an­withama­ne­ofebony­hairand an­in­fec­tious smile, wentin­to­busi­ness on her own, tak­ing ad­van­tage of con­tacts she had made over the years with big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. She worked from home while rais­ing a tod­dler and a new-born.

“I was re­ally client-fo­cused,” she said, ex­plain­ing her early suc­cess.

She spent 14 years in Ger­many, not al­ways in happy cir­cum­stances. Ger­mans, she said, looked down on Asians, whom they con­sid­ered to be on the same low level as Turks – the “guest work­ers” whodome­nial jobs in Ger­man fac­to­ries, clean the streets, drive taxis and col­lect the rub­bish for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“Ger­mans told methey were afraid that their houses would be burned down (by ex­treme right­ists) be­cause Asians lived in the area,” said But­tar in a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view.

Thep­eo­ple of Dinslaken, she stated, wereas­t­on­ished that an Asian woman like her­self would earn enough money to own a BMW car. She also said the con­ser­va­tive Ger­man bank­ing sys­tem threw up bar­ri­ers that made busi­ness dif­fi­cult. “It was a prob­lem just chang­ing a bank ac­count from Dinslaken to Dus­sel­dorf,” she stated.

Putting their time in Ger­many be­hind them, But­tar and her fam­ily re­turned to the UK, set­tling first in south­ern Eng­land and then mov­ing back to Scot­land.

Sh­e­set up­ClinTec world head­quar­ters in Glas­gow, sup­ported by a Re­gional Se­lec­tive As­sis­tance Grantof £1,343,000 from the Scot­tish Govern­ment. “Since we set up the Glas­gow head­quar­ters, ClinTec has gone from strength to strength,” But­tar stated.

ClinTec’s growth has been fu­elled by the mas­sive re­struc­tur­ing of larger phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. As a re­sult, these or­gan­i­sa­tions are now out­sourc­ing more of the costly re­search and devel­op­ment work to com­pa­nies like ClinTec.

She said: “The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try glob­ally is cur­rently look­ing for new ways to out­source its busi­ness, and our model of be­ing able to pro­vide flex­i­ble re­sourc­ing any­where in the world re­ally works for them.”

But­tar in­sisted that the se­cret of her suc­cess is sim­ple. “It be­gins with re­ally try­ing to un­der­stand the needs of our cus­tomers and pro­vid­ing a so­lu­tion that they re­ally want. Also, mak­ing sure we un­der­stand our in­dus­try and how it’s evolv­ing, then shap­ing and grow­ing my or­gan­i­sa­tion to ex­actly fit with the in­dus­try.

“I’m al­ways look­ing at new ar­eas for growth and seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity be­fore other peo­ple have – an ex­am­ple­ofthi­sis go­ing into the emerg­ing mar­kets of clin­i­cal re­search and be­com­ing the world leader in the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

There are op­por­tu­ni­ties out there for ev­ery­one but it’s a mat­ter of how many peo­ple are en­tre­pre­neur­ial and ac­tu­ally seize the op­por­tu­nity.”

The­com­pa­nys­tarted off with a staff of just two peo­ple but grew steadily as new busi­ness was se­cured. ClinTec now em­ploys 45 peo­ple in Glas­gow, many­ofthem­grad­u­ates from the lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties and other in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing.

But­tar said she re­cruits the best peo­ple pos­si­ble from uni­ver­si­ties and is look­ing to hire more peo­ple at a time when many com­pa­nies are shed­ding staff amid tough eco­nomic con­di­tions.

“I am ab­so­lutely proud of the Glas­gow staff,” But­tar said.

“They are a very comit­ted team. Scot­tish peo­ple havea­spe­cial tal­ent for get­ting on with the job and I am re­ally proud of the peo­ple in the of­fice.”

About 90% of the Glas­gow-based staff are from Scot­land while the rest hail from other parts of the UK and Europe. “This is a com­pany that peo­ple want to work for,” But­tar said.

Asked what what the Scot­tish Govern­ment should be do­ing to help those in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and health­care in­dus­try, she replied: “There’s a lot of re­struc­tur­ing go­ing on in the sec­tor so train­ing schemes need to be put in place where ju­niors can get po­si­tions within the in­dus­try. Someof these schemes could be spon­sored by the Scot­tish Govern­ment be­cause there are a lot of grad­u­ates with­out jobs. Many­compa­niesarenot will­ing to take on peo­ple who are not ex­pe­ri­enced.”

ClinTec at­tends many trade fairs where it acts as an am­bas­sador for Scot­tish busi­ness. “We heav­ily pro­mote Scot­land across the globe,” But­tar said with con­sid­er­able pride – adding that Scots are pop­u­lar in many parts of the world. “Amer­i­cans just love kilts and whisky,” she de­clared with a laugh.

The com­pany is also no­table for plac­ing women in re­gional man­ge­rial po­si­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East and Africa – ar­eas not al­ways noted for high re­gard for women in busi­ness sit­u­a­tions.

But­tar said she has no writ­ten-in­stone pol­icy on hir­ing women for par­tic­u­lar posts. “It just hap­pened that way,” she said.

“Women like to work here be­cause the com­pany is run by a woman with chil­dren.”

In re­cent years, ClinTec has moved into emerg­ing mar­kets such as Latin Amer­ica, East­ern Europe and the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion with a fo­cus on In­dia. As one of the first Western clin­i­cal re­search com­pa­nies to set up in Ban­ga­lore around the turn of the decade, ClinTec heav­ily mar­kets its sub­con­ti­nen­tal links to would-be client com­pa­nies in the West.

“We have strong links with In­dia,” said But­tar, who once went on a trade mis­sion to the sub­con­ti­nent with for­mer Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Alis­tair Dar­ling. A pic­ture of But­tar and Dar­ling in In­dia adorns the wall of ClinTec’s board­room in an of­fice build­ing in Glas­gow’s Fin­nieston district, not far from the iconic Cly­de­port crane – a re­minder of the days when Glas­gow was a thriv­ing ship­ping cen­tre.

“I re­ally en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Bri­tain and In­dia,” she stated, adding that “In­dia should never be con­sid­ered to be just a back of­fice op­er­a­tion”.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron made a sim­i­lar pitch dur­ing his re­cent trip to In­dia with UK­busi­ness lead­ers. ClinTe­cal­so­ha­sof­ficesinDubai, Le­banon, and Egypt and re­cently set up in Singapore. It has a staff of two in New York to run its im­po­rant North Amer­i­can ac­i­tiv­i­ties and op­er­ates its Latin Amer­i­can busi­ness out of Mex­ico City.

But­tar said a lot of hard work is needed to set up a busi­ness; it’s not some­thing you can doin six months or a year. Asked if a bud­ding en­tre­pre­neur in Scot­land needs any spe­cial qual­i­ties, But­tar paused for a moment, and said: “Sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion”.

ClinTec In­ter­na­tional chief ex­ec­u­tive Rabinder But­tar says that set­ting up head­quar­ters in Glas­gow has been key to the com­pany’s growth

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