Afzal Ahmed

Interview – Afzaal Ahmed


Feryal: When did you join PharmEvo?

Afzaal: I joined PharmEvo in May 2009 as an assistant manager of quality control. After 2 years, I moved to the quality assurance department. In 2015, Mr. Jaffery transferred me to the production department, so from September 2001 until now, I have been working as a GM of production at the PharmEvo plant.


Feryal: How was your journey at PharmEvo? How challenging is this role?

Afzaal: I have done MSc. in chemistry from Karachi University in 1994. I have 27 years of experience, and previously I worked at GetzPharma and Barret Hudson. Because I did not have any relevant experience or qualifications in production, that was my biggest fear and challenge at the time. My colleague Yasir, who was working at Aventis, motivated me a lot. He said you should not take this opportunity as a challenge, but it is beneficial for you in the future because you can be a technical director with diverse experience.

As you know, in PharmEvo, quarterly review meetings are conducted after every quarter, so in one QRM, management asked for suggestions about the production department, and it may be possible that they did act on those suggestions and transferred me to the production area.

I have a God-gifted skill of team-making and leading, so amongst all the challenges, I always try to motivate and encourage my team with team-making skills. And by using this skill set, I observed who is good at team building, execution, and planning, and then I assigned job roles accordingly. When I transferred to the production department in 2015, 2.2 million packs were produced. In 6 months, production rose to 3.2 million, and after 6 months, I got promoted to senior manager Production.

Another challenge that I faced was that management decided that we had to launch a nutraceutical division as well. In 2018, we launched the nutraceutical department, and production rose to 4 million, and then I got promoted to deputy general manager Production. So, in all these stages, I and my team faced challenges. When we first started using active coding, which was not used in other industries except three to four.

Alhumdulilah, I am currently heading three departments with a team of 16 pharmacists, including two managers and about 325 workers. We are facing challenges right now because our demand increased and economic conditions got worse, but we managed all the challenges with our proactive planning.


Feryal: How have you evolved personally and professionally?

Afzaal: My versatile skills have been enhanced over time. I always used to think in the initial stages of my career that I might not possess a senior position or that I could only be a worker in quality assurance or quality control, but after true guidance from my seniors and Haroon Qassim, our technical director from 2008 to 2015, Mr. Munir Anwar, motivated and encouraged me. His decision-making and planning were excellent, and I learned these skills from him.


Feryal: How do you compare your previous company’s work experience with that of PharmEvo?

Afzaal: I worked at Barret Hudson at the initial stages of my career, and I experienced a bureaucratic culture where employees did not have any liberty and there was no growth in job roles. In PharmEvo, I assign different job roles to workers at the plant, and there is professional growth in job roles, within a year, employees get promoted. There is liberty in PharmEvo’s culture. We try to make sure that employees learn all skills and groom professionally.


Feryal: How do you manage your work schedule and drive yourself when you are religiously following?

Afzaal: The most amazing part of working at PharmEvo is that there is a great work culture here; respect and ethics are at the highest levels. I never thought to switch jobs from PharmEvo, and I never updated my LinkedIn profile either. Nadeem Rehmat is my mentor. When NR was leading the business development department and I was working in the quality control department, NR used to guide me about new product research and development. He used to guide me through my strengths and weaknesses.


Feryal: All this while, how did you keep a work-life balance when all this was happening, if there was any?

Afzaal: I always follow my rule to give my full dedication to my work five days a week, and in two days I spend the weekend with my family and kids. In my family, there is my wife and three kids—two sons and one daughter. I have a very good understanding with my wife. I am a very talkative person in my family and with my siblings. And I am a problem solver as well. Every time any issue arises in my family, my family members and extended family approach me to solve the problem. 


Feryal: How do you tackle burnout?

Afzaal: Nadeem Rehmat motivated me to manage my time and try to learn reading habits. I love to travel with my family and friends, and this is my hobby as well. NR encouraged me to start reading, and then I started utilizing my travelling time to watch motivational and religious speakers on YouTube. This is actually my time. I learned time management skills when I went to Japan for training, and there I learned how to work with full dedication on the job and how to manage a family.


Feryal: Is a plant’s life monotonous? And how do people make this life exciting?

Afzaal: es, it’s monotonous. Back in times when there was very limited staff working at the plant, we used to go for lunch and celebrate birthdays and farewells, but now that the Evodian family has got bigger and bigger, these events go down. But we celebrate big achievements at Plant, like our ever-highest production at Plant, Mango Day, and cricket matches like the EPL. We also celebrate Evodians’ birthday at Plant.


Feryal: You have worked with so many people; in your opinion, what characteristics do you think every Evodian must possess?

Afzaal: Respect and ethics are the most important characteristics that every Evodian must possess. I have seen people respect each other at PharmEvo. I have seen top management in other organisations misbehave with employees, but in PharmEvo, I have never seen Haroon Qassim misbehave with anyone.


Feryal: What is your motto in life?

Afzaal: I want my kids to be good citizens religiously, and I want to work religiously as well. I think one should do work with excellence. The new generations want monetary benefits, and their focus is not on learning. My suggestion to the young generation is that in the first five years of a career, one should focus on learning and not money. Money is a product, and learning is a very important element of a career. They should become skill-oriented, not just degree-oriented.


Feryal: Are you inspired by any leader inside or outside PharmEvo?

Afzaal: The Dy.CEO of PharmEvo, Mr. Jamshed Ahmed, is my true inspiration. His public speaking, leadership qualities, and decision-making capabilities inspired me more. These characteristics are all true signs of a great leader.


Feryal: What is the one skill that you wish you could get better at?

Afzaal I want to improve my communication skills. I am working in a senior position, and there are times when I have to meet with foreign delegations and other senior employees. I get inspiration from Jamshed Ahmed’s public speaking skills. So, I also want to get better at communications.


Feryal: What is your happiest moment at PharmEvo?

Afzaal: In 2018, management nominated me for Kaizen training conducted in Japan. Nadeem Rehmat nominated me. The learning that I got from that training was a life-changing moment for me in all aspects. I learned time management and organisation.


Feryal: Which workplace behavior in your opinion is absolutely no-no?

Afzaal: I think respect is the key element that must be a part of company values, and without respect, employees will not be motivated to work. There is also a work ethic, which is necessary for a win-win situation, and employees do not feel disrupted. If there is any undue pressure, politics, or zero business values, then such organisations will never succeed, and employees will feel unmotivated and discouraged. And Alhumdulilah, I must say that PharmEvo has strong business values and corporate values where employees always feel motivated to work at a high level.


Feryal: Who is your favourite colleague?

Afzaal: There are many, but Khalid Hassan, GM of the Engineering Department, and GM of Product Development are my favourite colleagues.


Feryal: Is there any project that you did of which you feel proud?

Afzaal: Getting certification as a WHO-compliant facility was a great achievement and the proudest moment of my life. The WHO team visited our plant and did an audit three times, and I personally looked after all the audits, which was the greatest moment for me.


Feryal: Is there anything that you want to share with Evodians?

Afzaal: In the head office, there is a session named ‘Leaders are Readers.” I personally admire it, and I want that these sessions should also be conducted at PharmEvo’s plant. I think every one of us needs personal and professional growth. All staff should get exposure.