Updated: Jun 29, 2020
All of us are locked down somewhere in the world.
As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic handcuffs nations and borders, I'm serving my sentence in Melbourne. All this while, I've been receiving and exchanging stories of lockdown with friends from all over. I spoke previously with Allan Timlin who heads the APAC finance function of Global Blue in Singapore.
The COVID-19 Lockdown Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by its members and members of Platinum Circle.
Ricardo Marek is President of the Growth & Emerging Markets Business Unit (GEM BU) of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd, the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia and one of the top 20 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world by revenue. He lives in Singapore with his wife and daughters but is currently locked down in Brazil.
Affluent Society (AS) spoke to him about his experience with the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil.
AS: What is the lockdown like in Brazil?
I have been in Sao Paolo, Brazil since March when I traveled here for business but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am so far unable to return to Singapore, where I have been based since 2017.
Brazil currently has the world’s second-highest number of cases, over 700,000, according to the Johns
Hopkins university site, and has overtaken Italy, with more than 35,000 deaths (as of 9 June 2020).
The pandemic has triggered a variety of responses from federal, state and local governments. On 27 March, Brazil announced a temporary ban on foreign air travelers and most state governors have
imposed quarantines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Singapore so far has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia primarily in
dormitories housing foreign domestic workers. In response to the growing number of new cases, the
government announced on 3 April a set of preventive measures called "circuit breakers", which ended on 1 June, with reopening to be done in three stages.
These two governments have adopted contrasting approaches to control COVID-19 cases, and now we
see Singapore’s daily number of cases slowly coming down, especially within the community outside of the foreign domestic worker dorms. Brazil, with its wide geographic spread and large population, is still working hard to battle the virus.
AS: What challenges did you face when the lockdown started?
I am from Brazil originally, and I am lucky that my family is in Sao Paolo, so I have been staying with my daughters since the lockdown. I originally flew to Brazil for a few days to do a business review with my Brazilian team, but due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, I had to prolong my stay and have been working from home for the past three months.
While Sao Paolo is my home town, and Brazil a key market in the Growth and Emerging Markets (GEM) region I run, I had not expected an extended stay here away from my leadership team, the majority of which is based in Singapore. However, Takeda globally and in the GEM region, have quickly adapted to the ‘new normal’, and we have been a frontrunner in the pharmaceutical industry to using digital technologies and platforms to stay connected with colleagues and customers around the world. It is probably more challenging for my leadership team members who are based in Singapore and Asia. Due to the time zone differences there are now more evening and late night meetings for them to accommodate my schedule.
Overall I am very impressed and proud of the resilience and focus of our employees during this challenging times, and due to our quick adaption to digital or virtual communications, my work and our business have not been hugely impacted. In fact, despite the impact of COVID-19, GEM BU still delivered strong growth in Q4 FY19, driven by demand for our highly innovative products and our ability to continue engaging with our customers in more innovative ways than we used to during face-to-face interactions.
AS: How are you coping with the lockdown?
As I constantly remind myself and my people, is it critical to remain optimistic and resilient during these unprecedented times, especially as leaders of the organization. It is not easy when lockdowns and quarantines have forced us to change our way of working and limited our personal, business and social interactions, but it is vital that we find ways to stay connected. For example, turn on the camera during video calls so we can still see each other to enhance the personal connection, rather than only communicate via emails and calls.
When we are in lockdown, some of us have had more time to ourselves with no daily commutes or