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The power of partnership: Uday Bose discusses the life-changing power of BI’s Making More Health initiative
The Beautiful Truth x Boehringer Ingelheim

The power of partnership: Uday Bose discusses the life-changing power of BI’s Making More Health initiative

Uday Bose is the Managing Director at Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland. He talks about the power of purpose and Making More Health, BI’s decade-long partnership with the non-profit Ashoka.
24th Oct 2022

Uday Bose is the Managing Director at Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland, one of the world’s leading research-driven pharmaceutical companies that has over 130 years of experience, and is still family-owned to this day.

He talks to TBT’s CEO, Adam Penny, about the power of purpose, and why Making More Health, BI’s decade-long partnership with the non-profit Ashoka, is an essential part of the firm’s mission.

TBT: What does purpose mean to you?

I’ve had a sense of purpose from a young age because of my family and the values I grew up around. I’m the son of immigrant parents – my father came to the UK in the early sixties. As is the case for many immigrants, he came alone to London with a lot of hopes and dreams. My mum grew up in Calcutta, leaving everything behind to start a new life in the UK. The older I get, the more I marvel at how they managed that. I grew up seeing them both work really hard. That gave me a sense of appreciation; if you want to achieve something good, you’ve got to work hard for it. And all they ever asked of me was just that I give the best of myself. 

Those principles really stuck with me. So today, as the MD for BI, I have a similar leadership approach. BI really matched my belief that sometimes the best things are often the hardest things to do. 

TBT: What is BI’s purpose, and how is it transferred through the organisation?

Our purpose is to transform lives for generations. When BI first articulated our purpose, I literally skipped a breath. It’s a huge statement of intent: transforming lives. Just the word ‘transforming’ is profound, and transforming lives is very personal. And for ‘generations’, which means it’s not just now, it’s for the future. The weight of that purpose is huge and it forces us to think about not just today, but the consequences of today for future generations. 

“When BI first articulated our purpose, I literally skipped a breath. It’s a huge statement of intent: transforming lives. Just the word ‘transforming’ is profound, and transforming lives is very personal . . . it forces us to think about not just today, but the consequences of today for future generations.”

TBT: It is certainly an inspiring purpose! How has this purpose informed BI’s Making More Health initiative? 

BI’s responsibility goes beyond the medicines to the broader societal impact that we can have. Making More Health is our commitment to support the work of social entrepreneurs around the world in partnership with the incredible non-profit Ashoka. A social entrepreneur is somebody who identifies a social need, where there is an opportunity to improve the social conditions of a community. We help them realise their ambitions and dreams to improve the social conditions for the communities within which they live and for others.

Coimbatore, India, 2018

We are active in 42 countries across various continents. We are now supporting 123 social entrepreneurs around the world, and we’ve got around 11,000 employees actively involved. Making More Health is a fundamental part of who BI are as an organisation.

TBT: Beautiful. And how do Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim mutually support each other?

We have so much to give: our employees, an incredible organisation, fantastic achievements we’ve made from clinical development, animal health, drug development, perspective, manufacturing. We’ve got so many talented people. 

We have 52,000 employees around the world – we’re everywhere in terms of countries and presence. And we work in healthcare systems, so we’re really close to working with the people that can help drive change: we can put social entrepreneurs in touch with the healthcare systems and share our own insights. 

What’s incredible is the social entrepreneurs, backed by Ashoka, identify the need at the ground level. Right at the coalface where people are suffering, social entrepreneurs are born within that environment. They have an idea, but they don’t know what to do with that idea, they don’t know how to scale that up. We were really inspired by the work that Ashoka does through their fellows to be able to identify those entrepreneurs, to be open to them and to support their work.

“What’s incredible is the social entrepreneurs, backed by Ashoka, identify the need at the ground level. Right at the coalface where people are suffering, social entrepreneurs are born within that environment.”

TBT: Can you share an example of a social entrepreneurship program that BI and Ashoka have collaborated on?

There were a few that really resonated with me, one was a program called Patients Know Best. If you’re in the UK, everybody loves the National Health Service; we all have a very strong affinity to it. But I think all of us also know it’s a very challenging healthcare system to work with. 

The insight that Dr. Mohammed Al-Ubaydli, the founder of Patients Know Best, had was: wouldn’t it be powerful if we could put all of that information that belongs to a patient in the palm of their hand? Why don’t we let them own their own data? So rather than having to repeat it, they can see their own test results and appointments and they can provide that information to the healthcare professionals they choose. 

The reason it touched me is because I had a doctor’s appointment and I got a link to enrol, and thought it was a great service. But it wasn’t until I got to the UK in my role here that I discovered that the beginnings of Patients Know Best was actually through the Making More Health Fellowship program. 

“We are active in 42 countries across various continents. We are now supporting 123 social entrepreneurs around the world, and we’ve got around 11,000 employees actively involved.”

I met Dr. Al-Ubaydli and we discussed what more we can do to help him. He was very grateful for the early funding. Patients Know Best now has 2 million registered users and receives 2.5 million test results every week. 

TBT: What has your personal involvement been with Making More Health?

I was really keen to get involved with the program and I learned about Making More Health Insights. The idea is to take a mixed group of employees to one of two areas – one is in India and the other is in Kenya, in Africa. I went to Coimbatore in the south of India, and spent a week there. Each day we would have an opportunity to visit a different community, observe a different, real situation that’s facing either an individual or a community, and learn about that and how they’re dealing with it. 

Coimbatore, India, 2018

It was truly a life changing, life shaping experience. I never anticipated it affecting me and impacting me in the way it did.

Two things really hit me: one is this privilege I have and the opportunities I’ve been afforded, the other was a realisation that I do have a voice, which for me as a leader was incredibly important. I have a privilege and opportunity in the role that I have to use my voice to do something positive.

I wrote a diary each day of what I picked up and learned. When I came back to the UK and even today, a few years later, that diary and those memories keep me focused on what I want to achieve.

“I do have a voice, which for me as a leader was incredibly important. I have a privilege and opportunity in the role that I have to use my voice to do something positive.”

TBT: How did Making More Health Insights affect you as a leader? 

I came back with that honest drive to say: I need to speak up more, I need to speak out more, challenge things more, and play more of an active role in terms of what we can do as a society. Making sure every voice in the room is heard because sometimes a voice that isn’t being heard is probably the most powerful one. I think it’s criminal for a leader of any organisation not to take accountability for wider societal issues. If you just focus on the here and now in your organisation, you’re not going to be successful. We exist in a broader environment, in a broader ecosystem. It’s in all the questions that we ask and the decisions that we make.

TBT: What would you like to be the legacy of Making More Health?

This support we offer for social entrepreneurs, to be able to be a partner to an organisation that has an idea to improve the social conditions for the communities within which they live and for others, is profound.

“I think it’s criminal for a leader of any organisation not to take accountability for wider societal issues. If you just focus on the here and now in your organisation, you’re not going to be successful. We exist in a broader environment, in a broader ecosystem. It’s in all the questions that we ask and the decisions that we make.”

I want us to continue to do this and let it grow. This is something that we just live, it’s just something that we do. This is how we are, how we work as an organisation. And I’d love that to continue.

You don’t always see the personal impact of how something has transformed somebody’s life. And that’s why our purpose is profound; it’s something that is tangible. I don’t think it’s a crazy ambition – it’s aspirational and it’s an aspiration that we have in our grasp.