Paula Rytilä, Orion: A start-up attitude is needed in the pharmaceutical markets in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

Few Finns know that Orion is a significant export company: 70% of its sales come from abroad. Most recently, Orion has generated growth in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where Paula Rytilä is in charge of its sales and marketing organisation.

Orion offers its employees opportunities for job rotation. When Paula Rytilä learned about an opportunity to work in the APAC region (Southeast Asia and the Pacific) for two years, she was immediately interested. Rytilä knows Orion’s products and operations well, so an opportunity to serve as the head of sales and marketing sounded fascinating.

Paula Rytilä is a specialist in respiratory diseases and allergies. She started her career in public healthcare and research. She had an associate professorship and a research group of her own, and the President of Finland granted her the honorary title of Professor. She joined the pharmaceutical industry in 2007, when she became Medical Director at Orion.

Operations in five countries in the APAC region

Orion’s products have been available in the APAC region for a long time. Their sales and marketing have been managed by partner companies, but Orion has insourced marketing authorisations licensed to its partners. In the spring of 2020, Orion established subsidiaries in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, followed by Australia and New Zealand in early 2022.

In the APAC region, Orion is best known for its proprietary drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Its product selection also includes several generic prescription drugs. In 2023, Orion will launch its family of dry powder inhalers for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Southeast Asian market.

Orion has a sales and marketing organisation of almost 50 people in the APAC region. Its members are closely familiar with the local conditions in each country. The subsidiaries have their own country managers, who are supervised by Paula Rytilä.

“Our local employees provide us with excellent first-hand information when we are planning to launch new products in the APAC markets,” Paula says.

“We have ambitious growth targets, but we also take good care of our employees. All our employees have been provided with training on Orion’s Code of Conduct. The Finnish way of working is clearly appreciated here.”

Orion’s values – appreciate each other, strive for excellence, and build the future – guide its operations worldwide.

130 million potential customers

The pharmaceutical market is growing rapidly in the APAC region. The population is ageing, and the improved economy is enabling societies to purchase more medicines than before.

Orion operates in five countries in the APAC region. With a total population of more than 130 million people, these countries hold considerable sales potential for medicines.

Many players are interested in this growing market, and Orion completes with all the major pharmaceutical companies in the region. In addition, Thailand and Malaysia, among other countries, have several local manufacturers that mainly bring generic drugs to the market. Indian and Chinese pharmaceutical companies are also active.

“Orion is a challenger in the APAC pharmaceutical market, which is reflected in our strong desire to grow our business operations. Our country manager in Australia has said that they feel like a start-up entrepreneur, even though they are working for a 105-year-old company.”

Orion’s business operations in the APAC region contribute to its strategic growth target: Orion is aiming for EUR 1.5 billion in net sales by 2025.

Healthcare professionals as customers

Orion’s customers in the APAC region are healthcare professionals working in public hospitals or private health clinics. In addition, the medical tourism in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore lends a distinctive feature to the pharmaceutical market.

In the public sector, medicines are usually purchased through invitations to tender, in which the price is a key criterion. Private clinics favour proprietary drugs that they recommend to their customers.

In the APAC region, Orion is perceived as a high-quality Finnish player with responsible operations and strong pharmaceutical expertise.

All the medicines Orion sells in the APAC region are currently manufactured in Finland, which ensures effective production chain management. The products are delivered to patients through highly competent logistics partners and local distributors.

Singapore has it all

Paula Rytilä works from Singapore.

“For a foreigner, this is an excellent base where everyone speaks English. It’s easy to organise our APAC operations in Singapore, because we are all in the same time zone,” Paula explains.

“My husband also works remotely for his Finnish employer and customers from Singapore. We were both thrilled when we heard about the opportunity to move here.”

In her free time, Rytilä enjoys swimming and tennis. She has easy access to swimming pools and tennis courts in her residential area. In addition, her daily yoga practice boosts her mental energy. She is also interested in the local cuisine. Hawker centres, large food courts with stalls that serve inexpensive food, are a good way to explore the diversity of Asian cuisine.

“I recommend job rotation to everyone if an opportunity arises at work. My time here has invigorated me professionally in a completely new way. Everyone is inspired by the start-up mentality. I can combine the experience I have gained at Orion with the local culture and ways of working.

It’s wonderful to be able to promote health with an enthusiastic team.”

Paula Rytilä’s motto: Think positive!

Text: Raimo Autio
Photo: Suvi Sievilä