In the words of Eddy Lee, Chairman and CEO of iX Biopharma, a good leader should be a “visionary, someone who is able to formulate new ideas and concepts but, more importantly, assemble like-minded people, sell them these ideas and then commit them to the cause”.
Such an attitude is well-suited to the pharmaceutical industry, in which the Singaporean iX Biopharma operates. Pharmaceuticals is, after all, a constantly evolving field, and requires constant innovation to stay relevant. This is why Eddy takes a far-sighted approach to his work, framing himself as a transformational rather than a transactional leader.
Where transactional leaders aim to maintain smooth day-to-day operations, transformational leaders are focused on the long-term betterment of their staff, and on guiding and changing the business. “Transformational leaders communicate a new vision, and try to get others to see the vision, while dedicating themselves to it,” Eddy says. “It’s more like a creative community where people have a sense of belonging and are working towards a goal larger than themselves.”
This revolutionary ideal has seen iX Biopharma expand beyond Singapore, into China, Hong Kong and Australia. iX Biopharma’s overseas growth is buoyed by promising signs in the Asia–Pacific region; in April, Chinese investment firms purchased shares in one of Australia’s largest vitamin manufacturers, Nature’s Care, valuing the company at more than A$800 million. Indeed, Eddy notes that Asia–Pacific sales of pharmaceutical stocks have accounted for upwards of A$3 billion over the past three years.
Meanwhile, iX Biopharma is trialling its products in mainstream Australian pharmacies like Priceline and TerryWhite Chemmart, ensuring the expansion is feasible before committing to the market. The Australian market for supplements is estimated to be A$4 billion and growing, so while iX Biopharma’s presence in Australia is only tentative, the results are promising. Eddy believes that the Australian chains are as excited about the move as he is, having realised that iX Biopharma’s products represent the cutting edge of the pharmaceutical industry.
These inventive new products form a big part of iX Biopharma’s success. The company’s patented drug delivery system, called WaferiX, is something Eddy is particularly enthused about. It’s a mechanism that delivers drugs sublingually, via a wafer under the tongue, and is simple, non-invasive and widely applicable, being used for everything from skincare to erectile dysfunction treatment. It’s something that Eddy calls an inherent advantage of the company, and the near-worldwide patent (pending in the US) gives iX Biopharma an edge.
iX Biopharma wouldn’t have these innovative products without its internal culture of independence and creativity. “We do our own discovery,” Eddy says. “We look at the trends, at what people want, we formulate our own products and have our own lab testing. In doing so, we have full flexibility but, more importantly, we can control the quality of our products. We can effectively manage the inventory levels, so we don’t get caught with excessively high expenses and, obviously, adjust to the market.”
“We do our own discovery. We look at the trends, at what people want, we formulate our own products and have our own lab testing.”
Where it’s already well-established, like its hometown of Singapore, iX Biopharma continues to approach customers in creative ways. For example, iX Biopharma has partnered with ecommerce companies that deal in halal-certified products, tapping into Singapore’s underserved Muslim community, which is 15% of the population.
The company is prioritising not just online sales, but mobile sales as well. A new skincare supplement, released in late April, was an immediate success for the company, but most intriguingly, more than half the online sales were via mobile. In response, iX Biopharma has switched to a mobile-focused, video marketing strategy, and is relying heavily on tools like web analytics to better understand its online market.
“What I’ve been taught by my mentors is to learn from history, but always look beyond it,” says Eddy. “Chart a new path; don’t follow an old one. And the one thing that will always stick in my mind is hiring people who are smarter than me. I always do that. That’s how my company has been successful and will continue to be.”