Planning Ahead with Mevion Medical System's Tina Tianning Yu

October 17, 2019

Tina Tianning Yu, Chief Executive Officer of Mevion Medical Systems, talks about engaging with China's pharma market and laying the foundations for success in 2020 and beyond.

Michael Wong of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association (HBSHAA) speaks to Tina Tianning Yu, Chief Executive Officer of Mevion Medical Systems, about engaging with China's pharma market and laying the foundations for success in 2020 and beyond.

HBSHAA: In 2002, one pharmaceutical firm's China sales had just crossed the $100m mark. Fast-forward to 2019 and the China market represents about 20% of their global sales. Given these positive trends, what are the strategic implications for the healthcare sector’s C-Suites? 

Tina Tianning Yu: China’s healthcare market size is now simply too big to ignore. As such, China has been and is projected to be a growth engine which C-Suite executives need to personally engage with, and fortunately many have done so.[1]One thing to note is that the huge market size doesn’t guarantee every player gets a slice of the pie. Like the example you gave, it takes time and the right strategy to survive and then thrive in this competitive market. 

As some of the readers of this publication may not be physically based in China, shouldn't they just stay focused on their own geography's business opportunities and their respective individual career paths? 

Historically, many firms launched new products sequentially with the US and or Europe at the front-end of the brand’s life cycle. As you mentioned, their playbooks of success were then shared with colleagues in other markets like China. What might have been the right decision to do back then has evolved though with China’s overall strategic importance and contribution to these firms’ global sales. As such, innovation pilots and brand launches are now starting in China and so I believe, physically in China or not, each employee should have a baseline understanding of the China market and its opportunities. 

As not everyone has a Ph.D. from Princeton, an MBA from Harvard, work experience at Wyeth BioPharma, and bi-lingual skills including Mandarin to serve as building blocks for engaging with these China opportunities, what are your top three recommendations to start one’s journey to acquire these competencies? 

Well, even with these experiences, which I have been very fortunate to secure over time, engaging with the China market can sometimes be like drinking from a firehose! Still, here are my three suggestions for your readership’s consideration. 

First, reallocate some time from your already-jammed schedule and actively seek learning experiences of the China market. It might already be available in your own office, since many firms have employee network groups and often, the Asian affiliation group will have co-workers who have worked and or lived in China. They can be a potential lens to uncover ideas around client engagement given cultural nuances. 

Second, seek opportunities and join a team or a company that is already engaging with the China market or has a great potential to do so soon. And again, even if your current job is primarily tied to a non-China ecosystem, eventually it will likely evolve. According to a recent news article,  for the first time a total of 129 Chinese companies made the Fortune 500 list in 2019, more than any other country.[2]

Finally, stop looking for what another company has successfully launched for your business case in China. Be strategic and leverage your own strengths. For instance, my company invented the compact, single-room proton therapy system, changed the industry and has been fortunate to secure nearly 80% market share of the operating compact systems in the US[3]. Combined with a strong local team, those factors contributed greatly to the success of our China market entrance. After all, while the notion of fast follower sounds good, when you add that new bullet point to your 2020 resume, wouldn’t it be better to insert innovative leader selected for ABC company’s global launch which kicked off in China

 

[1]https://pharma.nridigital.com/pharma_dec18/is_china_the_next_great_hope_for_the_pharma_industry

[2]Source: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/30/c_138437362.htm

[3]https://www.mevion.com/newsroom/press-releases/mevion-equipped-proton-center-stephenson-cancer-center-university-oklahoma