Meet Arvydas Norvaisas: the Head of the Norameda branch in Poland

Meet Arvydas Norvaisas: the Head of the Norameda branch in Poland

Norameda opened a branch in Poland earlier this year. As Arvydas Norvaisas took the lead, we decided not to miss the chance by introducing him.

“Festina Lente” or “More haste, less speed” (translated from Latin) – a saying used often by Arvydas.

We must agree, patience and persistence are inherent to him: starting as a doctor of medicine yet in Soviet times, A. Norvaisas rose as a top-level professional in the pharmaceutical field.

First of all, you are the founder of Norameda. What a twist, as you have MD in internal diseases!

I worked in the medical field for almost 10 years, have PhD degree in pulmonology as well. It was my passion. Still, a life-changing political shift made corrections: after Lithuania regained its independence, I decided to look for new opportunities in Europe.

My priority was science. I aimed to work on leading medical projects with top universities. But at the same time, I collaborated with some pharmaceutical companies looking for new opportunities in the CEE pharma market.

At some point, I needed to decide.

So pharmacy took over science?

In some way. I was keeping correspondence, preparing reports for several pharmaceutical companies, and at some point, I’ve been contacted by Boehringer Ingelheim and asked to represent them in the Baltic region. And I agreed. We worked together for almost ten years – I’m proud of the things we achieved together.

I had a chance to be very close to the patients. We worked with asthma patients. Our efforts resulted in the reduction of deaths from asthma to almost zero: training for doctors, a school for asthma patients, access to new medicaments, etc. I had the exceptional opportunity to work with top professionals and learned a lot.

It is also the time Norameda was founded.

But at first, you didn’t work at Norameda?

According to the preliminary agreement, Norameda was established to be the exclusive distributor of Boehringer Ingelheim products in the Baltics.

Yet, Boehringer Ingelheim has decided to have several distributors and establish their own representation office.

They offered Norameda a simple distribution contract and for me – to take over the position of head of representation. I agreed, and my wife Rita took over Norameda management. It was the point where my business career and Norameda have separated: from an ethical point of view I can’t take care at the same time of both Norameda and  Boehringer Ingelheim business – Norameda always was managed by independent GM. I was looking for Boehringer Ingelheim interests by not involving myself in Norameda activities.

What is your connection to Poland?

After a successful partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, my career took a turn and ended in Poland. I started to work for an Austrian pharma company Torrex Pharma which was acquired by Chiesi a few years later and became Chiesi Polska.

My task was to build up an organization here and develop sales.  The project in Poland was planned for three months but lasted 13 years. At that time, I was working for Chiesi Romania few years as well.

After finishing a career in Chiesi, my focus was on Norameda again. Naturally, I wanted to share my experience of 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry working in different countries.

So the idea of making business in Poland pop up again – this time as Norameda Polska.

What can you say about the Polish pharma market?

The Polish pharma market is the largest in Central and Eastern Europe –it amounted to 8.02 billion in 2020. For comparison, the pharmaceutical market of the three Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia – together amounts to 1.58 billion. Eur.

So first of all, it’s a huge opportunity for making business. Yet, It’s quite a difficult one at the same time.

The appeal of the Polish market automatically increases competition and the cost and risk of entering the market. In addition, they have strong local pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Finally, the local business culture is unique.

What do you mean by “unique Polish business culture”?

If you want to do business, you must speak Polish. Locals know English but prefer not to use it unless they work for an international corporation.

But I guess it applies to any country: you should respect the country and the people and learn their language.

Poles as a nation seem to be quite open-hearted but are not open to foreigners in day to day business. Until I learned the language, most of the doors were semi-closed.

So different language and culture was quite a shock for me at the beginning. It took me almost a year to become fluent in Polish, but I noticed the difference straight away. You even can negotiate better commercial deals if you address partners in Polish.

And you have to learn how to deal with Polish bureaucracy local lawyer team is very helpful.

Still, you sound confident. What is the aim of Norameda in Poland?

Oh yes. We took five years to prepare before stepping into Poland.

We have the know-how, required assets, and the experienced team in place. “Norameda is ready to become a noticeable pharma market player, and it won’t take long.

Also, it is worth mentioning, expansion is not new for the Norameda team as we already work in 9 different markets with a total pharmaceutical market value of € 13.9 billion.

How long do you think it will take to conquer the Polish pharma market?

I would not say to conquer, – rather – find our place in the Polish pharma market. Life teaches us, don’t expect a quick result. Be prepared to put any effort into every step you make. If we do so, I predict we might climb to the top in five years.

Good luck!