Polpharma Group: Transformation Through Innovation

By Yossi Feinberg, Sheila Melvin
2024 | Case No. SM377 | Length 14 pgs.

When Markus Sieger was appointed CEO of Polpharma Group in 2016, he found himself at the helm of a company that would be deemed successful by virtually any metric. Polpharma Group included Poland’s leading pharmaceutical company and leading drug manufacturers in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It specialized in generic medicines, which it produced at seven vertically integrated factories within the region and marketed throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. With annual sales of around US$750 million, Polpharma Group was considered a pillar of the Polish and Kazakh health care systems.

But Sieger, who had been involved with Polpharma since its privatization in the year 2000 and a member of its Supervisory Board since 2013, possessed an insider’s perspective—and he knew the company could be even better. “At that point [2016] it was not really a modern company,” he said. “It was just extremely good in execution in these local markets.”

Polpharma, in Sieger’s view, had two major weaknesses. “First, it had an issue that it was not acting as a group,” he explained. “The second was in terms of how they work—it was very much old style in terms of decision-making, transparency, and empowerment, almost acting in silos.” Determined to see Polpharma reach its full potential, Sieger set out to transform it from the inside—a process that he knew would require a fundamental cultural shift. To make this happen, he changed the purpose, strategy, and values of the company and implemented an award-winning digitization strategy, which he then followed with a path-breaking innovation program.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to help students understand how companies use innovation programs to generate new business ideas and to transform their corporate cultures.
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