Why Isn’t Pharma Getting Impatient for Results? Can Pharma Grow Exponentially – Not Incrementally


Only last evening I was speaking to a close friend of mine, Nandan. Nandan is based out in Bangalore and in the IT industry, working with Accenture. 

I was boasting about the growth of the pharma industry in Bangladesh and India and how pharma growth has come back to double figures of 15%.

Nandan gave a haughty laugh and said: “The problem Vivek,” he said “was pharma people have a fixed mindset. You think only incrementally and not exponentially! Tell your students and mentees to dump their incremental mindset into the Indian Ocean and develop the exponential mindset if pharma doesn’t want to be extinct. And before that Vivek, you do it first. I am tired of your singing praises of the pharma industry. The Google’s, the Amazon’s, and their likes are waiting there in the corner to make your pharma a dinosaur and Vivek, even you haven’t realized that!”

Nandan continued his tirade, “You are still teaching your students the ‘S’ shaped ‘Innovation-Diffusion Model’”.

“Tell them the ‘S’ shape is fast becoming ‘I’-shaped, almost a vertical line. Read this essay ‘Technology Adoption’ by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (1) and you will understand what I say. This visualization details in this essay show the rates of diffusion and adoption of a range of technologies in the United States, measured as the percentage of US households with access or adoption over time. Specific definitions of what constitutes ‘adoption’ or ‘diffusion’ of each technology can be found in the ‘Sources’ tab of the chart. And I don’t think this data would be much different than in Bangladesh or India where we are already living in the ‘SoLoMo’ World and have a ‘SoLoMo Mindset’. But its only people like you Vivek who are gratified with a 1.15X growth when you have to think 15X. And you mislead students that a 15% growth is a ‘great growth’?”

Boy, was that a solid slap on my face? No! It was a hard knock. I couldn’t sleep after the hard knock. I accepted it with humility. And I woke up at 3.00 am to write this piece.

Readers, please see this visualization of the ‘Innovation-Diffusion Model’ I spoke about earlier from 1860 to 2019. The landline phone has the typical ‘S’ shape while the smartphone usage is almost an italic ‘I’ shape. That’s because our populace is thinking exponentially, whereas pharma isn’t able to get over the comfortable ‘Incremental Mindset’.

How do you create that ‘Exponential Mindset’? Writes Mark Bonchek in HBR, “To create exponential value, it’s imperative to first create an exponential mindset. The incremental mindset focuses on making something better, while the exponential mindset is making something different. Incremental is satisfied with 10%. Exponential is out for 10X.” (2)

“Incremental thinking delivers steady results; exponential thinking generates results that accelerate over time!”

While Everette Roger of the ‘Innovation-Diffusion Model’ fame posits that diffusion consists of innovation itself, the communication channels, time and the social contagion, today the self-sustaining innovations in digital and phygital are being widely adopted.

Writes Vivek Wadhwa in his book ‘FROM INCREMENTAL TO EXPONENTIAL’: “The acceleration in the adoption of newer technologies is evidence of second-order disruption arising from the breakthrough technologies and innovation. With multiple fast-moving (exponentially advancing) development and improvement, technologies merge to one product class, the result is even faster improvement and development.” (3)

So while India enters the 73rd year of becoming a Republic, as a tribute to Bharat Mata, the greatest nation on Mother Earth, can we all shift from the ‘Incremental Mindset’ to the ‘Exponential Mindset’.

If we grow at 15X can you imagine the job opportunities we would be creating in pharma? Unlearn the familiar and the comfortable way of thinking. That’s the greatest contribution to our nation!  Reiterates Mark Boncheck: “with a shift from the incremental to exponential mindset comes the opportunity for real innovation.”


  1. Ritchie H, and Roser M. (2020). TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION IN US HOUSEHOLDS. Available on: https://ourworldindata.org/technology-adoption. Accessed on 26 Jan 2022
  2. Bonchek M. (2016). HOW TO CREATE AN EXPONENTIAL MINDSET. Harvard Business School; Harvard Business Publishing, Harvard
  3. Wadhwa V, Ama I, Salkever A.(2020). FROM INCREMENTAL TO EXPONENTIAL. Harper Businees; Thomson Press India Ltd. New Delhi

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Vivek Hattangadi – Chief Mentor at
PharmaState & The Enablers

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