Building confidence in a brave and shrewd start-up


Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice Team

Building confidence in a brave and shrewd start-up
June 16, 2022
3 minutes

How do you convince top talent to leave an established company for a startup in early stages

Executive summary

Our story takes us to Malaysia and the pharmaceutical industry, a country and industry seldom mentioned in the same sentence but this only serves to display the trailblazing nature of our client, Oncogen and Novugen, who shrewdly established this part of their business in Malaysia and sought the assistance of Kestria to build on their commercial talent pool.

About the client  

global pharmaceutical company divided into two brands due to the broad scope of its activity in both general medicine and oncology. The company vision is to accelerate high quality affordable medicine being provided to the world though a global-minded strategy, synergistic approach and wealth of experience.

Having set up in Malaysia 6 years ago, the company has invested over 200 million US dollars in Malaysia to set up their vertically integrated  R&D center, manufacturing facilities and their commercial operations. This unique combination of activity makes the company the first global of its kind in Malaysia as well as the first company in South East Asia to be vertically integrated. The company has seen some amazing growth since its establishment, having already moved into the US where they continue to hire.

Encouraging an appetite for the start-up atmosphere  

Our task in this case was not just a simple recruitment transaction but very much involved profiling of the company to promote visibility on their product, brand and vision to inspire people to want to join the team. 

The nature of a start-up is not for everyone so finding people who are talented and thrive in this environment and were willing to make a bold move was key.


Dealing with the uncertainity

Getting engagement in a start-up is always more challenging, and in this case the additional mixed background of the company with the headquarters in UAE and presence in over 30 countries worldwide. This was confounded by the challenge of being competitive for talents against other global brands in terms of providing a company setup and culture not typically involved in the pharma industry


The “why should I” contention 

The pharmaceutical industry has a myriad of highly established companies holding the top talent, so motivating people to leave a more established company to join a start-up had to be managed with certain skill, especially given that the very nature of a start-up is the need to build a lot of not-yet-existing processes and systems from the ground up.

Leveraging connections and tenure 

Oncogen's and Novugen’s partnership with Kestria Malaysia was born of their struggle to obtain the best talents for commercial roles as well as understanding organizational needs. The timing and ask in this case was fortuitous for Kestria, in particular given the fact that we had previous experience with the HR manager of the company at that time in recruiting for senior leadership roles. Once we connected with the company leadership, we presented the talent landscape of Malaysia to the client as well as the overview and optimal structure to prepare for commercialization and long-term sustainability for these roles. We also advised on the clarity of roles, competencies and behaviours for delivery of business objectives. To date we have placed the following positions:


Business unit director in charge of sales and marketing 


VP of Finance for the entire business strategy and finance operation


Senior Product Manager

At the end of the day, it's always about good communication and understanding

Leveraging the unique setting of a global company was the basis of our branding the business in Malaysia and getting the word out to the top talents and the appropriate medical community. An important part of our outward communication was the fact that the company is endorsed by by MIDA – the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, which has supported the organisation in terms of grants, and other benefits for bringing investments, a global vertically integrated R&D function and development of local talent to become a game changer in the global Pharmaceutical industry.  The company was also  the first in Malaysia to gain US FDA approval of a product, amongst a large pipeline of products to be exported to the USA and Europe market from Malaysia. This boosts its legitimacy in the eyes of potential employees.

Kestria’s tenure in the industry in question along with our deep knowledge of the talent landscape and previous start-up experience as well as the candidate relationships built up in our network helped us to gain footing quickly and pitch effectively and successfully. Our consistent close contact with the company CEO also helped to maintain clarity throughout the search process and showed the client how reliable, transparent and dedicated a partner Kestria Malaysia is.

Manish Mehta
Kestria Malaysia

Our clients benefit from our healthcare expertise that we have been building for twenty years. So we know the talent landscape and the market very well. We know the movers and shakers for each of the roles. We have worked with startups in the past so we also know what our challenges the startups work.

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