“Turkey is a huge, dynamic and interesting market for the pharmaceutical industry”
Interview with Marc Spijker
He studied law and history at Leiden University in the Netherlands. And with his brother he owns a pub in that city. But his business card says ‘Marketing Director’ at Astellas Pharma İlaç Ticaret ve Sanayi A.Ş, a multinational company manufacturing, marketing and distributing pharmaceuticals. How does a guy who studied rules and guidelines to govern behavior and is passionate about eras and people from times long ago, get into the marketing business of a Japanese company in Turkey?
Yes, first he worked in his profession as a legal counsel at the Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical company in the Netherlands. Before that Spijker was employed at the Ministry of Agriculture. And he was the company lawyer in Lisse at the ‘Coöperatieve Nederlandse Bloembollencentrale’ (CNB), the world’s largest mediator in bulbs, tubers and perennials. But marketing and a business oriented life run deeper in his veins. If you look into his genes you know where it comes from. Both of his grandfathers were entrepreneurs; one had a milk factory, the other was a jeweler. And his father had a shop selling eyewear and sunglasses. So with hindsight you can say that Spijker ultimately would step in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers. And he did. As a marketing director!
Astellas Pharma was established in April 2005 when Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical and Fujisawa Pharmaceutical decided to become one company. Marc Spijker was employed at the first company since 2000. Worldwide the company employs about 17,000 people. It has a strong base in Europe because before they merged each of the partners made an acquisition in Western Europe. Yamanouchi established an R&D center in Leiderdorp (Netherlands) with the acquisition of the pharmaceutical division of Royal Gist Brocades in 1991. Fujisawa merged in 2002 with Klinge Pharma GmbH in Munich, Germany.
“Urology, dermatology, oncology and innovative therapies preventing organ rejection after transplantation are the main franchise areas of Astellas Pharma”, Spijker explains. Priority areas for R&D are infectious diseases, oncology, and transplantation.
Astellas, with its headquarters in Tokyo, has a proven track record in urology and a portfolio of medicines, including treatments for overactive bladder syndrome (OAB), a condition that can cause urinary incontinence affecting around 17% of people in Europe. Spijker: “As a global leader in urology, we have a rich pipeline of new medicines”.
Many skin conditions can have adverse effects on almost every aspect of a sufferer’s life, as well as that of their family and friends. Problems such as atopic eczema and acne can have an impact on the quality of life and can lead to social isolation, sleep deprivation and low self-esteem. To improve the lives of patients with skin problems, Astellas developed treatments for a range of dermatological conditions.
Organ transplantations are increasing every year, saving the lives of more and more patients. In the European Union alone more than 30,000 transplants annually take place. “Our company has developed therapies preventing organ rejection after transplants of heart, liver and kidney”, says Spijker.
As marketing director he started in 2008 with another Dutch guy and an Italian colleague a new company for Astellas in Turkey. “We have increased our staff from 3 to more than 110 employees in five years”, he proudly says. “In Turkey we have no production. We have four products on the market here, related to urology, oncology, dermatology and transplantation; the focus areas of our company.”
Why Turkey? “Turkey is a huge, dynamic and fast growing market for the pharmaceutical industry”, Spijker says. “The population is getting older. The quality and quantity of health care is increasing. In turnover it is the sixth biggest market in Europe at the moment. If you look at the population it is with 76 million people the 3rd biggest market in Europe. Russia is number one with 125 million and Germany number two with 83 million.”
There is another reason why Astellas came to Turkey in 2008, Spijker says. “Turkey is an international hub as well. It is strategically located for export to Turkic countries in Central Asia, to Russia, the Balkans, and to the Middle East. This is definitely the place to be for companies like ours”.
Year of birth: 1963
Place of residence: Istinye
Education: Law and History
Hobbies: Sailing, football and travelling
Favorite place in Istanbul: Roof terrace of Seven Hills Hotel in the Old City (near the Four Seasons hotel). One can see the Bosporus, See of Marmara, Blue Mosque, Haghia Sofia from that rooftop. It is also nice to hear the call to prayer from several mosques at the same time from different directions. The food is not superb, however the view is fantastic. I love to come back there rain or shine.
Favorite restaurant in Istanbul: Istanbul has many nice restaurants. My favorites are the ones at the Bosporus or on the highest floor of buildings with a view over Istanbul. Restaurant ‘Balık ve rakı’ or ‘Ocakbaşı’ are also great to fun to go to with friends.
My top three of Do’s while doing business in Turkey:
- Respect the Turkish culture and people. Turks are very friendly (helpful) and very proud.
- Due to the fast growing economy of Turkey rules are changing very fast and are sometimes open for interpretation. Therefore do not take things for granted, but check always with the relevant specialists.
- Get a good team of Turkish people; you can’t do everything by yourself.
Published on the site of the Dutch Business Association in Turkey