Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Laxmi Bonagiri, vice president, India operations at eClinical Solutions, strongly believes “promoting and empowering female leaders drives greater success and innovation across all sectors in every industry.”
Bonagiri is putting her beliefs into action and takes great pride that within the technology-driven organization, more than 50% of the employees in the Bengaluru office are women. Within the company, she is credited for building a supportive work environment for women and ensuring all employees are treated equally from compensation to recognition to job responsibilities.
For her efforts to create change for women underrepresented in leadership, she was honored in 2019 with the “Woman Icon of the Year” award at the Women Empowerment Summit and Great Indian Women Leader Awards (GIWL) hosted by UBS Forum.
“This recognition is close to my heart as a woman because of my strong belief in women empowerment and gender neutrality,” she says. “The award is recognition of my struggle and efforts to grow to the position I am in today.”
When she joined eClinical Solutions nearly eight years ago, she brought two decades of expertise in engineering, operations and project management, which she immediately put into effect to help scale the company’s digital clinical software and services worldwide.
“My passion for working in the life sciences industry has only become stronger over the past few years,” she says. “We know that our forward progress as an industry helps bring new treatments to patients faster and is saving millions of lives all over the world. Serving and contributing to the community has always been a desire since my childhood.”
“All of an organization’s business models, strategies and policies should revolve around employee well-being if it wants to maximize growth.”
Vice president, India operations, eClinical Solutions
One of her nominators notes that beyond Bonagiri’s tenacity, dedication and work ethic, which continually inspire colleagues and eClinical’s leadership, she is revered for helping others grow in their roles and careers, which often means creating visibility for team members’ successes. This team-champion leadership quality is described as one of Bonagiri’s greatest strengths.
“At eClinical Solutions, we believe in cultivating the talents of our existing team and make it a priority to provide opportunities for personal and professional development,” she says. “We make it a focus to enable paths for growth. From an operations perspective, the hiring environment and competition for talent is a key area of impact. As we scale our operations it becomes even more critical to maintain our focus on team retention and success.”
Here, Bonagiri talks about the biggest opportunities she sees for clinical trials, her leadership style, keys to career success, and how she’s paying it forward.
PharmaVoice: What is your blue ocean for clinical trials?
Laxmi Bonagiri: Clinical trials are highly process-driven and often still involve too much manual effort by highly qualified professionals. This contributes to overall timeline delays and hinders teams from working as efficiently and strategically as they would like. The biggest opportunity before us today is transforming clinical trials through digital data flows, automation, and AI/ML to make the process side of development more efficient and less time consuming. Ultimately, this will create better experiences for all data stakeholders and streamline clinical development so we can bring new treatments to patients faster.
How would you describe your leadership style?
In managing operations before and throughout the pandemic, I've developed and refined my skills in building, leading, engaging and managing large teams through all scenarios. Guiding our team through the disruption of the pandemic honed my ability to handle and adapt to challenging situations. I'm more aware of the depth of my capabilities to lead through change and unknowns.
In today’s fast-moving world, I believe in developing operational processes that are simple, sustainable and measurable. I prioritize collaboration across teams and functions because I believe those connections help teams work productively and flexibly. At the same time, the execution strategy changes as an organization grows. As our organization in India has grown, I've encouraged teams to dive deep into their areas of expertise so that we are maximizing the unique skills of each individual.
What is your key leadership advice?
I believe leaders should shift their focus from the organization to the employees. Taking an organization to the next level depends on a solid foundation. It's important to maintain the focus on work-life balance while preparing for future growth. All of an organization’s business models, strategies and policies should revolve around employee well-being if it wants to maximize growth.
How are you paying your success forward?
In my journey at eClinical Solutions, my focus has been building a sustainable leadership team to take our organization to the next level. This mindset cascades to teams as well, helping spark leadership at all levels. My hope is that we can inspire leaders throughout the company so that every role is rewarding and fulfilling. A key component of our 'people-first' culture is providing a path for each individual to be challenged, encouraged and celebrated.