Fariha Revels In GSK’s Mission

AS a leader in its field, global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has provided a platform for many employees to realise their talents. Fariha Salahuddin is one such person, a woman who has risen to the top in her field. Fariha is a Human Resources Director for the company living and working in Pakistan. Her story is inspirational and it is fascinating to get a woman’s perception about what it’s like to work in unstable, socio-political conditions. She also talks about the misconceptions people have about Pakistan. Fariha has kindly allowed us to reproduce this article about her from the GSK website and we thank her and her company for this.

‘There is never a dull moment in my life. Every day I wake up knowing that there will be an exciting new challenge for me at work. And I know that I have been empowered by GSK to tackle that challenge, and therefore to play my part in building a successful, sustainable business.’

These are words that could have been spoken by any number of employees across the Emerging Markets Region. But they have particular resonance given that they come from Fariha Salahuddin, Human Resources Director for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, whose individual challenges are perhaps greater than most.

On the one hand, Fariha needs to make sure that her activities are aligned with GSK Pakistan’s aggressive growth agenda. On the other, she must operate in a complex business environment where unstable socio-political conditions, the war on terror, and almost daily threats to personal safety are also key concerns.

While Fariha is busy developing and implementing human resource strategies aligned with business needs, therefore, at the same time she has to help meet the basic security needs of employees.

‘Outsiders are often surprised by the resilience and strength of spirit of people in this part of the world,’ she says. ‘These qualities have helped GSK become industry leader in Pakistan, and contributed significantly to the prestigious awards we have received, such as Best Place to Work in Pakistan among all corporates and Employer of Choice within the pharmaceutical industry.’

Fariha admits, however, that she doesn’t really appreciate the organisation’s spirit and resilience until she steps outside Pakistan. And that is why a recent opportunity to attend a programme on Sustainable Human Resource Enterprise at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) centre in Italy proved such a valuable experience.

She received a fellowship from the ILO to represent the Employers Federation of Pakistan at the event, which aimed to give those taking part an insight into the modern concepts and practices in human resource management and workplace practices that can raise productivity and improve enterprise performance.

‘I had the chance to interact with fellow professionals from other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa – heads of HR, union leaders, government representatives and so on,’ she says. ‘While they all recognised GSK as a company that had good values and management practices, many of them couldn’t believe I lived in Pakistan and was still so positive. It took me a while to explain that, besides terrorism, we are also known for scrumptious food, good cricket, a rich culture, fantastic scenery and high quality talent!

‘Some of them also wanted to talk about gender equality, asking if I felt “liberated” to be there on my own. I told them that nothing was different, and that I was fortunate enough to work for an organisation where the only criteria for progression is merit:  each talent gets the opportunity to flourish and grow.

‘I got back home with a real sense of accomplishment. Besides learning a lot on the programme I was able to clarify some of the misconceptions about my country and, at the same time, highlight the best practices of my company.’

At the ILO programme, sustainability was defined as a company’s ability to achieve its business goals and increase long-term shareholder value by integrating economic, environmental and social opportunities into its business strategies, Fariha explains. Participants were taken through the areas in which HR can make a contribution to support human capital for the sustainability of the organisation.

‘At its heart, sustainability is an issue requiring organisational and cultural change,’ she says. ‘Areas in which HR professionals can potentially make a strong contribution are in organisation development, especially for their facilitation and conflict management skills, change management, culture change, and alignment of human resource and other systems and processes.

‘In my view, empowerment also plays an integral role in creating a sustainable organisation. To me it means doing the right thing with the right intention. It also means being responsible and accountable. And it means constantly upgrading yourself so that you are prepared to face the challenges with minimal support.’


  • mary

    Wow, that's quite an article and absolutely inspiring too. It's great to know that Fariha has made sure misconceptions of Pakistan have been overcome and she is able to get across the wonderful things that she enjoys about living in what is perceived to be a dangerous country. Integrating economic, environmental and social opportunities into business strategy sounds very grand and she appears to be the type of woman who can make it happen. It's great that a woman can do so well in the business world and I'm sure can make a difference out there. It must be so rewarding to do that and be in a job that allows you to do that. Another place I would be fascinated to see first hand would be South Africa. There is a real cultural divide when you see some of the football stadiums that will just be white elephants when the World Cup leaves. It's a sad situation when you have people unable to feed themselves while living in the shadow of a major soccer stadium that is unlikely to be used again.

  • mark

    There are many misconceptions in Pakistan and the fact that such a high-profile person has come out and said what a great country it is is great to read.I have visited the country and found it to be warm and friendly and exactly how Fariha describes. Not every country is as it is described on the tin. You have to delve deeper into the soul of that nation and explore beneath the surface.I like the way Fariha talks about everyday life and the food etc as something she enjoys. And why shouldn't she? There are some aspects of living in England that are unsavoury and that is the way life is.

  • Fariha Salahuddin

    Thanks Mark and Mary – Agree with you there are always two sides to a story. These days the media has taken over lives so rather than experiencing life ourselves we tend to believe everything we see, which may or may not be true. Although I do believe Pakistan's main problem is education and if we are to fight terrorism then we should just focus on improving the education level of masses. Otherwise there is a lot of energy we just need to channelize. Hope you visit Pakistan again:) Fariha

  • Dan1

    I like the fact that there are people out there doing their bit to make sure their country is looked at in a positive light despite the view in other parts of the world.I believe these sorts of articles are much needed to give expression to the people making a difference. Okay seh's in business and it's her job. It's still a good message though and one which should be shared.

  • Jake

    Great to hear those views and it Pakistan should be viewed liek any other country, one that has potential but problems like any other.I like the fact there are people out there trying to make things better and that makes me pleased about the overall impact that can have on world peace.

  • Mary

    As a woman I stress that it is such a bold move for Fariha to come out and express her views this way. It is very refreshing.

  • Paul

    Love teh article and what a woman fariha is. Working for big comapnies can have its benefits and she is utilising hers to the full.

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