The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.
The silence on the conference call was deafening. Seven years ago, when Ranjeet Ahluwalia, MBA ’05, was a healthcare advertising agency strategist, the team dialed in with notable physician thought leaders seeking to sell an Alzheimer’s treatment. Ahluwalia’s agency hoped to score a contract worth as much as $20 million.
Before the call, the agency pored through data about the drug, seeking information they could use to make a compelling case for the new medication. Somehow, for Ahluwalia, now founder and lead sparker at Silbospark, the clinical data just wasn’t adding up.
On the conference call, he asked a physician expert to help him “find the story” in the data that would help sell the drug. That prompted an independent pharmaceutical expert on the call to ask, “Based on what you see here, would you give this drug to your mother?”
Ahluwalia’s firm didn’t get the contract. In fact, the drug never went to market.
“Ultimately, we had to decide whether to tell them what they wanted to hear or what they needed to hear,” Ahluwalia said. “We told them what they needed to hear—and we didn’t win the business.”