“My vision is to bring social transformation through dynamic education research and innovative healthcare startups”
A professor, an ace research scientist and an entrepreneur, winner of several prestigious international awards, accolades and fellowships, Prof Dr Harvinder Popli is a name to reckon with in the pharmaceutical industry and in the academic world. She speaks with Consulting Editor (Business and Commerce) Yogesh Sood
You’ve a remarkable string of achievements in the pharmaceutical industry and in academics. Please share your family background and what inspired you to choose pharmacy as a career…
I was born and raised in the northern part of India in Himachal Pradesh, surrounded by the mountains. I sure was a dreamer always looking to achieve new heights! My father encouraged me to pursue pharmacy as a career even though he was an engineer himself. He thought that the field of engineering was not as open to women as pharmacy was. My father connected me to a few people working in the pharma industry. After talking to people working in this industry, I was thoroughly intrigued by the field of pharmacy and hence I decided to join the College of Pharmacy, New Delhi. My passion and love for the field helped me secure first position throughout the period of my under-graduation.
What motivated you to do a PhD and pursue a career in academics?
Soon after embarking on my post-graduation journey, I got married to Kuljit who was working at a leading PSU at that time. At the age of 23 years, I was blessed with a son! I was offered a position of a Research Associate with a leading pharmaceutical company in Delhi. Given that I had to raise my child at that time, I couldn’t work full time. One of my relatives recommended going for a PhD with the renowned Professor S N Sharma at Hamdard College of Pharmacy. When I approached him, he seemed reluctant at first and was unsure if I would be able to commit to the time required for research, considering I was also bringing up my young son at that time. However, after seeing my academic records, he took a chance on me.
The journey of pursuing my PhD was a turning point in my life where I got an opportunity to present globally and network with industry peers. I have done my research work in collaboration with Shriram Polymer Group, AIIMS, ICMR, and also used the facilities of Delhi University, IIT Delhi, National Physical Laboratories, and others. My husband was posted in Canada for about a year when I got an opportunity to interact with the Toronto University and the Saskatoon University through my Mentor Professor S N Sharma.
I submitted my Doctorate thesis and applied for a UPSC position for Lecturer at the College of Pharmacy run by the Delhi Government, from where I graduated. I was fortunate enough to be selected immediately after the PhD degree.
What has been the turning point in your life?
I have always been very ambitious and like to go the extra mile. I applied for minor projects of UGC, AIICT and saw a big queue outside UGC. I found out that interviews were going for Commonwealth Fellowship in the UK wherein they give 20 fellowships across the country, covering all the subjects. My husband encouraged me to apply for the fellowship. As luck would have it, I was selected for the fellowship which proved to be yet another turning point in my life.