15 minutes with: Viju Vasishta

Viju Vasishta

By Viju Vasishta

Our experts are at the forefront of bringing ingenuity to life for our clients. They accelerate new growth ideas from concept, through design and development to commercial success. And they revitalise organisations with the leadership, culture, systems and processes to make innovation a reality.

In this series, you’ll meet some of the brilliant minds creating change every day.

Our experts are at the forefront of bringing ingenuity to life for our clients. They accelerate new growth ideas from concept, through design and development to commercial success. And they revitalise organisations with the leadership, culture, systems and processes to make innovation a reality.

In this series, you’ll meet some of the brilliant minds creating change every day.

Viju Vasishta
Viju Vasishta develops innovative products across industries from healthcare to food and beverages.

With a background in chemical engineering, Viju Vasishta combines deep technical knowledge with a personal approach to build strong relationships that drive clients’ projects forward towards shared success. Grounded in human connection, Viju focuses on innovations that answer clients’ calls for alternative solutions across industries from healthcare to food and beverages.

What is your professional background, and how did you come to PA?

I have a background in chemical engineering, and came from a previous career in pharmaceuticals. The reason I came to PA was to expand my skills and expertise across a wide range of sectors and get some consulting experience. I wanted to work in a space where I could use my knowledge of chemical engineering in a different sector, and that’s how I came to PA, where I’ve been for 11 years now.

How would you describe your job to someone you’ve never met?

I help companies to bring about innovation and grow their business in a new stream of work, developing new products which impact peoples’ day-to-day lives. I help our clients to either develop the product, or come up with ideas to develop such products.

What’s different about working at PA?

PA does a lot of different work in different sectors. One day, you might work on consumer products, and then on another day, on food packaging or contact lenses or pet food. It’s very broad and multifaceted, which you wouldn’t get from other companies which are very much segmented into categories. That’s really the beauty of working at PA. Also, the people are very unique. People from different sectors, with a range of expertise and skills, collaborate to solve problems across various different sectors. It’s synergistic.

I initially started my PA career in medical device development, drawing on my background in pharma and medtech. It was a nice surprise to see that there were opportunities in food and beverages, CPG, and other areas where I could apply my technical knowledge to solve problems. You don’t necessarily get that by working in particular industries. This motivated me to think about what else I could do with the knowledge I’d built from the pharma and medtech world, which has helped me to work on lots of different projects and bring insights from other sectors to have insightful conversations.

Viju Vasishta and colleagues

How has your work changed in recent years?

My work has changed from an operational role to more of a client management relationship, business development, relationship building, exploring new opportunities, and collaborating with various different parts of PA. I’ve shifted towards building a bigger cross-sector network spanning applied sciences and growth strategy. I also nurture younger talent to be more confident in owning projects, and give them opportunities do something different while also meeting their career aspirations.

Collaboration has massively increased, and this has been partly helped by the infusion of technology into working practices. We can have Teams calls with literally anybody across our global offices.

What’s the role of ingenuity in the work that you do?

Ingenuity for me is being creative about doing day-to-day work differently. It's also about being collaborative and being your natural self. I use the skills and experiences I’ve built over many years to identify particular companies or businesses which play to my strengths, and where I can connect on a personal level. If you can talk in a natural and authentic way, it builds peoples’ confidence in you. 

I also have a network of colleagues that I can bring in who can talk about specific areas of expertise. One of the key strengths of PA is that we can assemble a team with a very wide, diverse set of skills to address a client challenge.

What approach do you take in your interactions with clients?

My goal is to make human connections. As human beings, we need to be able to connect, and build relationships with other people with the right skills to help us. It’s about having an interesting conversation and discussing possibilities. When I set up an introductory call, I always include somebody from growth strategy at the very beginning, because we are then not just showing the technical side, but also the strategic side of PA. 

In these conversations, we look at the areas for the client to play in, and how to win. That then opens a much broader conversation about the growth areas, markets, and technology elements. Then it’s a natural conversation to bring in people and expertise. Some clients have opened up to me about their personal lives – they feel safe enough to talk to me, which they wouldn’t do if we didn’t have that human connection. 

At the end of the day, we are all humans, and we have to have some level of connection. If not, it just becomes transactional rather than relationship building.

Viju Vasishta and colleagues

What are you most excited about and inspired by in your areas of work right now?

For me, it’s green technology, from developing alternative packaging technology to reducing emissions in manufacturing processes.

We’re looking at things like carbon capture, for example, to reduce the carbon emissions, and exploring better ways to reduce the heating and cooling of manufacturing processes. Anything to do with green technology has a real buzz. I really love it.”

My primary focus area at the moment is finding alternative materials to some of the highest carbon emitting materials like glass, concrete, and steel. You can’t just switch from a glass to something else – it’s not feasible. So, how do we make the transition? What technologies are involved? What would the world look like if everything changed from glass to dry molded fiber, invented by PulPac, the developer of an innovative production method that replaces single-use plastic at a lower cost?

We work with clients to help them envision that world and work towards their decarbonisation pathways. As a chemical engineer, I’ve built up my knowledge and experience working on 30 to 40 projects to develop sustainable materials, drive decarbonisation, and more. And, as it’s an area of need for our clients, it’s a perfect marriage.

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

We developed a novel, disruptive technology for a big food and beverage company to disrupt the tea market. It’s a 100 percent dissolvable tea product. You just add hot water and it completely dissolves. This will revolutionise the tea industry, which is currently dominated by teabags. It’s going to be commercialised soon, following pilot trials in France and Germany.

Another example is a new heating application which doesn’t require you to light a fire or use gas. It’s completely chemistry based – you produce a reaction to heat a product, making it less resource-intensive.

I’m also excited about our strategic collaboration with Kemira with the aim of accelerating the development of a new renewable coating technology for more sustainable food packaging.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow a similar career path?

Build up your knowledge and experience – there’s no other way of learning. You have to do this in order to learn. There isn’t really a shortcut; you have to be hands on in your early career to work on interesting projects where you can develop, and also learn the challenges and pitfalls of different kinds of projects. Work in areas you really have a passion for. When I’m really passionate about certain things, I really go after them. Passion is really important, and will take you much further.

What are your future goals?

Professionally, my aim is to grow our business in the chemical space and partner with some of the biggest chemical companies on green technologies, and find areas where PA really adds value in terms of knowledge and expertise in new product development. Every week, I aim to talk to at least two new people, whether it’s a PA person or an external contact. I try to keep it external as much as possible.

Personally, my family is the most important thing, so I’m actively focusing on my work and home life balance so I can spend more time with them. Health and wellbeing is super important to me, too. I try to go for a run at least twice or thrice a week, and eat well. One of my personal goals this year is to do more outdoor activities. I do a lot of running and badminton, but I’d like to explore other sports.

And finally, what are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to building more relationships. Relationship building is really important, and I really enjoy it. I’m also excited to be a speaker at the Sustainability Conference in Europe. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to enjoying the summer with my children.

About the authors

Viju Vasishta
Viju Vasishta PA sustainable materials expert

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