Synergia Foundation's History

To help, contribute and influence public policy, private initiatives and international relations in making our region a better place for its present and future inhabitants.

- Tobby Simon

Biography of the Founder

Tobby Simon, the Founder & President, was born in Kerala. An accomplished sportsman, he completed Bachelor's Degree with distinction and Masters in Business Administration (University topper & Prime Ministers Special invitee). He then joined the pharmaceutical industry, in Mumbai. He was 27 years old, when he became Vice President of one of India's largest pharmaceutical groups. Tobby went on to become President of a French pharmaceutical conglomerate and was responsible for significant enhancement, in Asian operations. He subsequently provided strategic-consulting for some of the largest companies of the world in Aerospace, Energy, Critical Infrastructure and Pharmaceuticals.

He successfully co-invested in a pharmaceutical manafacturing company and helped them achieve both the US FDA and EU approval for its ophthalmic and injectable facility, one of the first such for a mid-sized Indian company.

In 2004, Tobby Simon proceeded on a sabbatical for higher education, with Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Genesis

The Year 1989 was significant, because the world witnessed cataclysmic changes in several places. Tobby Simon, then a 22-year-old, working in Mumbai, was exposed to trouble spots in the former USSR and Africa. He witnessed the collapse of Communism, in Eastern Europe, the dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa and closely followed the suppression of democratic protests at Tiananmen Square, Beijing.It was also the year that the former USSR withdrew from Afghanistan; beginning the decline and breakup of the former Superpower.

The impact of such tumultuous changes on society had a profound impact on Tobby. Amidst the passion of dismantling the Berlin Wall and the euphoric release of Nelson Mandela from prison, a larger question beckoned. Was there anything more worthy of human endeavour than being able to improve the lives of people, in the world? The African continent provided Tobby, the first such opportunity.

Providing relief to more than a continent

In 1990, Tobby had a chance meeting with Mr. Ahmed Kathrada, a prison mate of Nelson Mandela for 26 years. With Kathrada and other members of the African National Congress (ANC), Tobby developed a deeper understanding of Apartheid and challenges facing the South African people. He visited Shell House, the headquarters of the ANC and Soweto, the epicentre of the native uprising, to gain first hand understanding of the situation. One of the key challenges, he identified was the high cost of healthcare, especially for those afflicted with Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS. Such diseases that can acquire epidemic proportions has a long-term debilitating impact on the economies of countries.

In 1994, in collaboration with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Tobby embarked on a six-year project to validate supplies from three Indian pharmaceutical companies; and build a resilent chain of custody. As a result, anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines, at nearly 30% of the original cost became available for the people of Africa and rest of the world.

This pro-bono initiative, brought a break-through in AIDS treatment and is currently helping millions of afflicted patients all over the world.

While Synergia was engaged in building platforms to provide safe and affordable drugs, the Ministries of Health, in Francophone Africa, requested for assistance in treating a specific strain of Malaria. After four years of research, Synergia developed the complex-drug Quinine Resorcinol, which was made available in French-speaking Africa. Synergia is one of only two suppliers of the drug, in the world. Drug research, testing and development is a resource-intensive and complex subject, in which Synergia has had spectacular success.

Tobby made many visits to Moscow, and was moved by plight of victims suffering, particularly from second generation Tuberculosis. After the collapse of Communist central authority, public health services collapsed and patients were receiving very little medical treatment. Tobby was able to help build an affordable treatment model, for those infected with diseases, requiring long-term treatments.

The first paradigm in Synergia's learning, is that the world experiences transformational change, in fits and starts; seldom anticipated and more often governments and people are un-prepared.

Providing Human Security in Times of Calamity

In 1993, Tobby led the Foundation's assistance during the Lathur Earthquake, in Maharashtra. Assistance was provided to thousands of victims and by coordinating efforts with International Red Cross, significant contributions were made in reducing time and cost, in supply chain logistics.

The following year, the Foundation provided assistance during the conflict in Rwanda, giving succour to the victims & refugees of the civil war and genocide. In 1996, in the immediate aftermath of the Earthquake in Nazca, Synergia Foundation travelled to Peru in South America, to provide assistance to victims. Having intervene in more than 100 crisis situations , the Foundation gained practical expertise in understanding and mitigating different aspects of human security.

In 1998, the Foundation returned to Africa, this time to Sudan and a country ravaged by civil war.

To add to the woes of conflict, the country was experiencing severe drought with 250,000 people facing near starvation. This time, the Foundation provided sustenance at a time, when Khartoum had banned all international aid flights, into the country.

In Jan 2001, during the Gujarat earthquake, Synergia Foundation partnered with Médecins sans Frontières for the timely delivery of essential food, medicines, tents, doctors, during the early hours, after the quake. In 2004, when the Tsunami struck the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the Foundation collaborated with World Vision and was one of the first relief teams, to reach affected areas.

The second paradigm in Synergia's journey, was hands-on experiences in providing help, during times of calamity. Compassion, understanding and charity amongst human beings are the emotional bonds, required to make our world a better place.

In 2001, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers was followed by the suicide-bombing of the J&K Assembly. The narrative of security changed from territorial to human security, the threat vector changed from confrontation between armies to challenges posed by limited number of determined adversaries. In December, the same year, the Indian Parliament was attacked by terrorists, leading to the 10-month border face off, between India and Pakistan.

2001 was a landmark year in the history of terrorism and the world has since transformed. Faced with new challenges, in the provision of security to the home population, often from forces receiving complicit support from outside, the Foundation underwent further adaptations. The need to protect our values and way of life, underscored the importance of providing inclusive and comprehensive security, to human society.

The third paradigm also relates to security. A few deluded individuals can significantly disrupt the way we live. We need to protect ourselves from those who are on a self-destruct mode while ensuring to protect those who are susceptible. Security needs to be built from the '360-degree perspective' and eternal vigilance, is indeed the price of our freedom.