Ranjeet Ahluwalia: His values-based, data-driven decision

  • May 17, 2019
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 1 minute read

The silence on the conference call was deafening.

Seven years ago, when Ranjeet Ahluwalia, MBA 2005, 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.

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.

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.”

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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