The Acquisitive Instinct

Lupin's Vinita Gupta feels her decisions have not gone wrong on most occasions.
P.B. Jayakumar        Print Edition: September 27, 2015
Action Point: Vinita Gupta, 47, CEO, Lupin, is focused and passionate
Action Point: Vinita Gupta, 47, CEO, Lupin, is focused and passionate (Photo: Rachit Goswami)

The Lupin CEO's infectious enthusiasm has taken the third-largest Indian drug company to a new level. Today, it is the only Asian company to figure in the list of top 10 largest and fastest-growing companies (by prescriptions) in the US, according to IMS Health, which tracks drug sales globally.

The eldest of Lupin founder and Chairman D.B. Gupta's five children, she graduated in pharmacy from the University of Mumbai, and later earned her MBA degree from J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. After almost a decade as Lupin's global business head for US-Europe and other western markets, and as the mergers and acquisition head, Vinita, 47, has an impressive scorecard.

In 2005, when she moved to the US to take charge of the US and European business, it contributed barely below 5 per cent of Lupin's overall revenues of $270 million. Today, the US division alone contributes 45 per cent of the company's Rs 12,770-crore turnover. The US business grew 16 per cent to Rs 5,657 crore in 2014/15, backed by 12 new product launches during the year. Currently, out of the companys 77 products in the US, 31 are market leaders.

Vinita travels a lot to monitor the pharmaceuticals markets across Europe, Latin America, Africa and West Asia, and is aggressive with her direct marketing initiatives and brand acquisitions.

This year alone, Lupin has acquired five companies in South Africa, Russia, the US, Germany and Brazil. The acquisition of Gavis in the US for $880 million in July will be a big boost for the company's future. "Gavis has some 66 products pending for approval and another 65 products under development," says Vinita, adding that the acquisition helped Lupin to have its first manufacturing facility in the US.

Under Vinita's leadership, Lupin has acquired specialty products of Temmler Pharma in Germany, and Goanna brand premium therapeutic oils, rubs and ointments in Australia. Besides, she has played an important role in globalising Lupin, with a dozen acquisitions in the past decade to create marketing front ends in various geographies such as Pharma Dynamics in South Africa, Multicare Pharma in Philippines, Nanomi in Netherlands, Grin SA De CV in Mexico, Medquimica in Brazil and Biocom in Russia.

Lupin's anti-infective Suprax (cefixime), which commands a market size of $100 million, for example, is one of the fastest growing products in the US drug market. It also marked Lupin's entry into the US market for branded finished products and created a specialty pediatric sales force under the US subsidiary Lupin Pharmaceuticals Inc. In 2009, Lupin acquired the US rights for Antara, the cholesterol-lowering medication from Oscient Pharmaceuticals, which was facing bankruptcy, for Rs 185 crore. Today, different versions of Antara generate over $60 million to $65 million annually, despite generic competition in recent months from companies such as Mylan.

"Gavis acquisition offers complementary synergies (first US manufacturing plant, controlled substances and derma capabilities) and the business expects to contribute $300 million to Lupin's US revenues by 2017/18," say Edelweiss analysts Anshuman Gupta and Rahul Solanki.

"I know Vinita since I joined the strategic advisory board of Lupin. I have been impressed by her strategic capabilities and the clarity of vision. I was similarly impressed by her executional capabilities, which turned into fast and effective execution of the decisions taken.More than that, she is people and team oriented, and creates an inclusive environment, where people are heard and are involved in setting the strategy and effectively implementing it," says Francesco Granata, Senior Advisor at Warburg Pincus.

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Vinita is clear in her thoughts, takes speedy decisions and is aggressive. She is evaluated like any other professional working in Lupin

Kamal Sharma

Vice Chairman, Lupin

Vinita is also impeccable when it comes to work-life balance, making sure her 10-year-old son Krish gets all the attention he needs. "My husband is quite supportive," she says. Vinita says she interacts every day with her younger brother and Lupin's Managing Director Nilesh to discuss business developments and strategies. "We don't differ much on ideas and agree nine out of ten times. If he does, I think over it again and again to correct." The feelings are mutual. "Vinita is very supportive, works hard and shows a lot of passion in work," says Nilesh. Vinita feels her decisions have not gone wrong on most occasions. The toughest part of the job, she says, has been to give convincing answers to her father on business decisions, especially when it came to acquisitions and major investments. "Both Vinita and Nilesh are clear in their thoughts, take speedy decisions and are aggressive. They are also evaluated like any other professional working in Lupin," says Kamal Sharma, their mentor and Vice Chairman of Lupin.

The company is also transforming from a predominantly generic company to a branded generics, specialty and complex generics-focused company. The target is to become a $5 billion turnover company by 2018. "Lupin has the capability to launch 100-120 products in the US over the next three years. Its aspirational target of $3.75 billion to $4 billion in organic revenues for FY18 is achievable," say Ambit analysts Aditya Khemka and Paresh Dave. And, Vinita is confident of achieving the target.

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