Medicine Woman

Samina Vaziralli, who quit her job to be a homemaker, finds herself running the Rs 14,630 crore Cipla.
P. B. Jayakumar   New Delhi     Print Edition: October 8, 2017
Medicine Woman
SAMINA VAZIRALLI Executive Vice Chairman, Cipla (Photo: Rachit Goswami)

In 2005, Samina Vaziralli, after working with Goldman Sachs in London and later in New York, moved back to India to completely focus on her family life and her two sons. She had joined Goldman Sachs after doing her masters in international finance from the London School of Economics.

In 2011, her uncle, the Chairman and Managing Director, Dr.Y.K.Hamied, and her father and Vice Chairman, M. K. Hamied, were thinking about impending retirement. The Hamieds wanted to create a "new" Cipla, professionally managed but also to retain the 75-year-old family legacy. Samina was asked to join the company and work with consultancy firm McKinsey & Company to devise a transformation strategy.

Besides, she was entrusted with the job of spearheading new ventures. A couple of years later, Samina joined the Board and in September last year, she was elevated as Vice Chairman, as both the senior Hamieds moved to non-executive roles."The biggest challenge before me was to map our future strategy and implement the transformation," says Vaziralli. Unlike other fast-growing drug companies in India, Cipla was predominantly a supplier to other pharmaceutical companies with licensing arrangements and strong hold in the domestic market. Vaziralli and her team decided to internationalise with direct marketing front ends in various geographies to increase margins and de-risk the business.

Unlike in the past 81 years, Cipla also resorted to acquisitions. "We managed a quick entry in the US through the acquisition of InvaGen and Exelan Pharmaceuticals (for $550 million)", says the 41-year-old soft-spoken executive.

Vaziralli says another strategy involved hiring and retaining quality talent having good knowledge of generic molecules and professional business heads. Of the 12 members on the board of Cipla, four are women. Cipla brought in senior industry executives such as Umang Vora, who is now the managing director and global CEO, and set up a six-member management council. She is also driving a different Cipla strategy, picking markets of focus while trimming a low contributing long tail.

"Another challenge was to ensure Cipla's high manufacturing quality standards in the face of growing regulatory and compliance standards. We have kept our flag flying high and this will always be our non-negotiable commitment to our patients", she says. The results are showing. Total income rose 6 per cent to Rs14,630 crore in 2016/17, with a profit after tax of Rs1,006 crore. The Indian market contributes 38 per cent to revenues, North America 18 per cent, South Africa 12 per cent and emerging markets 22 per cent. Net debt has come down from Rs3,738 crore in 2015/16 to Rs2,651 crore in 2016/17. The US business grew 21 per cent to $392 million, thanks to a record 32 filings last year.

She is good at juggling the various roles. "Work-life balance is part of life and I am blessed with a great support system in my family and friends," she says," Growth in the US, India, South Africa and emerging markets, focus on R&D, maintaining manufacturing standards and improving margins are her immediate priority, she says. With her, Cipla seems to have taken a giant step into the future.

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