Business Today

Digging Deep

At a time when Big Pharma is desperate for blockbuster breakthroughs and viable business strategies, one Indian firm is basking in the knowledge that its leadership baton will be passing into younger hands.
P. B. Jayakumar   Delhi     Print Edition: May 21, 2017
Digging Deep
Photo: Shailesh Ravel

Company: Zydus Cadila

Designation: Joint Managing Director, Zydus Cadila; Chairman, Zydus Wellness

Age: 38

At a time when Big Pharma is desperate for blockbuster breakthroughs and viable business strategies, one Indian firm is basking in the knowledge that its leadership baton will be passing into younger hands. Be it delving deep into pharmaceutical research or urging the marketing teams to get more patient-centric, chalking out business strategies or brainstorming to transform the quality of culture across the manufacturing sites, Sharvil Patel is always in the thick of action at Zydus Cadila, India's fourth largest drug company.

Perhaps it is all in his genes. Born into a family of pharmaceutical scientists and innovation enthusiasts, Sharvil is the third-generation scientist-entrepreneur, much like his father and mentor Pankaj Patel, the group's chairman and managing director, and his grandfather Ramanbhai B. Patel who set up Cadila Laboratories in 1952.

"Ever since I was a kid, I had seen them deeply involved in pharmaceutical sciences. Their passion to innovate, to look at new possibilities through research, and focus on new therapies and technologies really inspired me," says Sharvil. "When you grow up in that kind of milieu, you often get drawn towards it."

Pankaj had given his son complete freedom to choose any career, but science and research had always fascinated Sharvil and he decided to pursue that course. He got a degree in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Sunderland in the UK, and then earned a doctorate from the same university for his research on breast cancer at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in the US. He came back to India after interning with a global pharma company for a brief period.

It was the right move. The group's growth story needed some fresh energy as it had been reduced to a `250 crore company in 1995 post the split of the original entity and the emergence of Cadila Healthcare Ltd as the holding company of the Patels. Interestingly, Sharvil's love for academics did not hinder him from taking a deep dive in strategy matters. But he scripted his story in the classic bottom-up way as Pankaj advised him to spend a few years across all business units for a thorough exposure. He was appointed deputy managing director in 2007 and then spearheaded the 'Healthy Billion' internal programme that finally propelled Zydus into the billion-dollar league in 2011.

"It was a dream come true. Heading this programme brought in a lot of insights into organisational growth, change and transformation," he recalls. "But then, I was fortunate to have a mentor who believes in giving ample space to learn, make mistakes and learn from them... That's my father."

Zydus posted a turnover of `9,800 crore-plus in 2015/16 and had consolidated revenues of nearly `7,100 crore in the first nine months of the financial year 2016/17. Around 39 per cent of the company's revenue now comes from the US formulations business while 35 per cent is generated by the India formulations business. About 17 of the group's brands also feature among the top 300 pharma brands in India, as per AIOCD AWACS (December 2016).

The secret sauce

For the savvy and suave Sharvil, staying invested in research has been the genuine growth driver. Zydus was the first Indian pharma company to launch a new chemical entity (NCE) two years ago called Lipaglyn, a novel drug to treat diabetic dyslipidemia in Type II diabetes. It is now undergoing Phase II trials in the US for three indications. Zydus also launched the world's first biosimilar of Adalimumab called Exemptia, to treat inflammatory arthritis. To take things forward, more than 1,200 researchers are now working across eight research and development (R&D) centres, focusing on small molecules, biologics, vaccines, formulation development and API process research. Understan-dably, Sharvil considers launching Lipaglyn and Exemptia as landmark achievements in his career so far. His current goal is to make Zydus a research-driven company by 2020, which has already developed a good pipeline.

"We have always looked at creating a culture of innovation, developing a people-driven organisation as we believe these inspire everything - from the therapies that we create to the way we work to the value that we add to our business," says the heir apparent to Zydus Cadila empire. His sister Shivani is an entrepreneur and runs her own company.

According to Sharvil, Zydus nurtures collective leadership and governance as the heads of all business verticals and business partners such as human resources and finance meet and review operations every month and every quarter. They also hold discussions with the Zydus Executive Board, which includes the Chairman and Managing Director, the Executive Director and Sharvil, who is also chairman of Zydus Wellness that makes popular consumer products like Sugar Free, Everyuth and Nutralite.

It's not all work, work, work for Sharvil, though. He loves to travel with his family to explore new destinations, and is a skiing and tennis buff. But deep inside him the deep digging never stops. "My dream is to look at a more expansive horizon of innovation where there is always something novel that we can explore... It can be an idea, a process, a product or a service," he muses.

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