'All depends on what I can handle'

     Print Edition: August 21, 2011

He may be an NRI who spends half the year abroad, but Cipla's Chairman Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, 74, tracks developments in India and in his company every minute, while also keeping himself abreast of global scientific developments and markets trends. Born in Lithuania and raised in Mumbai, Hamied, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Christ College, Cambridge, who has donated liberally to his alma mater, spoke to BT from Spain on his vision for Cipla. Edited excerpts:

Y.K. Hamied
Y.K. Hamied, Chairman, Cipla
You were the leader in the Indian pharma retail market till Abbott struck its deal with Piramal, which made them number one....
We are the leaders in the Indian retail market as a standalone and totally independent company. We have neither acquired nor merged.

You are a dominant player in India, which contributes 50 per cent to your Rs 6,300-crore revenues. However, many say that if only you had a front end in foreign countries instead of a partner, you would extract much more value. Will you always continue with this partnership model?

I do not like to dilute effort by getting into too many areas. It depends on what you are looking for. What you are saying is correct and there is a good chance that we may take the route that you are suggesting, but growth is a process of evolution and it has to be based on your size because your coat has to fit you.

You have the size needed to wear a decent size coat overseas. So when will you have a direct presence in markets there?
Let me put it this way: I prefer to share my revenues and profits with my partners, because if I have my own establishment, you will just see an increase in the top line and not in the bottom line, because my marketing, establishment and infrastructure costs will eat up everything. So I would prefer to work with a partner. Plus, remember, if a partner is strong in a particular area, he will sell more than I can.

What are the options before Cipla to spur growth?

We are looking at all options but ultimately all depends on what I can handle. Why should I dabble in things I can't handle? For instance, one option for Cipla could be to look at in-licencing of products. Given our field force and the way we are, we would like to market good products by other international companies here. We would love to market their products in India.

Much like the way you have partners in other countries, you could become their partner here in India?
That is right. That is what we are looking to do. Our antennae are up for that.

Where do you see Cipla five years from now?

What was our vision 10 years ago? At that point in time, our sales locally were 90 per cent and exports were 10 per cent. Now, it is 50:50. Maybe in another five years, it will be 80:20, that is, 80 per cent revenues from exports - because with exports you get better prices - and 20 per cent locally. So, the vision would be to do what is best for India, but our focus in turnover will be overseas.

Finally, besides you, Amar Lulla earlier, and now S. Radhakrishnan, who are the new leaders, and what is the thinking on leadership?
We have 20,000 people. Do individuals really matter? ... We are working as a team. But I must tell you that I will be answering some of these questions at our next AGM, on August 25.

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