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How Elder Pharma was born
Arti Sharma |
July 31, 2004
Jagdish Saxena, 60, managing director of the Rs 235 crore (Rs 2.35 billion) Elder Pharmaceuticals calls himself an entrepreneur by accident. He preferred being an employee and collecting a monthly pay cheque.
But he was forced into entrepreneurship when the company he was working for shut down its pharma division. Putting together some savings and loans from banks and friends, Saxena started Elder Pharmaceuticals.
The big turning point for the company came when it started selling calcium supplements. Today, the company has over 2,000 employees and is looking at a turnover of Rs 450 crore (Rs 4.5 billion) in the next year.
I CAME from a reasonably middle-class family based in Delhi where my father was a gazetted officer. No one in our family was into business, in fact most of my relatives were in government service. I graduated in botany from Delhi University and even did a year of the masters course.
But in 1960 I was selected for the Indian Air Force and decided to take it up. I left college and completed the year-long commission after which I resigned. After quitting, I considered a number of job offers and then finally joined Tata Fison. Though I was initially in sales, I later became the resident representative.
I was earning Rs 1,200 then but had a company house and other amenities. In 1969, I was promoted to sales manager of the pharmaceutical division and I moved to Mumbai with my wife and sons. And then in 1971, the company was merged with Rallis. We were transferred there but as it happens with a merger, one loses one's identity. So in 1973, I quit and shifted to the Apeejay Group.
The plan at Apeejay was to start and take care of the pharma company. I joined them as a marketing manager, went on to become director and then managing director. I was with them till 1988, when the group decided to close the division. Suddenly 400-odd people were without a job.
I thought about them and the fact that we had an existing base of people who were experts in selling and marketing pharmaceuticals and decided to start something using this base. Help came from unexpected quarters. I had about Rs 450,000 as my own savings. I took loans from IDBI and other banks. The three-acre land for the factory we set up in Nerul (Navi Mumbai) came from another source.
Looking back now, I would never do the same thing again. My family was disturbed about my decision. From having a stable income and amenities they had to get used to me running a business. But they were extremely supportive. I was sure we would come through.
We had registered many names for the new company but all were rejected. The name Elder came from my trip to Australia. One day while crossing the road I saw a truck with the name Elder Food Production. So I returned and registered the same name.
We started out with two or three products in antibiotics and other therapeutic areas. Everyone would talk about how we would shut down the next month. But the real turning point came in the first year when we got a large order from Russia and we were very lucky that way.
Then I hit upon the idea of producing calcium supplements from natural sources and that is how Shelcal was born. It was a product that nobody was willing to sell and everyone said it would fail.
Calcium was a very small market, had no visibility and then to top it I went and priced the product at 10 times the price of other calcium supplements available in the market. Everyone thought I was mad. But by the second year, with all our marketing efforts it took off. It became clear that we were selling a treatment and not just calcium. We made a turnover of Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million) in the first year and have never looked back.Today we have four factories and are looking at many more products and also moving into mass markets. We have just set up our own bulk drug manufacturing facility and our vision is to reach Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) but I don't have a time frame for that target.