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April 1, 1998


Torrent group chief, U N Mehta, dead

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Uttambhai N Mehta, the founder of the Rs 21 billion Torrent Group, passed away in Ahmedabad late on Tuesday. He was 75 and survived by his wife Shardaben, sons Sudhir and Samir, and daughters Meena and Nayna.

Born in Mehmadpur village in Palanpur district, Mehta, as a young boy, dreamt of stupendous success. Even while undergoing his basic education in the village, he had set his sights high. He went on to Bombay to complete his graduation from the Wilson College.

In 1944, after three years of hard work and dedication, Mehta took up his first assignment as a part-time clerk with the government. But his enterprising spirit was not to be curbed for long. As Mehta himself put it, "I approached some of the big multinationals operating in Bombay. In those days, even to apply to these companies I had to summon up all my courage." His initiative paid off and Sandoz (now part of Novartis) offered him the job of a medical representative. And thus began a journey that was to change the face of the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

The arduous journeys he had to undertake took a toll on Mehta's health and he began to face health problems. In 1958, the Sandoz management transferred him to Assam. But due to his weak health, he preferred to quit the company and set out on his own.

Mehta was fond of recalling those early days. He would say: "I started a pharmaceutical business with Rs 25,000 that I received as a severance pay. As I had 13 years of experience in the industry, I decided to put my expertise to work."

But it was not long before adversity struck again. Mehta's health deteriorated further due to the stress and strain of private enterprise. After a long struggle, he shifted his base from Bombay to Ahmedabad in 1968.

Mehta made a breakthrough in the early 1970s when he started manufacturing tranquilisers for psychiatric disorders. From that point onwards, there was no looking back.

Torrent has since been guided by his aim of providing modern medicines to the Indian masses at affordable prices. Starting as a small pharmaceutical producer, Mehta built up the Torrent group into a dominating player in the healthcare, energy, and financial services segments.

Today, besides being a major player in the Indian healthcare industry, Torrent, in a short span of five years, has emerged as one of the strongest private sector players in the power business with a wide ranging interest in generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power. Besides, Torrent also has a strong presence in financial services.

In honour of his contributions to Indian industry, Mehta was presented the inaugural 'Businessman of the Year Award 1996-97' by the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industries. While presenting the award, Samveg Lalbhai, president, GCCI, observed, "Mehta's record speaks for itself. He has built a business group which has a dominant position in the healthcare, energy, and financial services industries. To accomplish what he has done in any one of these industries would have been impressive enough -- to do all this across the three industries is nothing short of remarkable.

"Further, the momentum he has created will drive the group to a Rs 100 billion asset base by the end of the century, an impressive achievement for a man who started business with Rs 10,000 in borrowed funds four decades ago."


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