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Malvinder: The man who put business before family

June 13, 2008 13:07 IST
When his father, Parvinder Singh, died in 1999, Malvinder Mohan Singh along with younger brother Shivinder put out a statement that they would not clamor for seats on the Ranbaxy board right away; instead, they would like to work their way up and prove their capabilities.

At that time, Malvinder had worked at junior levels for just five years in the company, which his grandfather Bhai Mohan Singh bought in 1947. Nobody knew he would walk into the board four years later, get on the driving seat in seven years and take control of the company in nine years.

Malvinder, who has made his family richer by Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), was brought up in relative austerity. While his cousins zipped around the town in fancy cars, he would travel to college in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses.

Summer breaks from school would be spent on scooters with Ranbaxy medical representatives on their rounds to chemists and doctors.

Articulate and smartly turned out, Malvinder is an economics graduate from New Delhi's St Stephens College and has a management degree from Duke University. Malvinder worked with American Express Bank and Merrill Lynch before joining Ranbaxy.

He repeatedly asserted that he would not leapfrog over others just because he was the promoter of the company. Malvinder rose fast at the company. When he joined the board in 2003, there was much heartburn within Ranbaxy and some key functionaries left to join other companies. Soon after, the US market for drugs and pharmaceuticals went into a tailspin. The company also lost its pre-eminent position in the domestic market.

He took over after a tough 2005, when Ranbaxy's profit fell by almost two-thirds and its share price nearly halved as stiff competition, high legal and research costs and patent battle setbacks weighed. Critics would point out that the board lacked adequate representation from doctors and scientists, though the company had global ambitions.

Malvinder could not bring that but he did a string of acquisitions in 2006 and often claimed that nobody, except for the Tata Group, bought more companies abroad than Ranbaxy. In the last year or so, he was able to put Ranbaxy on an even keel.

He settled some patent challenges out of court and brought down the business risks. The company's risks were hedged with rapid growth in the non-US markets. The share price too recovered to touch a new high.

But just when people thought he would take the company to a new high, he sold it. For a man who can be easily moved to tears, it sure would have taken a lot of thought before taking the decision.

Once the deal is closed by March 2009, Ranbaxy, the generic arm of Daiichi, will become a debt-free company, flush with funds and eager to take on the global generic drug space for a leadership position. Singh had set a target of turning Ranbaxy into a $5 billion company by 2012. Singh asserts he is now in the strongest position ever to achieve this dream.

Joe C Mathew in New Delhi
Source: source