In six summers, life has turned upside down for Matrix Prasad. From being on top of the corporate world by clinching the biggest pharma deal in India in 2006, 51-year-old Mr Nimmagadda Prasad, today finds himself cooling his heels in jail. The rise for this first generation entrepreneur began with Matrix Laboratories which he set up in 2000, after acquiring the sick Herren Drugs. Through a combination of shrewd business acumen and grabbing opportunities, he grew it in size. By selling his stake to US-based Mylan for a whopping Rs 570 crore, Mr Prasad made a splash in corporate India.

A post-graduate in Physics from the University of Delhi and armed with a management degree , the young Mr Prasad, learnt his initial lessons from a marketing stint at the multinational Rhone Poulenc in the 1980s. He quickly got into a senior position in Vorin Labs, part of Ranbaxy.

This training and confidence brought out the entrepreneurial streak in him.

At Matrix Laboratories, he worked hard to scale up operations, establish US Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturing facilities in Hyderabad for Active Pharmaceuticals Intermediates. His skills in mergers and acquisition saw the takeover of a Belgium firm Docpharma, picking up of a stake in China's McChem Group, a 43 per cent equity stake in Swiss firm Explora and a joint venture with South African company Aspen Pharma.

With the big bucks in his pocket after the Matrix sale, Mr Prasad turned into a serial investor. He picked up stake in hospitals such as CARE (recently exited), and Asian Institute of Gastroenterology in Hyderabad. In the media business, he entered MAA TV (Chairman now) and later Saakshi (owned by Mr Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy). In the technology space, he invested in Reliysys, which is into making indigenous stents and a few genomic research-based companies.

The year he exited Matrix also saw Mr Prasad turning out to be among the top income tax payers with Rs 25 crore in Andhra Pradesh. He won the goodwill of staff also by investing into some welfare measures. He also floated the Nimmagadda Foundation, which took up health and education issues.

The soft-spoken, sauve and tall gentleman was a familiar face at Tollywood events and growing in presence in the public space. However, the ambitious Mr Prasad, driven by an urge to grow big, steered close to the former Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, and his son, Mr Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, now the Kadapa MP.

Initially, it looked as if Mr Prasad was on a roll, with his newly-floated infrastructure firm, Vanpic (Vodarevu and Nizampatnam Port and Industrial Corridor), getting a massive 15,000 acres of land in 2008 to develop a port and special economic zone in Prakasam and Guntur districts. He roped in Ras Al Khaimah into the venture. This was followed by an investment into Jagathi Publications, which publishes Saakshi. .

The sudden death of Dr Y.S.R. in 2009, the exit of Mr Jagan from Congress (I) and floating his own YSR Congress Party, overturned the fortunes of Mr Prasad as well. The CBI was asked to probe the disproportionate assets of Mr Jagan, which also brought him under the scanner, along with two dozen other corporates, who have all alleged links with Jagathi or other ventures of the Kadapa MP.

A different battle now

Mr Prasad got out of Vanpic, which is now owned by Navayuga Infrastructure. However, the CBI trail, after several rounds of grilling, has got this entrepreneur-turned industrialist-turned shrewd investor into jail for now. It will be a battle of a different kind from the boardrooms, for this man to fight now.

(This article was published on May 16, 2012)
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