In drug industry risk taking is the key to growth, and Kallam Anji Reddy took them in ample measure. It paid off as his brainchild, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories grew into a $1.6-billion global brand from Hyderabad.
A researcher, first-generation entrepreneur and business leader, the 73-year-old Anji Reddy, built Dr Reddy’s from scratch with an investment of Rs 25 lakh in 1984 and went public in 1986.
By a rare combination of drug discovery, acquisitions, patent battles and burning desire to make drugs cheaper, Anji Reddy rose as a giant in the firmament of Indian pharma industry, leaving a legacy to build on.
At the silver jubilee year of the company he proudly said that “If a shareholder had invested about Rs 2,500 in Dr Reddy's through the IPO in August 1986 and the rights issue of 1989, his holding would be a whopping Rs 40 lakh in 2009”.
Anji Reddy, born in the coastal district of Guntur, traversed from the portals of the University Department of Chemical Technology, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune to the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Standard Organics Ltd, before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey in 1980s.
He first started Uniloids, sold it and found his calling in Dr Reddy’s.
His biggest breakthrough came in the form of norflaxacin. “This was the first time that Dr Reddy's ability in making medicine affordable caught global attention. While Cipla priced it at Rs 8, I had asked my marketing managers to fix the price at 50 per cent; eventually, it was priced at Rs 3.80,” he reminisced in an interview with Business Line.
His passion for basic research, pioneering efforts in bulk drug making, boldness to take on patent challenges in the US for developing generic versions of costly drugs and bringing down prices had its share of success and failures.
After the 25th AGM, Anji Reddy took a back seat in the company, giving greater operational roles to his son K. Satish Reddy and son-in-law G.V. Prasad.
At the end of 2012, Anji Reddy transferred his stake to a trust.
“It is a strange coincidence, that an hour ago, I, Mukesh Ambani and others were recalling Anji Reddy at the University Department of Chemical Technology Convocation. All of us are alumni,” said R.A. Mashelkar, former Director-General, CSIR, and who served on the company’s board.
Till the end, , basic research remained the pharma veteran’s first love. I am passionate about getting a drug out of the company and India. We are close on the diabetes front, with the most promising molecule, Balaglitazone. If things go well, the drug will reach the market in two to three years. It would be a dream realised.” Unfortunately, the visionary, has passed away, with the dream to be realised.