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Bhai Mohan Singh: Pioneer of pharma

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His wishes seem to have come a full circle

BHAI MOHAN SINGH
BHAI MOHAN SINGH

Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 28

Bhai Mohan Singh is no more. With his demise the country has lost the founder of what can be termed India's first multinational company.

As a pioneer of India's pharmaceuticals industry, 89-year-old Bhai Mohan Singh was the survivor of many a courtroom and boardroom battles, be it to regain hold over the company or to claim rights to products and patents.

Before his death his wishes seemed to have come a full circle. In his last few years, the battle with his late son Dr Parvinder Singh was on the issue of the Ranbaxy board being totally professional or dominated by family members. Bhai Mohan Singh favoured the latter.

And just at the beginning of the year, his elder grandson, Mr Malvinder Mohan Singh, took control of the company by becoming Managing Director and CEO, while his younger grandson, Mr Shivinder Mohan Singh, was inducted to the company's board.

The origin

The early days saw Bhai Mohan Singh take over Ranbaxy from Mr Ranjit Singh and Dr Gurbux Singh of Amritsar, who were distributors for A. Shionogi, a Japanese pharmaceutical company manufacturing vitamins and anti-TB drugs. In fact, Ranbaxy's name was a fusion of the two earlier promoters.

Later he collaborated with Italian pharma company Lapetit Spa (Milan), and subsequently bought out its business. Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd went public in 1973 and the sleeping pill Calmpose catapulted the company to the big league.

It was then that Bhai Mohan Singh placed his eldest and favourite son Dr Parvinder Singh in the driving seat, who later rose to become the company's Managing Director in 1982.

As the company grew from strength to strength, he also inducted his other two sons, Mr Manjit Singh and Mr Analjit Singh, into the company. However, their stints were short lived and soon the two brothers moved on to other businesses.

Three-way split

In 1989, Bhai Mohan Singh decided a three-way split of his assets. Dr Singh was given control of Ranbaxy, Mr Manjit Singh was made in charge of Montari Industries and Mr Anajit Singh was handed over Max India.

With liberalisation came the differences between the family patriarch and Dr Singh over the expansion and professionalisation strategy of Ranbaxy. Subsequently, in 1999 in a boardroom coup of sorts Bhai Mohan Singh was forced to bow down, souring his relationship with his eldest son.

Absence felt

Today, after his last rites the family seems to have closed in and is feeling his absence more than ever.

While the Max Group, of which he was co founder with son Mr Analjit Singh and Chairman Emeritus, expressed deep regret at losing him, his two grandsons in Ranbaxy said, "We had great affection for our grandfather and hold him in high esteem.

"We have always sought his blessings and received them in ample measure. As we look back, we fondly remember the time we spent with him on most weekends.

"His strength of character and indomitable spirit will continue to guide us forever."

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 29, 2006)
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