OTC to grow as people have no time for doctors: Nandini Piramal

Lalatendu Mishra | Updated on January 16, 2018

Nandini Piramal (36), daughter of billionaire Ajay Piramal, loves building brands. She is also working to enhance the quality of people at Piramal Enterprises. As executive director, she handles Group HR and the OTC business. In a freewheeling interview, Ms. Piramal spoke about her passion, the Piramal family and the ambition to make it big in the healthcare business — a large part of which was sold to Abbott Laboratories in a $3.7 billion deal in 2010. Edited excerpts:

What made you to focus on the healthcare business while your brother Anand is looking after the real estate arm?

I am very passionate about pharma and the over-the-counter (OTC) business. I love what I am doing. It’s a huge opportunity to build a consumer business and I am very excited about it.

Is there any plan to shift to any new role later?

I have done a variety of jobs and I love what I am doing now.

Human resources gives me insight into all the businesses because I honestly believe that to achieve all our goals our quality of people needs to improve. So we are investing a lot in our people, a lot of leadership development and for our middle and senior managers. When we do recruit we spend a lot of time in recruiting better people and a better replacement.

Since the generics business was sold to Abbott, financial services seems to be the main business of the company now….

No! For pharma, we were at 54 per cent of our revenue last year. So it is still big. In the last two years in the healthcare segment, we have done six acquisitions. We have invested Rs.1,800 crore in acquisitions in last two years.

What is the investment plan going forward? Where would you like to improve?

In the last 5-6 years, we have grown at about 18 per cent and most of it is organic. So now we have done some acquisitions and we believe the growth will be higher. We would continue to grow organically and we are looking into acquisitions. We are interested in our hospital products globally because in our anaesthetic business, we sell in 100 plus countries. Therefore, we have a very good distribution. So, we are looking forward to more hospital products that will fit in that basket.

Then in OTC we are only in India and that is the focus area at the moment.

We will continue to look at brands and focus on all new products. I am a big fan of buying brands. Our biggest success is when we bought the legacy or heritage products from people and grew them. I think the OTC market is still fragmented in India, we have the opportunity to become a category creator and I think there is a lot of room for disruption in the OTC market.

One of our products in line extension is Polycrol paan. It is an antacid and all antacids currently are in pink and when we talk to consumers they say they don’t like the chalky taste. So, we came up with Polycrol paan which is green and that chalky taste is not there any more. I think there is a lot of scope for consumer innovations and as a company we spend a lot of time with consumers and meet their unmet needs.

Where does OTC figure now?

The biggest business is still pharma contract manufacturing which last year had revenues of Rs.2,290 crore. Then we have our anaesthesia business which has revenues of Rs.876 crore and then OTC which had reported revenues of Rs.393 crore.

Where are you looking to expand?

If I look at our hospital products we are looking at opportunities globally. In OTC, we are only looking to expand in India because I am a passionate believer in the Indian market.

In pharma solutions, we have had two acquisitions in the U.S. So now we will have to take a little bit of pause before pursuing further acquisitions.

What will be your important strategies going forward?

In HR, I have one strategy — to improve the quality of my people. In OTC we have expanded our distribution. We will continue to grow organically by investing in brands and expanding by going to smaller towns, demand generation and line extension. We will introduce new brands and we will continue to grow through acquisitions. I am sure that OTC is bound to grow because today people have no time to go to doctors.

And, you cannot stay at home for two days. We want to grow the healthcare business also. We are very passionate about healthcare. It is not a small part of the business. It is a significant part. We are investing in it and we expect to grow going forward also.

Are you re-building that business after selling to Abbott?

Yes, I think so.

Do you often turn to your father for advice in running the business?

Obviously. He is the chairman of the company. For any big decision, he will have a point of view. I also get the CFO’s point of view. He is someone who has been in the business for twenty-something years.

What is his influence on you?

One is obviously risk-taking. Secondly, not everything will work out in the short-term. There will be some ups and downs in business. You have to take everything with a cool head and continue with a long-term view.

How about the influence of your mother (Dr Swati Piramal)?

Her creativity is unparalleled. She comes up with ideas and ways of doing things that no one else will come up with. For example, we wanted our people to understand what our values are.

One of the best ways is to make people understand the value by telling stories... The stories about how people have experienced values at the workplace. She only came up with this idea to ask all our employees to write their stories. We have 7,000 submissions.

They all came up with stories about themselves, their children, their local myths.

It is a powerful way of getting people to understand what values are, to explain what a myth is. Humility is a core part of it. They know what humility is. But how does one explain it to someone? The best way is through stories. She came up with this idea and it is a powerful tool to make someone understand it in a simple manner.

In business families it is better to divide the roles well in advance. We have seen several conflicts in the past. Has your father divided the roles for both you and your brother?

We all enjoy what we are doing. We are a very close family. We have lunch every single day together. We all love what we are doing right now. We will see what happens in the future.

(This article first appeared in The Hindu dated October 31, 2016)

Published on October 31, 2016

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like