This Pharma Expert Shares Why You Have To Do Things Differently To Succeed

Through the years of struggle I realized taking risk as an entrepreneur is very essential.

learn more about Habil Khorakiwala

By Habil Khorakiwala • Mar 24, 2018


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In a business there are many dimensions of change. Apart from organic growth, firms must explore opportunities arising out of inorganic growth; as growth brings many changes and learnings. As a company, we went through four stages of transformation – survival, growing to a reasonable size, going global and lastly, getting into drug discovery. Through this journey, which spans across 50 years, I learnt few key philosophies that can make or break an entrepreneur.

Survival and Growing to a Reasonable Size

In early 70s, I realized that our premises in Worli were becoming increasingly restrictive in terms of space, and opportunity cost of being in Mumbai was going up. Around this time, the Maharashtra government introduced backward area development incentives and I thought shifting to Aurangabad would be a great idea. But before I could think of raising funds, I had to think of ideas to convince my father and community elders. For my father, Mumbai was his comfort zone. Naturally, he was not very excited about it and tried to dissuade me. It was a period of tremendous self doubt. I went up to him and said I wanted to die one day and not every day. For the next 15 to 20 years, we initiated a series of innovations, entered nutrition business, diversified into medical service business and raised an IPO. Ours was the first pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Aurangabad and today it is home to over a dozen companies. Through the years of struggle I realized taking risk as an entrepreneur is very essential. But it should be a very well measured and well understood step.

Going Global

In 1991, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao introduced radical new economic policies, liberalizing industrial and trade policies. The writing was on the wall for us. To face global competition we must go global. I also observed what was happening in the IT sector.

I thought, if Indian IT industry could fight globally, why not Indian pharma? In going global, my learning has been that a company must have one way of doing things wherever it is located. One cannot allow multiple style management. When we bought CP Pharmaceuticals in 2003, initially we tried to engage a local English manager but that did not work out. We needed someone who was familiar with manufacturing and take charge of the ongoing concern. I picked Sirijiwan from India who understood our company culture well. After acquiring the company, I invited the entire senior staff for dinner and explained to them what Wockhardt's culture was. And, told them that they had to adopt to the company culture. Whoever was uncomfortable was welcome to leave. Surprisingly, there were very few exits. I believe that a successful company should not waste time integrating the cultures of a newly acquired company.

Drug Discovery and R&D

Back in the day, when I had decided to invest in R&D and drug discovery, Director Drug Discovery Research at Wockhardt and also my dear friend Mahesh Patel broke in to Gujrati and asked me if I was willing to be a risk taker and a long distance runner. Investing in this space, Mahesh had warned, could well be like walking into a bottomless pit. I had to assure him that I was serious about the investment. Unlike IT, there is no immediate result in the drug discovery side of the pharmaceutical or any other research based industry. Any drug discovery needs an extremely high level of commitment which can only come from a deep understanding of the field. It also requires tons of patience and self belief. You have to be extremely patient, invest in human capital and human relationships for long years to ensure the best results. I have often been asked why I am so obsessed with doing things differently. Such questions always place the seed of doubt in one's mind. More often than not I set such thoughts aside and keep doing what I was doing. I think success lies in being different and that is the biggest lesson I learnt from life

Habil Khorakiwala

Founder Chairman, Wockhardt Group ; Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard University

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