What Today's Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Founder of World's Sixth Largest Pharma Company

This teacher-turned-entrepreneur turned an INR 5,000 investment into a billion dollar entity

learn more about Agamoni Ghosh

By Agamoni Ghosh

Entrepreneur India

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Pharma pioneer and Lupin founder Dr. Desh Bandhu Gupta passed away on 26 June in Mumbai. The 79-year-old visionary, who founded Lupin in 1968, was one of the founding pillars of India's drugs and pharmaceutical industry and turned a mere INR 5000 investment into a billion dollar company.

Today, Lupin is the sixth largest generic drugs maker by market capitalization in the world. But all of this success did not come easily to the teacher-turned-entrepreneur, who dedicated his life to bringing medication to those who needed it the most.

Here are few lessons today's entrepreneurs can learn from the charismatic business leader:

Taking the Hard Way

Lupin was known as a local drug maker at the time it started and the Indian market was dominated by big corporations. Doctors, too, were skeptical about the quality of medicines made by local companies. But Gupta was determined to create drugs for life-threatening infectious diseases at an affordable price.

"The struggles that companies like Lupin went through, helped us learn. I think the industry has high standards of corporate governance because of leaders like Gupta, who worked really hard to put them up," said Dilip Shanghvi, chairman and managing director of rival Sun Pharma. "We take a lot of things for granted. He had to work hard to achieve these," he added.

Expansion and Diversification Are Key to Growth

A business cannot flourish unless it spreads its wings. Gupta did not want the company's products to be limited to the domestic market only and pushed for acquisitions and mergers with foreign partners. For him, it was about bringing the best solution in form of the best product.

Lupin was the first Indian generic drug maker to enter Japan, by acquiring drugmaker Kyowa in 2007. It was also the first to tap the branded generic segment in the US in 2004. Today, it has a hold in over 40 countries with major inroads in the US, Japan, and South Africa.

And, although, Lupin gained much of its wealth by becoming one of the world's largest manufacturers of tuberculosis drugs, it did not want to restrict itself to one domain. Along with expanding to foreign markets, it diversified into manufacturing generic drugs sensing the need of the market.

Always Keeping Stock of Your Business

While Gupta may have handed over formal designations to his heirs in his later years, he never stopped visiting the company's facilities and overseeing the company he built from scratch. Entrepreneurs in today's age depend heavily on technology to take stock of their company, but regular field inspections cannot be fully done away with.

Obstacles Are Challenge, One Cannot Give Up

A business is no challenge if obstacles don't come by. Lupin, too, had its share of challenges when diversification into real estate didn't work and the company was riddled with bad debt. At one point, most of its stock was associated with tainted stockbroker Ketan Parekh, making investors worried.

Gupta did not bulge under pressure and took smart decisions at the right moment. He decided to professionalize the company and brought on board Kamal Sharma as MD in 2003 with the objective to reinvent and take on peers like Ranbaxy and Dr. Reddy's who were rapidly expanding in foreign markets.

Giving Back to the Community

Entrepreneurs very often forget one important thing, humility. Giving back to the community encompasses a big part of that. Gupta's vision to sell drugs for life-threatening drugs in itself was visionary, but, he later also set up Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation (LHWRF) in 1988 to eradicate poverty by encouraging sustainable development at the grass root level in rural India.

Agamoni Ghosh

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

She was generating stories out of Bengaluru for Entrepreneur India. She has worked with leading national and international business publications, including Newsweek, Business Standard, and CNBC in the past. 

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