The birth of a new era for RPG’s pharma business

The birth of a new era for RPG’s pharma business

The 50-year-old company is challenging the status quo to carve a niche for itself in the fast-growing global pharma industry.

India is the largest provider of generic drugs, globally. The country’s pharmaceutical sector meets over 60% of global demand for various vaccines, over 30% of generic drugs demand in the US, and supplies 25% of all medicines in the UK. Continual evolution and advancement of the Indian pharma industry have been fundamental to the control and treatment of diseases around the world. RPG Life Sciences, a long-time and significant player in the pharma sector with a known range of products in critical niche areas, has contributed in its own special way.

Pharma in India – A recap of the last decade

A growing need for medicines, coupled with the ever-increasing incidence of diseases, particularly so-called lifestyle diseases and their early detection, has lent more reasons for the modern era of medicine to thrive. Socio-economic factors, including an increase in disposable incomes, a rise in literacy levels, easier access to knowledge and information, and greater accessibility of medicines and medical staff have all contributed positively to the growth of India’s domestic pharma industry.

Improving connectivity between large and small towns and even some parts of the hinterland due to advances in electrification, better road, rail, and air connectivity as well as medical infrastructure has led to an increase in health tourism within India. The Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO) brought in by the Government has brought a large number of medicines under price control, making them more affordable to a larger section of society.

RPGLS receives the Best Corporate Performance Award 2019-20 at the RPG Annual Awards

The acceptance of product patents by India in the last decade has impacted the affordability and availability of the latest research molecules in the country. Overall, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has also done a remarkable job in making affordable quality medicines available to the masses. This has led to a significant reduction in mortality and morbidity rates, and helped increase average life expectancy levels. This is indeed a notable and vital contribution to public health in the country.

RPG Life Sciences - A bold resurgence

RPG’s five-decade-old pharma arm has expanded to cover all segments of the industry and is represented in both APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) as well as formulations. While this has greatly benefitted the company’s omnipresence, it also spread the focus thin. That said, the company carved a niche for itself and is the leader in the nephrology segment.

When Yugal Sikri, Managing Director, RPG Life Sciences took charge of the company two years ago, he had one vision – “value accretion”. Under his leadership, the company witnessed a significant turnaround in the very first year: sales hygiene moved to a healthy zone and profitability took a quantum leap, the highest ever in the traceable history of the organisation.

  • PILLAR #1

    Create a robust operating business model

  • PILLAR #2

    Rejuvenate product portfolio

  • PILLAR #3

    Foster a happiness and performance-oriented culture

“The pharma business model is a personal selling model. Hence not only are customer identification, development, and retention important but salesforce deployment, engagement, and competency development are equally critical. This is an area where major work is happening. Systems and processes have been put in place. Sales force effectiveness and competency building initiatives have been launched,” he said, commenting on the first pillar.

“The second pillar is crucial, too,” he added. “Our business continues to be dominated by brands that are over five decades old. In the science-based pharmaceuticals industry, newer drugs are being regularly developed and launched, and these are more efficacious and safer than the older ones. Therefore, it’s important to keep rejuvenating the portfolio by replacing or adding newer and better drugs. Our three-pronged portfolio strategy is to build a more stable and sustainable Chronic-diseases portfolio, augment the speciality basket with a newer class of drugs called Biosimilars/MABs and maximise legacy products with a well-crafted Life Cycle Management approach. In the last year, we have had product launches in all the three segments.”

Elaborating on the third pillar, Yugal said, “The ‘People’ pillar has been the most vital as it involves working on people/business practices, behaviour and culture. Crafting a vision that echoed across the organisation and reinforced its values was the starting point. The next priority areas for us were driving a performance and execution-led culture and setting up systems and processes to make this happen. What helped was our people-connect strategy. We initiated the concept of a monthly Open House at the head office and at both our factories, a company-wide quarterly connect to share and applaud success stories at RPG Life Sciences, and a slew of exciting initiatives for the salesforce.”

Yugal also brought in some best practices from the industry to RPG Life Sciences. These have effectively positioned the company’s business approach and practices at par with some of the biggest players in the industry.

From putting a “10 Point Charter” in place to establish the Prescription Demand Generation Model, adopting Life Cycle Management for Legacy Portfolio augmentation, working on Organisational Talent Review (OTR), spotting and nurturing talent amongst all employees across the company to institutionalising the Monthly Open Houses aka the “Hello Happiness Forums”, some of the most effective initiatives that have been tried and tested reflect the company’s deep-rooted tenets. 

“The People pillar has been the most vital as it involves work on people/business practices, behaviour and culture. Setting a vision that then echoed across the organisation and reinforcement of values was the starting point. Driving a performance and execution culture, setting up systems and processes were the next critical areas. What helped was the people-connect strategy. We initiated the concept of a monthly open-house across the company at the head office as well as both the factories, a company-wide quarterly connect to share and applaud success stories at RPG Life Sciences, and a slew of exciting initiatives for the salesforce.”  

Yugal Sikri, Managing Director,
RPG Life Sciences

The roadmap ahead…

The company continues to focus on bolstering the domestic formulations business – which generates up to two-thirds of RPG Life Sciences’ turnover. For the other two segments, the approach is to build up the global business gradually with an initial focus on ROW (Rest of the World) markets, and gainfully deploy API for business continuity.

Since the pharma industry is a highly regulated one, the focus is also on compliances and raising the bar on quality in the factories. This is done by adopting digitalisation in all systems. Tech solutions are being deployed to address regulatory concerns, e.g., the retina-based employee identification machine in the Ankleshwar plant to monitor access. 

The company has just received approval of its first Branded Complex Generic product to global markets from UKMHRA, one of the top global regulatory bodies in the trade. The first set of batches have been shipped to the UK.

All the brands in the company’s legacy portfolio registered an impressive double-digit growth in FY 2019-20. The company is strengthening its portfolio in the cardiovascular space in the mass segment with a foray into diabetology, and in the specialty segment with an entry into rheumatology therapy. Sales hygiene and cash flows are on a healthy trajectory. The stock market has acknowledged these measures with the company's market cap growing at 2x the BSE Healthcare Index.

Recognition has come from other quarters too. RPG Life Sciences bagged all the three prestigious awards in 2020 by IDMA (Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association), the largest industry body in India. These are:

  • IDMA Quality Excellence Award 2019 (Gold Award) in the Bulk Drugs Companies category
  • IDMA Margi Patel Choksi Memorial Best Patent Awards 2018-19 for Tolvaptan API & Tolvaptan API-intermediate
  • IDMA Corporate Citizen Award 2019 for ‘Project Sanjeevani’ that addresses employability in the healthcare sector through targeted skilling interventions

RPG Life Sciences has also featured amongst India’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2020 and also one of India's Best Workplaces in Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals by the Great Place to Work Institute. More recently, the company bagged the Best Corporate Performance Award 2020 at the RPG Annual Awards.

With a rejuvenated spirit, positive attitude and passionate approach to making history, the journey ahead promises to be even more exciting and eventful.