Mumbai: US pharmaceutical firm Abbott Laboratories entered India a long time ago, but maintained a low profile until a $3.72 billion acquisition of Piramal Healthcare Ltd’s branded generic medicine business last year made the group the country’s biggest drugmaker by marketshare. In an interview, Vivek Mohan, managing director of the listed Abbott India Ltd, spoke about the company’s plans to expand its portfolio, enter new segments and bolster its presence. Edited excerpts:
The listed company kept a low profile even after the group made its presence stronger by acquiring a part of Piramal Healthcare. Why?
We’ve been present in India for over a hundred years, and with that we’ve been a part of India’s history and progress. We’ve seen the reputation and the equity of the company really built on the science that we focus on and the thrust that we have is the patients who are at the centre of everything that we do. Therefore, it wasn’t quite necessary to be aggressive on the visibility part, in general, though the brand reputation...was quite strong among the doctors and we could create some of the top-of-the-mind brands, and some of them are really household names by now.
Where do you see Abbott India in the next five years? What are the synergies that the listed entity will explore from the group to enhance shareholder value?
We have a very strong growth strategy for India and it revolves really around building on this continuum of care. Looking at building awareness, looking at facilitating diagnostic options and creating greater access to high quality treatment and medicines, and this really helps to differentiate us and gives us a very significant competitive advantage in the industry. We have three core priorities. One is building our portfolio. We’ve launched, in the last one year, 20 products.
Brand building: ivek Mohan, managing director of Abbott India.Photo by Hemant Mishra/Mint.
As we look at these launches, they have been some of the industry’s most successful. Heptral is one of our most successful launches for an area like liver disease. We’ve launched improved formulations for products like Brufen and Digene and these are household names. So it makes our presence in these areas stronger as well. Looking at the current scenario, Abbott India is already one of the fastest growing companies at 25.5%, which is well ahead of the industry average in the country.
Your product presence has been restricted to a few segments. Don’t you think it’s time to catch up with other fast-growing ones?
That’s exactly the other key priority: that is shaping and leading in key therapeutic areas. We have key expertise that we leverage, and leading presence in areas such as gastroenterology, neurosciences and metabolics. We’ve entered some new areas such as cardiovascular and women’s health, and we have a very strong global expertise in these areas. We’ve actually tapped on new opportunities that are emerging, such as corporate hospitals, and we’ve dedicated a team to really drive into these areas into greater depth.
So with our expertise in these key therapeutic areas we look at the partnerships that we have with healthcare professionals, and this focus on this continuum of care, we really do create a sustainable growth advantage for Abbott. As a product portfolio approach, we like to get into an area where we have a differentiated offering and we can focus our efforts. Besides, we are always on the lookout for opportunities that will augment our broad range of businesses, pipeline enhancements, innovative technologies and geographic expansion.
The third priority that we have is really strengthening our presence. With the acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals India Ltd and its merger with Abbott India Ltd, we’ve really expanded our presence considerably. It’s been a very strong and complimentary fit. We’ve expanded our presence into areas such as women’s health, gastroenterology and even neuroscience. These were areas where we had good presence and this has only made it better. If you look at what our results have generated and if you look at IMS Health data, we’ve seen nearly one-and-a half-times the industry growth coming through.
Do you think investors of the listed company were deprived of the benefits of the Piramal business acquisition with the parent’s decision to keep it separate?
Abbott has strengthened its presence in India considerably through the acquisition; and by that, Abbott, generally, benefits, and the shareholders of the listed entity, too. The acquisition of Piramal’s domestic healthcare business was one that was not done with the assets of Abbott India Ltd. But the Solvay Pharmaceuticals India move was something that really did benefit the shareholders and we can see the progress we have—now in the No.1 position in an area like gastroenterology. It’s a very complementary fit for us.