JB Chemicals closely watching for acquisition opportunities

Nikhil Chopra, CEO and Whole Time Director, JB Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, tells Akanki Sharma about his focus on acquiring assets that will strengthen the company’s domestic franchise and drive faster growth and better shareholder value for it
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Give us a brief about JB Chemicals and its role in the Indian pharma industry.

JB Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals began its journey four decades ago in 1976. The company was acquired by a private equity firm KKR in July 2020 and continues to function on the core principles of ethics, teamwork and the belief of ‘always putting patients first.’ With our 50th year on the way, it is focussing on changing its image from the traditional medicine-making company and emphasising on ‘beyond the pill’ efforts by integrating the physical world with digital, i.e. phygital, to address all requirements of stakeholders.

For us, the domestic formulations business is a focus area and has been consistently growing better than the industry growth rate for the last several years. It accounts for 50 per cent of the total revenue with the chronic portfolio leading the domain. India business delivered a robust market-beating performance through the year 2021 with 21 per cent growth vs IPM market at 4.5 per cent (IQVIA MAT 21 data).

The company has five brands, a combination of Cilacar, Metrogyl, Rantac and Nicardia in the top 300. We expect these brands to only become bigger with the entire strategy that we have put in place. Our initiatives are to continue with the expansion in nephrology, paediatrics and respiratory segments. We also want to boost our relationships through digital initiatives. Our focus will be on brand building, launches of new products and awareness programmes, as well as penetration in tier-II and tier-III towns in India.

How far has COVID-19 impacted your company and the overall pharmaceutical market? What challenges did you face during the pandemic, and did COVID-19 bring any new opportunities for you? Any lessons learnt?

Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many adversities as well as opportunities. However, for the pharma industry, it has been a responsibility more than an opportunity. Pharma being an essential industry manufacturing life-saving drugs was overall affected less than other industries and remained at the forefront of the battle against COVID.

In the last 18 months, despite COVID, our company has managed to continue the momentum of market-beating performance with Q-O-Q upward growth. Yes, there were obstacles in the initial stages of the pandemic with the lockdowns leading to unprecedented stress on the supply chains, operations and restrictions in the movement of employees, but we ensured that there were no major disruptions. However, there has been a tremendous re-imagination and restructuring happening at all Ps, i.e. portfolio, processes, places, people and priorities to ensure patient-centricity and business continuity. Our manufacturing units have been operating throughout the pandemic. We’ve been closely working with our suppliers in terms of how to keep the adequate inventory, whether it is in the form of intermediaries or APIs or finished goods. It has been a combined effort of people who have been working in this organisation putting all their effort in terms of whether it is our on-ground staff or digitalising our medical representatives to adapting a new go-to-market strategy that started with the entry of new management in 2020.

How beneficial has the deal with KKR been for you so far, and what scope does it create for the future?

In July 2020, KKR acquired a controlling stake of 54 per cent for around Rs 3,100 crores in JB Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals. The company is actively working to improve the current performance and climb the ladder upwards. Post the acquisition, KKR has helped us streamline our company’s operations and we are confident that our strong balance sheet, product portfolio, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, along with better marketing initiatives, will help us continue with our positive outlook in the overall business and make it into a more vibrant organisation.

Elaborate on your expansion plans.

With our strong balance sheet and consistent free cash flow generation, we are closely watching for acquisition opportunities. We will remain focussed to acquire assets that will strengthen our domestic franchise and drive faster growth and better shareholder value for the organisation.

The company intends to expand its expertise in both medicated and non-medicated lozenges, trade generics segments that the company entered into in the last quarter. We will continue to strengthen our core therapy areas – hypertension, nephrology, cardiology, respiratory, gastroenterology and paediatrics, along with continuing the management of our flagship brands.

In the next three years, we want to increase our market share as one of the top 20 companies in the IPM market and also scale up our R&D and business portfolios for the US, Russia, South Africa, API and contract manufacturing businesses. On the domestic market front, the goal is to increase the revenue from 50 per cent to 60 per cent in total revenue by increasing our contribution in the core therapy areas.

How do you stand out in the crowd?

The volume at which we manufacture our products, sets us apart. Besides, our lozenges businesses sets us in a unique place. The company has three decades of experience in the lozenges market and is a leader in the manufacturing of medicated and non-medicated lozenges. This is where we stand apart from other players in the domestic market who have only focussed on the throat and cold lozenges.

The company ranks among the top five manufacturers globally and exports to 30 countries. At present, it is manufacturing 50 different types of lozenges and undertakes contract manufacturing work for some of the leading global pharma companies.

Our focus is on offering easier and aesthetic dosage forms for consumption that promote patient compliance. We are also planning to launch a few wellness lozenges in the Indian market under our label.

akanki.sharma@expressindia.com
journoakanki@gmail.com

Indian Pharma IndustryJB Chemicals and PharmaceuticalsKKRNikhil Chopra
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