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Alembic: A century and still going strong

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Alembic Pharma has emerged as a renowned player in a thriving industry but not before tracing an eventful journey spanning over a century, that often mirrored the trials and triumphs of the country’s pharma sector

Alembic Chemical Works Company Ltd was established in 1907, under the guidance and support of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad as well as two geniuses of chemistry: Prof TK Gajjar and Prof Kotibhaskar. The founder, Rajmitra BD Amin and his friend SG Warty had left no stone unturned to ensure its existence, going to the extent of working as labourers for over an year, to set up the company.

Pranav Amin, MD, Alembic reminisces, “The legacy of Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd (APL) dates back to over 100 years. Established in 1907 with an objective to develop and revolutionise the pharma and drug industry in the Indian subcontinent.”

R&D labs: Then

R&D labs: Now

Since then, in over 100 years of existence, Alembic, one of India’s oldest pharma companies, has been a witness to several epochal events including two World Wars, India’s birth as an independent nation, its struggles to hold its own in rapidly changing world, subsequent liberalisation and globalisation.

Setting benchmarks

Alembic has crossed several milestones in the course of its journey. To highlight a few —  In 1940, Alembic started manufacturing its well known cough syrup, vitamins, tonics and sulphur drugs. In 1952, the company began its R&D activities. It became the first Indian pharma company to manufacture penicillin. In 1961, Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister inaugurated the penicillin plant at Vadodara. It 1971, Alembic manufactured erythromycin for the first time in India and in 1972, Althrocin, a brand of erythromycin was launched. In 2011, the pharma business demerged from Alembic and was listed as APL. Today, it is one of the leading pharma companies in India.

Marching to its own pace

The pharma industry was constantly evolving and buoyed by liberalisation, as well as laws which favoured indigenous companies, the domestic pharma industry was on a growth trajectory after the 1970s. The Indian pharma companies, after establishing a strong base in the domestic market, started looking at international markets to grow. Further, these companies also started investing in building a presence in the US by filing ANDAs. However, Alembic took its time venturing into the overseas markets to understand international regulations, gain insights on market requirements, intellectual property to enable early launches etc.

Analytical Development Laboratory

However, after it chose to go the international route, it has tried to accelerate its growth trajectory. In 2006, Alembic received its first ever US FDA approvals for its API and formulation plants. Since then, the company has had several successful ANDA and DMF filings in the international generics market. It has set up its US office where sales and marketing is done on the Alembic label for the US market. Now, it is keeping pace with other players through heavy investments in building manufacturing facilities and developing a wide portfolio of products to tap international markets, with a particular focus on the US. APL has also filed across Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. The company caters to the rest of the world markets through branded formulation sales.

Some of the driving forces behind Alembic’s Inception and Growth

L-R: Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwar, Prof AS Kotibhasker, Prof TK Gajjar, Rajmitra BD Amin and Chirayu R Amin

Beside this, the company also adopted other ways to grow. In 2007, it moved on to acquire the non – oncology business of Dabur Pharma, thereby gaining access to the lifestyle related therapeutic segments such as cardiovascular, diabetic, gastrointestinal and gynaecology. The company has strengthened its position in the domestic market as well to grow exponentially in international generics.

Pranav Amin informs, “We invested heavily in building world-class infrastructure and improved processes to match the growing need. And also acquired international talent and became multi-cultural, diversified organisations. We grew rapidly over the two decades on the back of these investments in the international markets.”

RB Amin with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru

He further explains, “In order to recover on lost time, Alembic’s strategy has been to partner with different players to ramp-up rapidly. We are also focussed on developing new skill sets internally in various new areas and continue to look for opportunities to grow our business.”

When asked about ongoing/ future acquisitions, he says, “Acquisition is quite expensive in the pharma domain so we have signed up a few joint ventures. We have formed a joint venture of 60:40 with Orbicular called Aleor Dermaceuticals to develop dermatology products for international markets. We have also formed a JV in Algeria  named Alembic MAMI SPA to explore the African market.”

Backed by science

Of the several significant contributions of the company, the most notable was the scientific temperament it introduced in a country which was largely dependent on home-grown/ based remedies at the time of its inception.

Keeping in line with its legacy, the present management of Alembic hires MRs majorly from scientific backgrounds. Today, the company has over 5000 medical representatives and field managers and intends to keep increasing it. Pranav Amin informs, “Our approach of the sales force is totally scientifically oriented. Every month approximately 300 medical sales representatives (existing and new) from across India receives training at our Baroda facility.”

Major Milestones

1907: Started manufacturing tinctures and alcohol at Vadodara
1940: Started manufacturing cough syrups, vitamins, tonics and sulphur drugs
1961: The penicillin plant was inaugurated by Lal Bahadur Shastri
1967: Bulk manufacturing of Vitamin B12 began
1971: Erythromycin manufactured for the first time in India
1972: Althrocin a brand of Erythromycin launched
1997: Althrocin becomes top selling brand in India
1999: Alembic starts production of synthetic organic API
2000: Gets ISO 14000 Certification for facilities at Vadodara
2001: Starts manufacturing Cephalosporin C
2007: Acquisition of non-oncology Business of M/s Dabur Pharma Ltd.
2009: Addressed chronic therapies through multiple marketing divisions
2010: ANDAs total filed 38, DMFs total filed 53 and got approval of 15
2011: Pharmaceutical business demerged from Alembic – APL Listed
2012: Launched dermatology division in domestic market with 8 products
2013: Launched first NDA with a partner. Commenced filing in EU, Australia and Brazil
2014: Formed a JV in Algeria- Alembic MAMI SPA to explore African market
2015: Launched Aripiprazole on Day-1. Established the US front-end, transition to own marketing in the US
2016: Formed JV 60:40 with Orbicular – ‘Aleor Dermaceuitical Limited’ for developing dermatology products for international markets
2017: The anti-cancer drug manufacturing plant was inaugurated by Vijaybhai Rupani

Explaining the nature of the training process, he says, “Our field-force is put through rigorous basic training, refresher programmes and a variety of managerial skill development workshops. Resultantly, the field-force is proficient with pharmacology knowledge, medical knowledge, product knowledge and are also updated with various marketing strategies.” He continues, “The duly enabled and empowered Alembic MRs are the true ambassadors of the organisation and this in itself is the USP of Alembic in the domestic market.”

Lal Bahadur Shastri visiting the Alembic facility

Growth strategies

Alembic has grown manifold ever since its inception. Its existence and dominance in the pharma market in the country is an evidence of the fact. Today, as a listed entity, Alembic manufactures and markets generic pharma products across the globe. With an emphasis on innovation and technology, the company has established a state-of-the-art research facility — Alembic Research Centre (ARC) — including formulation research, and a 150-bed bio-equivalence facility at Vadodara. Additionally, APL has recently invested in an ultra-modern R&D center at Hyderabad. The company invests 14 per cent of its turnover in R&D. Recently, Alembic also commissioned a state-of-the art anti-cancer manufacturing facility at Panelav, Halol, inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijaybhai Rupani.

Thus, the company growth story reflects the rise of the pharma industry into a global player. Armed with experience and expertise, the company is set to conquer new heights in times to come.

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