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Finding the hidden gems

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20151115ep02Vishal Jajodia could sign up as a poster boy for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make In India campaign. Vishal who, do I hear you say? Jajodia heads Mumbai-based Swati Spentose, one of India’s numerous API manufacturers. But along with the usual APIs, he chose to focus on generic Pentosan Polysulphate Sodium (PPS), which as Janssen Pharmaceuticals/ Johnson & Johnson’s Elmiron, is the only oral medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of interstitial cystitis (IC). The FDA Office of Orphan Products Development designates “orphan products” as those that treat rare diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans and by this definition, PPS qualifies as an orphan drug.

So why did Jajodia choose an API that by definition targeted a small patient population and therefore had limited growth potential? And how did he managed to clock eight per cent revenue growth, from a little above Rs 5 crores to nearly Rs 43 crores in the last five years? Read more about his entrepreneurial story in this issue’s cover story, Small is the next big? (pages 26-29)

That headline could probably end up being prophetic. Because it’s not coincidence that Jajodia’s story has quite a few similarities to Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shanghvi’s own story. Both have a Kolkata connection, both started as traders of chemicals and pharma intermediates before moving to Mumbai and becoming manufacturers. Both entrepreneurs decided to make their play in niche areas, a savvy strategy that saw Shanghvi unseat Mukesh Ambani as India’s richest person not too long ago.

Though Jajodia emphasises that “we are a very small company” at every opportunity, one cannot deny the potential in his strategy, and applaud his determination to “pump in a lot of investment in research.” Perhaps the fact that he sees PPS as not just a business bet but also as a social cause will give him that slight edge in a crowded market. His aim is of course to increase his market base, but is also concerned that there is a lack of awareness about IC both among patients and doctors, as it is a much misunderstood and misdiagnosed diseased condition.

Swati Spentose’s story is mirrored across India’s pharma landscape, with many API manufacturers evolving up the value chain and vying to expand their global footprint. In the coming issues, we hope to feature many more such examples in our attempt to find the hidden gems.

Unlike IC, diabetes gets a lot of press through the year and reaches a crescendo around November 14, World Diabetes Day. But despite the awareness campaigns, diabetes continues to add to the NCD disease burden. Pegged to be the ‘Diabetes Capital of the World’, India’s policy to deal with diabetes has seen a few twists and turns. Prevention and control of diabetes is now packaged with cancer, CVD and stroke into one programme under the draft National Health Policy 2015. Our story, ‘A wake up call on NCDs’ (pages 30-32), reveals that experts are divided on the pros and cons of this U-turn in health policy, but all agree that whatever the policy, execution is the key to sustainable outcomes.

Viveka Roychowdhury
Editor

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