Express Pharma

My role is to act like a catalyst

Nikhil Chopra recently took over as CEO and Whole-time Director of JB Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals. In a free-wheeling conversation with the Express Pharma team, he describes how he will take forward the legacy brands as well as build new ones 

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Viveka Roychowdhury: Could you give us an overview of your brief at JB Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals (JBCPL) as their CEO, post their acquisition by PE firm KKR?

It’s a privilege to be a part of the JBCPL family. I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than two decades and joined JBCPL around four months back. The organisation has done tremendously well over the last four decades and I intend to make the best use of our manufacturing set up along with the strong legacy that the company has established. We have a fantastic asset and we will leverage it to get the best out of the manufacturing capabilities and strong legacy. I am delighted to share that as reported by IMS – JBCPL enjoys five brands in the top 300 as a franchise, a feat achieved by a limited number of companies, which demonstrates the strength of the company.

Our robust manufacturing is primarily based in the southern part of Gujarat where we have a set up in Panoli, Ankleshwar (Bharuch Dist.) and Daman. In the area of lozenges, we have a sizeable and differential opportunity to service our many multinational clients.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the promoters of JBCPL for their everlasting support in ensuring a seamless transition and helping us further enhance our relationship with external stakeholders. JBCPL has an able leadership team and talent who have been with the company for more than a decade, which put together lays a strong foundation for the company.

My role here is to act as a catalyst by giving strategic directions and empowering the organisation to grow. We are also in the process of identifying capability gaps, if any. We have hired a new R&D lead who will be joining the company in March and have also appointed a new QA/QC head. We will be adding more leaders in the domain of Investor relations and Legal to bolster our leadership team. The leadership team is stitched together and is poised to build momentum and we are charting out the strategic blueprints across geographies.

With respect to India, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging period however, in the last couple of months the market is showing handsome growth. The net December growth reported is 7 to 8 per cent but it is important to note that JBCPL is growing at a net of 17 to 18 per cent despite the pandemic and is poised for market-beating growth. JBCPL brands continue to grow and gain market share as reported even by external stakeholders. We are also determined to leverage our existing brands. We have an extremely capable field force of 2000 people in India who support us by marketing our products.

We want to diversify ourselves into new therapeutic areas and build on our strengths. We have the potential to offer unique differential offerings to HCPs and patients in India. For lozenges, we work closely with several multinational players wherein lifecycle management of the product and becoming more competitive in the market are our priority areas. We are also aspiring on reducing the dependency on the legacy portfolio in the Indian and International market, and offering a more progressive portfolio in the geographies that we are present, for which we are putting together a plan of scaling up our R&D and BD (Business Development) efforts. We are certainly taking steps to enhance productivity and putting up a robust framework of governance to enable the company to grow.

Geographically, around 50 per cent of our business comes from India which is our home market, our next two home markets are South Africa and Russia where we are present for the last two to three decades and we have an able leadership and sturdy sales and distribution infrastructure which will help us offering the right portfolio and deepening our presence in the aforementioned geographies. In ROW (Rest of the World) cluster we are present in Latin America, Sub Saharan Africa, Asia-Pac and Middle-east which is a distributer led model and in the US we have a cost-plus model where we work with a US pharma company and we do all the developmental and regulatory work for them.

The ongoing pandemic has forced every business to relook and rework its way of operating. To model the pandemic as an opportunity, we need to immerse ourselves in the world of technology. We, at JBCPL, understand the need to get into the world of digital but, that does not mean we don’t want to be physically present, we want to complement our physical presence with the help of enabling our team with technology that will facilitate us in bringing customer delight to our internal stakeholders, our people, doctors etc. So, we want to get into the world of ‘Phygital’ which is a combination of physical and digital. Starting with India, we have put in some processes and systems in place such as sales force automation, sales force excellence, enabling our force technologically such that when they go in the clinic of a doctor they are adequately equipped. We are also getting into the digital promotion of products and also put a patient-centric model which will further help patients.

Viveka Roychowdhury: What is your strategy for this new phase of JBCPL? Could you give us three opportunities that you are looking at tapping in the short term, mid-term and then in the long term?

Our biggest bet is India, where we have 2000 people on the ground and 50 per cent of our revenue comes from India. In India, we will continue to leverage the opportunities that we have in-hand organically as we are growing at 17 per cent, compared to the market growth of 7-8 per cent. We want to maintain this momentum and diversify into newer categories that can be in generic formulations, wellness etc. Equally, we will be loo