Quit Job In America To Build $2.03 Bn Firm In India

Very few people have the nerve to hold on to their roots and serve their nation. Once settled abroad, the smell of green currency holds them back and they continue their jobs or businesses in foreign lands. However, such wasn’t the case with Murali Divi. An enthusiastic entrepreneur, he has held on to his roots and knew since the very beginning of his career that he had to come back and serve his nation.

His life as an entrepreneur started in 1984 when he came back to India after working in serious research and development role in American firm like Fike Chemical. He returned to India after many years since earning doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences from Telangana. It was a tedious, bone breaking job. However, he held on to his nerves hoping his entrepreneurial life was still waiting for him.

In the midst of chaos he could not understand which way to toil. That was the time when a beacon light shone on him and Dr Reddy offered him the post of director of board in his newly formed Dr Reddy’s Laboratories the same year.

Together Dr Reddy and Murali took over Cheminor in an endeavour to turn it around and take the firm back to its glorious days. The idea was for Cheminor, a subsidiary of Dr Reddy’s laboratories, to be the contract manufacturing arm of the company while Dr Reddy concentrated on generics and drug discovery.

It was a daunting task for Murali to revive the sinking ship of Cheminor. He brainstormed and joined as a managing director before replicating the successful model of the business. He hired fresh graduates and trained them in chemistry of the drug production. They worked on developing a cost – effective manufacturing process for ibuprofen. One year down the lane, the product was scaled upto 1,200 tonnes serving 25 percent of the market demand.

Murali credited with all the research and development part of the company while Reddy with business development. They still laugh at how they brought the business back to the shore of Cheminor. However, both of them acknowledge the people skill of Murali played a crucial role in reviving the business.

Murali always followed a strict regime. He reached the office at 7:30 am in morning and worked his hours straight up to lunch, after which he spent the entire time in their manufacturing plant to monitor the production line. He stayed in the plant till midnight and sailed the employee right out of any chemistry problem.

Everything was going fine when the next generation of Reddy joined the firm. There was ego clash and Murali decided to call it quits. This was a major blow to him and he was left clueless which way to go. He had already left his prestigious job in America to join Cheminor and this became one of the lowest hitting times of his life. He felt he was failing. However, this did not go for long and he decided to take the compass of life in his hands and mark his territory the way he desired.

“The impact of this [style of functioning] was great. When he left Cheminor in 1990, almost 125 people resigned the same day. That tells you how he handled people,” his junior says.

Murali started his own firm Divis Laboratories in 1990. In its early days, Divis had to face a lot of struggle. Initially it was a consulting firm and did not do any manufacturing. However, with the passage of time followed by the diligence of Murali, in 1995, the company had a 71 acre manufacturing facility in Hyderabad. He staffed many subordinates who worked with him in Cheminor.

The real deal breaker was convincing international giants to outsource their requisites to Divis Labs. However, owing to the people skill of Murali this barrier was soon crossed. He started getting contracts from many firms after the toil. His grounded nature, and the ability to fly without leaving ground brought him many laurels. He knew the exact place to hit when the iron was hot.

His company makes generics; and custom manufacturing by producing pharmaceuticals. It supplies the active ingredients of drugs to big pharmaceutical manufacturers. The revenue of the company is mostly derived from the exports. The factory is approved by US Food and Drug Administration.

At the time when most of the Indian Pharmaceuticals were seeking fortune, Murali decided his firm will stick to contract manufacturing of raw materials for generic or non-generic drugs. Around the same time the evaluation came that people are living longer by 10-20 years and that most of them suffered from arthritis. This meant growing market for its drug. He encashed the opportunity by making active pharmaceutical ingredients or compound that had therapeutic effect. These ingredients were sold in the market in large scale.

Till date, Divis Pharmaceuticals does not produce end product. It produces generics and outsources them. Murali felt this would change from service provider to another pharmaceutical company. This would be a competition between several companies. He has developed efficient processes in specialty chemicals, pharmaceutical intermediates, herbicides and rodenticides and custom synthesis.

Now, his industry has revenue of $2.03 billion and he ranks 45 in the forbes rich list.

In the long run now Murali’s son and daughter have also joined the business. He himself being the son of a government employee was raised producing in farms. There was no fertiliser available at that time.

“There are still enough opportunities here; we don’t have to walk away and go somewhere else. The grass on our side is also very green. We don’t want to forget that. If somebody is enjoying the other side, let them enjoy it,” Murali Divi says with a chuckle. “Live and let live. Don’t destroy and get destroyed by being over-greedy.”

He has established Divis Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd, a sister concern of Divis Laboratories Ltd, in year 1992. It provided multipurpose facility at Kazipally Industrial area, 30 km from Hyderabad. The factory is designed to meet good manufacturing practices. It is a market leader in antidepressant drug. It has met the stringent Regulatory norms in the manufacture of the Active Pharma ingredients (APIs) and Intermediates.

Murali has extensive proficiency in implementing and managing bulk fine compound manufacturing facilities relating to standards.

We can learn from Murali to work hard for our endeavours and not take failure as a blow to give up. One must always catch on and realise that nothing or no target is unachievable if you have the courage to get up and follow up from your mistakes.

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