If you are still, you are gone

Updated: Jul 2 2009, 06:39am hrs
Indravadan A Modi
Even at 84, Indravadan A Modi is in the pink of health. Pretty much like his company, the Rs 800-crore Ahmedabad-based pharma major Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited (CPL), which has not only beaten the economic slowdown but has also clocked an impressive growth rate of over 12%. Quips the octogenarian with a glint in his eyes, Thats because people need more medicines to combat the ill-effects of recession!

The tenacious fighter believes its the survival instinct that keeps him going even at an age when most people have resigned themselves to the travails of their twilight years. He maintains that if youre still, youre gone. Small wonder then that despite having handed over the functional reigns of his closely-held company to son Rajeev I Modi almost 20 years ago, the patriarch still comes to his office daily at 10 am sharp and leaves only by 6 in the evening. For the company, his is a benign presence, always there to lend a helping hand or render invaluable advice or even evolve long-term strategies for a company which he has not only sired but nurtured since its inception way back in 1951.

When I completed my graduation in pharmacy, I knew that I have not only to work, but also to grow. I also realised that India as a nation could not afford not to have a presence in the healthcare industry, Modi reminisces. Together with a college friend, the late Ramanbhai Patel (who later went on to become the chairman of the Rs 1,100-crore Zydus Cadila group), Modi started Cadila with a seed capital of Rs 25,000 and no employees in a residential area in a three-room rented apartment.

At that time, recalls Modi, people didnt think we in India could produce medicines. But our goal was clear: to set up a pharmaceutical unit, which would indigenously manufacture life-saving drugs at affordable prices. That, however, was easier said than done. Modi narrates how their first product Pregnisolone was priced at Re 1 compared to the prevailing market price of Rs 7 way back in 1953. I remember a doctor whom I visited to market my product asking me if it was Pregnisolone that I was selling or chalk I told him that just as he was a qualified doctor, I was a qualified pharmacist and nationalist at heart and would never market fake or spurious medicines.

From producing, selling, promoting and delivered his products himself, Modi has come a long way. Even the amicable parting of ways between the two founder friends and the vertical division of Cadila into CPL and Zydus Cadila could not dent the goodwill the company had established. Today, CPL has over 5,000 employees and is a force to reckon with in the pharmaceutical sector both in the domestic and the international markets with over 450 products in its kitty.

We parted as friends since we wanted our grown up children to have independence, admits the octogenarian candidly. My main concern when we parted ways was to keep up the spirit, name and reputation Cadila had established. Also, I was clear in my mind that CPL should be a knowledge-oriented, research-based company with a strong presence in the R&D space. Today with numerous pathbreaking molecules in the pipeline and the Polycap, the first of its kind combination drug which helps combat heart diseases and diabetes effectively, making waves all over the world, CPL has arrived as a major player in the pharma space.

His recipe for success Gods will and hard work, pat comes his reply. When I started the company, I never dreamt that wed grow to this extent but its only with Gods grace that we have come this far. He also believes that success is a consequence of effort. But a person should not be depressed when faced with failure because success and failure are two sides of the same coin. Our aim should be on effort and not on the result, is his Bhagwat Gita inspired take on life.

And whats his vision for the companys future I have passed on the baton to my son who has been steering it competently for so many years now. So to that extent it is his vision that is shaping CPL. But I feel well breach the Rs 1,000-crore mark by 2011. With an R&D basket brimming with promising new discoveries and a joint venture with a leading US vaccine manufacturer about to be signed, CPL has clearly embarked on an exciting journey. But an IPO (initial public offer) is not currently on the horizon. Thats because, as a closely held company, were not accountable to the public and have been able to concentrate on R&D much more as we are not unduly worried about profits, he explains. For him, an IPO is a trump card which will be used when it is required. Till then, hes content with holding CPLs cards close to his chest.

Elucidating the companys HR policy, Modi reveals that at CPL, there is a sense of ownership even among the employees. We are all colleagues and partners in progress and firmly believe that when Cadila grows, we grow. There are several among the workforce at CPL who have been with the organisation since the old days before the division with one employee hanging his spurs after a 37-year-long innings with the company. However, Modi has no qualms in admitting that over the years, theres been attrition as well. But this too, he feels is important for any company as it means infusion of new blood and talent.Deeply religious, the CPL patriarch confesses that he derives his inner power from the Almighty and leads a highly disciplined life. An early riser who wakes up at an unearthly hour of 3.15 am every morning, he puts in almost five hours of prayers, meditation, yoga and exercises before he joins his family for breakfast at 8.15 am.

After a hard days work at office, Modi loves horse-riding and rides 11 km every evening on his favourite horse. His hobbies include harmonium playing which, he reveals, he learnt at the age of 70. Its never too late to learn anything, he quips. Modi displays his newly acquired skill at bhajan sandhyas (bhajan evenings) he holds often at the amphitheater at CPLs aesthetically designed corporate headquarters at Bhat off Ahmedabad. A self-confessed foodie, he also loves good vegetarian cuisine and has a special weakness for ice-creams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, especially his eight-year-old grandson.

A die-hard cricket fan, Modi loves watching his favourite game in any format, be it a test match, or a twenty-twenty game but admits he cant play the game. I can only watch cricket, but I can run my business, he admits laughingly. He is passionate about reading too in his spare time, but it is largely confined to reading the Upanishadas and spiritual discourses written by his rguru Pujya Mota. Every year, the CPL chairman stays for 21 days in his gurus ashram Mota Mandir where he spends his time in complete isolation touching base with my inner self. To top it all, he has undertaken the Kailash Mansarovar yatra four times already, the last time being in 2007.

Though the terrain is the most treacherous in the world and several people have lost their lives while trying to reach the sanctum sanctorum, I love the challenge and adventure associated with the yatra and really enjoy it, he exults, his face glowing with fond memories of the pilgrimage those half his age would think twice before embarking on. But for CPLs grand old man, it is just another seemingly insurmountable achievement in his remarkable personal odyssey.