Cipla MD Umang Vohra moved to India from Dr Reddy’s in the US to run the former’s finance function in 2015. Within a year he was named CEO and MD. In an interview with Suman Layak, Vohra explains his strategy of taking Cipla products to global markets. Edited excerpts:
What attracted you to Cipla in the first place?
I always thought Cipla had an unfinished agenda. It is an 84-year-old company — all of us have taken medicines made by Cipla while growing up. Many companies would buy from Cipla and then market the drugs outside India. Cipla had great capabilities and I never understood why it wasn’t more bullish on global markets. Also, within the pharma sector in India this was the only company that has tried to be professionally run.
While you are trying to make Cipla global, you have also exited many markets. How do you explain this strategy?
We said we cannot find growth in small markets. We said we will go to the US, the biggest market, and also we said we will do China and Brazil. We never understood Russia. Turkey was volatile. So you see BRICS — Brazil, China India and South Africa — was covered. We decided, everything cannot be done. We must pull out of 40 markets — emerging markets in some cases, and some in Africa. In Europe we were trying to compete as a respiratory company, and there was GSK. It dawned on us that we do not have the strength and capability — so we went for more B2B from direct-to-market in Europe.
What is your US strategy?
When we started looking at the US market, we started thinking what is going off-patent in the US — oncology medicines, inhalers and immunology drugs. Now all of these are things that Cipla has done in India. So these are the areas we are selecting. These are products that are difficult to do. You also do not have as many competitors. We have a large R&D set-up in Vikhroli. What we had done for India and emerging markets, and were about to do for Europe, now we are doing for the US.