Ranjit Shahani is stepping down as managing director of Novartis India after 15 years at the helm. Shahani has been the face of multinational drug companies in India and a champion of causes such as protection of intellectual property rights. He oversaw the Swiss pharmaceutical giant's expansion in India, its forays into new therapies and the setting up of the company's global service centre in Hyderabad. His career had its share of setbacks and missed opportunities as well. These include the rejection of a patent for Novartis’ cancer drug Gleevec. Also, Novartis has not grown as rapidly as its multinational rivals in the country like Abbott, which successfully used the acquisition route to expand in India. Shahani has been associated with Novartis India since 1997, first as chief executive officer of its health care division and later as its managing director and country president from 2002. He will relinquish charge on February 28, 2018, the company has informed the stock exchanges. “At Novartis, Shahani was successful in persuading the global head office to invest in the drug development and service centre in Hyderabad. Also, the company's forays into the diabetes and oncology segments happened under his watch as country president,” said an industry expert. Novartis India posted a revenue of ~656 crore in 2016-17. The figure does not include sales of some of Novartis’ top-selling brands that are sold through an unlisted firm. “Shahani has been the the face of the industry, carrying with him all sections.
He is always balanced in his views and has built great camaraderie. His disarming smile can defuse any situation and bring matters on even keel,” said Utkarsh Palnitkar, national head, life sciences practice, KPMG. Shahani was the president of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), a lobby group of multinational drug makers, for 10 years between 2001 and 2007 and again from 2009 till 2013. He has been at the forefront in putting across the industry’s views on issues relating to intellectual property rights and innovation. Shahani did not shy away from taking a bold stand after the Gleevec patent case. Novartis would not invest in research and development in India but would continue to bring in new products from its global pipeline, he had said in April 2013 following the Supreme Court judgment. The court had rejected the Swiss drug maker's patent application, saying Gleevec did not meet any standard of novelty or inventiveness. “Shahani leaves behind a rich legacy not only for Novartis in India but also for the pharmaceutical industry in the country. Over the years, he has nurtured talent that has gone on to take leadership positions both within Novartis and in the Indian pharmaceutical industry,” said Jawed Zia, country president, Novartis India.