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Matrix revolutions


G Singa Rao  |  Hyderabad 

Nimmagadda Prasad, chairman and CEO, Matrix Laboratories, is publicity shy. But, the media blitz that followed his Rs 607.50 crore deal with the US-based Newbridge Capital and the Singapore government's investment arm Temasek suggests Prasad's days of quiet tranquillity are over.
Prasad first surprised many in the drug industry when his Hyderabad-based company declared a net profit of Rs 20 crore on sales of Rs 50 crore for the quarter ended June 2002.
Considered the highest margin in the business of active pharmaceutical ingredients, commonly known as bulk drugs, it was achieved by exporting Citalopram, an anti-depressant bulk drug, to Europe on non-infringing process patents granted to Matrix by the European authorities.
Though this got talking about Matrix, questions were raised about whether the company could sustain and consolidate its extraordinary growth into a long-term competitive advantage.
Those questions have been answered. Not only did Citalopram continue to grow in absolute numbers, several new products performed spectacularly in the current financial year.
Moreover, Matrix signed a major deal with the Clinton Foundation for the supply of anti-AIDS drugs as part of the latter's initiatives in Africa.
The man who has taken Matrix to such heights is the 42-year-old Prasad, a post-graduate in science and an MBA. Prasad started his career in 1984 as a management trainee in Indian Molasses Company, an associate of United Molasses Co, UK.
In 1989, he joined the French multinational Rhone Poulenc Chemicals (India) Ltd at its Hyderabad office as an area sales officer. Four years later, he moved from the then world's second largest MNC to the loss-making Vorin Laboratories Ltd as general manager (marketing).
There he rose to the level of full-time director by turning the company around. In 1996, he became the managing director of Vorin when Ranbaxy acquired a controlling stake in it.
During his stint in Vorin, the company acquired a sick company Fine Drugs and Chemicals and brought it out of the red.
Prasad entered the major league in the drug industry when he acquired a controlling stake in the loss-making Rs 45-crore Herren Drugs "" the name was subsequently changed to "" in May 2000.
Within three years, the company had reached an annual turnover of Rs 417 crore, with a net profit of Rs 75 crore. In this time, its market capitalisation went up from less than Rs 3 crore to over Rs 2,000 crore.
"The secret of his success is his willingness to share wealth and team management skills. He is open to ideas and respects and encourages knowledge," says C Ramakrishna, the executive vice-president (corporate finance) of Matrix.
"His planning and follow-up makes all the difference," adds Dr Satyanarayana, the executive vice-president (technical) of the company.
"A firm believer in God, Prasad takes life as it comes. He does a good amount of social work without making it public," says R Sundara Rajan, another colleague.
Unlike in many corporates, the full-time directors on the Matrix board are not personally related to each other. "We have great harmony and integrity in the company, where work is the only binding force," Prasad points out.
Prasad transformed into one of the major bulk drug players in the country by acquiring the Ranbaxy-controlled Vorin Laboratories Ltd, and the Shriram group's Medicorp Technologies India Ltd last year.
"Today, we are a totally transformed company that is focussed on building a world-class and intellectually-driven organisation. We have strengthened our ability to compete in the markets of the future. Our vision is to emerge as a knowledge-based and dependable pharmaceutical supplier to the global healthcare industry," says Prasad.

First Published: Sat, January 03 2004. 00:00 IST