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Dr. Reddy’s Rise from Turmeric Fields to ₹1 Lakh-crore Pharma Giant

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From Turmeric Fields to the NYSE: Dr. Reddy's Rise from Underdog to ₹1 Lakh-crore Pharma Giant
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Have you ever been told “no” – a flat-out rejection based solely on your origins? Imagine pouring your heart into a product that could save lives, only to be dismissed by the original manufacturer because they couldn’t believe an Indian company could achieve such quality.

Fueled by rejection, he defied expectations. His company not only created the medication but also surpassed the strictest standards. Forget winning the doubters over; they became the biggest supplier of the very drug they were initially rejected for. 

This is the story of a man who transformed a moment of rejection into a ₹1 lakh crore healthcare legacy, making life-saving medication affordable for millions. Read on…

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Modest Early Life 

Born to Guntur’s (Andhra Pradesh) turmeric farmer family on 10 August 1941, Kallam Anji Reddy wasn’t destined for the fields. He dreamt bigger and was inspired by his father’s kindness, who made free herbal pills for those in need. So, young Reddy also set off on a path to make a difference.

Choosing science over farming, Reddy earned his BSc (Tech) degree from the University Department of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune. 

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A Peek into Pharma

Dr. Reddy first witnessed the power of medicine to change lives in 1969 while working at Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (IDPL).

But he also saw the problem—essential drugs were expensive and out of reach for the commoner. It sparked a fire in him: to make quality medicine affordable. Thus, he left the stable job at IDPL in 1973.

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Entrepreneurship Ensues

What followed was turning entrepreneur with his companies—Uniloids, Standard Organics, and Cheminor—in quick succession.

His goal? ‘To bring new molecules into the country at a price the common man could  afford.’ 

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Making Way for One of the Most Successful Labs

Fast forward to 1984. With just ₹25 lahks in his pocket, Dr Reddy took a giant stride and founded Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) in Hyderabad.

Back then, life-saving medicines were only available from foreign companies, a privilege for the rich. But Dr Reddy vowed to change that. 

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The First Big Bet & Win

In 1986, Dr Reddy saw an opportunity. When DRL was just two years old, a crucial blood pressure medication (Methyldopa) was about to disappear from the market.

Dr Reddy approached the original company, Merck, with samples DRL had made, but they were rejected since Merck didn’t believe an Indian company could make such a high-quality drug. 

But Dr Reddy wasn’t one to give up. Within three months, DRL created the medicine that met the strictest standards, forcing the giant pharma company to accept it. 
 
As DRL became the most significant drug supplier to the company that invented it, the medicine became affordable for many, putting DRL on the map. 

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Sustaining Aggressive Growth

There was no looking back for DRL, but Dr Reddy needed funds to sustain his aggressive growth plans. Thus, DRL went public in May 1986, with an IPO aggregating Rs 2.46 crore in equity-linked debentures. 

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The Second Big Break

Soon after going public, Dr. Reddy had another breakthrough. In 1987, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved his manufacture of Ibuprofen.

This opened up a new world of opportunities for Dr. Reddy as he gained access to the world’s biggest drug market.

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Setbacks That Spoiled Plans But Not Dr Reddy’s Spirit 

The road wasn’t always smooth for Dr. Reddy. He faced challenges like losing a key business partner in 1990 and legal battles with pharma giants in 1991. But he never lost sight of his goal and even pushed the boundaries of science, investing in creating entirely new medications.

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A Strong Decade for DRL

1994: DRL goes global with a $50 million public stock offering.
2000: DRL cracks the top 3 spot among Indian pharmaceutical companies.
2001: Makes a historic listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), raising a significant $133 million despite economic challenges.
2002-2005: Expands international presence by establishing operations in Europe (2002) and Mexico (2005).
2006: Achieves a major milestone by acquiring Betapharm, the fourth-largest generic pharmaceutical company in Germany

Although DRL was turning into a major player with a 2009 partnership with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), it faced legal battles with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer over patent infringement. 

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A Commitment to Social Responsibility

Dr Reddy was passionate about business and deeply cared about giving back. In 1996, he co-founded the Naandi Foundation to tackle poverty and social issues in rural India. 

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Dr. Reddy Departs 

Shareholders were shocked to see Dr Reddy miss the AGM for the first time in 2012. Sadly, he breathed his last in Hyderabad on 15 March 2013 after a battle with liver cancer.

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The Legacy Lives On

Dr Reddy may have departed, but his legacy lives on. Today, DRL operates in 100+ countries, reaching over half a billion patients worldwide! Their goal? To touch the lives of over 1.5 billion people by 2030. 

As his son-in-law GV Prasad and son Satish Reddy handle the reins, the company has operations in the US, UK, Russia, Germany, and Brazil, along with joint ventures in China, South Africa, and Australia. 

With ₹27,916 Cr in revenues in FY24 and a total market cap of ₹1,00,878.70 Crore, Dr. Reddy’s dream of affordable medicine for all is well on its way to becoming a reality! 

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I’m Archana R. Chettiar, an experienced content creator with
an affinity for writing on personal finance and other financial content. I
love to write on equity investing, retirement, managing money, and more.

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