Ramesh C Juneja is commonly referred to by those inside India’s pharmaceutical industry as bhaisaab, which translates into English as ‘big brother’. It’s a title he inherited from the late founder of Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited, Bhai Mohan Singh. But, as The CEO Magazine delves into the incredible journey the entrepreneur has undertaken, it’s obvious that there’s no more fitting a moniker for this family man.

Not only did he found Mankind Pharma with his younger brother Rajeev (the siblings were even born on the same day, 10 years apart) in their hometown of Meerut in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, but he has also delivered much-needed medicinal care to millions of his compatriots across India – and, most critically, at prices within their reach. 

Mankind Pharma takes affordable medicine to rural India

Mankind’s story dates back to its establishment in 1995, but Ramesh’s tale starts 20 years earlier with stints as a medical representative for KeePharma and Lupin Pharma. These early roles took him to all corners of Uttar Pradesh, and, if he learned one lesson, it was that the smaller towns were often overlooked by travelling medical reps, who instead channelled their energies to courting the medical clientele in the top-tier cities.

It was knowledge he held onto during the 80s when he established his first business, BestoChem, with Rajeev, their brother Girish, and an external partner, before the family exited the company and invested their share in a new venture, Mankind Pharma, in the mid-90s.

“We really started out with very little financial resources,” Ramesh says, recalling those first days. But what the brothers lacked in capital, they made up for in ingenuity, and they injected what money they did have into buying painkillers and antibiotics, repackaging them under the Mankind name before selling them exclusively to doctors in rural communities for a fraction of the price their branded equivalents were commanding.

Ramesh C Juneja Founder & Chairman of Mankind Pharma
Ramesh C Juneja, Founder & Chairman of Mankind Pharma

The large cities were deliberately avoided, the rationale being that the bigger names in the industry were already too well established in these centres. “It really was at the bottom of the pyramid, the tier-two and -three towns where we started out,” he continues. But it was a strategy that reaped dividends. In 2001, the company opened its first manufacturing plant in Himachal Pradesh. 10 years later, he says, Mankind had carved out a footprint that extended across the country.

Ramesh C Juneja is unchanged by success

Today, with Ramesh as chairman, Rajeev as CEO, and Ramesh’s son Arjun as director of operations, Mankind is firmly entrenched at the pointy end of the pyramid of India’s largest pharma companies. In a statistic quoted by India’s Economic Times, close to 60% of doctors in India prescribe at least one product from the Mankind portfolio, so it’s no surprise to learn that, according to IMS Health, it is one of the top-five companies overall. In 2015–16, it reported a revenue of INR39370 million.

Much of this growth can be attributed to its decision to enter into the over-the-counter category in 2007. Products such as contraceptive tablets, pregnancy tests – even artificial sweeteners and deodorants – have followed. Manforce, its range of condoms, is India’s best-selling brand of premium condoms with a marketing budget to match.

Ramesh and family may currently occupy position 72 in Forbes India’s Billionaires List, but those who know him say that success hasn’t changed him; that he still possesses the same humility that led to his naming his company ‘Mankind’, a reflection of his belief that “health is the most precious gift to the human race,” as he explains.

No compromises on quality

While Ramesh may remain the same socially aware entrepreneur that he was 20 years ago, he acknowledges that the landscape of India’s pharmaceutical industry has completely transformed in that time. “Quality has become of paramount importance. Without ensuring the quality of our product, we cannot compete in the world,” he affirms.

Quality has become of paramount importance.

As Ramesh looks forward another 20 years and beyond, he explains that international expansion is at the forefront of his mind. Although Mankind already has a presence in 22 countries around the world, especially in Asia and Latin America, he admits that cracking the US market remains a holy grail. “It’s the biggest market in the world, but also the most challenging,” he says. With his son Arjun spearheading this global push, it has been reported that the company has plans to establish a factory stateside.

As he reflects on his vast accomplishments throughout his time at Mankind, it becomes evident that Ramesh has played the consummate big brother in propelling the brand to the phenomenal level of success it has achieved thus far. “My role at Mankind Pharma is to ensure we provide affordable medicine without compromising on quality,” he says. “And, of course, my role is also to motivate and lead.”  

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India’s diabetes war

In figures released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there were over 69 million cases of diabetes reported in India in 2015, earning it the dubious title of ‘diabetes capital of the world’.

he antidiabetic drug market in India has exploded, and today Mankind Pharma has 32 branded antidiabetics in its portfolio as it battles for market share with competitors such as Glenmark and Zydus Cadila Pharmaceutical. Ramesh identifies this as one important area of continuing focus for the company.