Elder’s Shelcal hit by trade switch, considering encapsulation
Narendran Nair C N – Mumbai
SHELCAL, the Rs 45 crore brand of the Rs 200 crore Mumbai-based Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which was growing at the rate of 25 per cent till a couple of years back, is now showing a growth of just 8 per cent, according to a company source. The competitors, who include leading Indian pharma companies, have resorted to copying and introducing Shelcal-like products in the market.
Shelcal is a calcium supplement, which is widely used during pregnancy and lactation and for management of osteoporosis (a condition, in which the bones are no longer hard and tough).
Elder started with Shelcal-250 in 1988 and Shelcal-500 in 1990. Today, the Shelcal range is expanded to cater to the emerging needs of each and every class of population.
According to ACNielsen-ORG-MARG retail audit results for the year ending February 2002, Shelcal recorded a sales of Rs 44.3 crores and a growth of 5 per cent.
‘‘The brand, which has a strong recall, has been hit by the arrival of branded generics who are selling their products at one-third the price of Elder’s product to the trade. This has resulted in prescription switch at the trader level,’’ Elder’s chairman and managing director, Jagdish Saxena told this correspondent.
The company is contemplating encapsulation of the product in soft gelatin so as to retain its identity and deter spurious drug-makers who are chipping away at least Rs 5 crores of turnover, Saxena said.
Elder would supply the core of the product which the soft-gelatin capsule manufacturer would encapsulate. This could raise the manufacturing cost of the brand by 15 per cent.
Elder has scrupulously avoided patent infringements of multinational brands in India, Saxena said adding that he was hurt when his product was copied and bled by copycats here. The most interesting part is that the consumer is denied of the quality of the Elder product, and yet pays the same price as Shelcal for the branded generics.
The newly built bulk drug plant at Patalganga in Raigad district of Maharashtra is awaiting environmental clearance from the Union ministry to start production, he said. The plant, which has been built at a cost of Rs 20 crores, will supply bulk drugs to former Elder promoter Ajit Kumar Hamlai’s Rs 100 crore formulations plant in Oman.
Both the Elder as well as the Oman Pharmaceutical Product Co plant built in Salalah have been built according to US FDA specifications. Elder was involved in the setting up of the Oman plant too. Saxena said the Patalganga plant, which will manufacture macrolides initially and anti-HIV drugs after 2005, will become a feeder plant for the Oman formulations plant and he expects an annual turnover of Rs 80-90 crores from the Patalganga plant from October this year. Elder, which is growing at the rate of 50 per cent per annum, hopes its turnover will cross Rs 500 crores in 2005.