Hot Seat

Hot Seat

Swimming against the tide

Success is not to be defined in terms of what you achieve. Success is what you achieve in comparison to what you could have achieved. This is Vasudev Ginde’s philosophy that keeps him in pursuit of excellence. Katya Naidu explores

It was all served to him on a platter. Born into a family of medicos and being the son of a famous surgeon, there was a readymade practice and a nursing home awaiting him. All Vasudev Ginde had to do was to graduate as a surgeon and step into his father’s shoes. However, he chose to swim against the tide and opted for clinical pharmacology instead.

Drop zone

Quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit. Those who try to predict Ginde by age-old maxims are not the best judges of character. He dropped out of the clinical pharmacology course soon because he had high expections from the course. “In 1989, all that they did in the country was to test the effect of adrenalin on hearts. You bring the dog, anaesthetise it and give adrenalin, there is a smoke drum and you get a graph. Those were the kind of experiments we did and that’s not my idea of research,” says Ginde.

Despite quitting his education in clinical pharmacology, his pursuit for research never stopped. He joined the industry with the hope to garner experience in quality industrial research. “I joined Wockhardt and worked there for three years. I was doing MBA at that time,” says Ginde. Then, opportunity knocked on the door in 1993, in the form of Eli Lilly. It was a dream job and he had to go to Delhi. But he was already pursuing MBA at Narsee Monjee and he had to drop out of it yet again. “No regrets for quitting MBA. If I had not quit MBA, I would not have worked for Lilly which is what has helped me get here,” asserts Ginde.

Starting up

As luck would have it, Lilly was one of the first companies to come to India with focus on clinical research. The company gave intense training to their professionals. “That was my idea of research. I really loved it,” Ginde exalts. During one of his visits to Indianapolis, he happened to visit a laboratory, called Scicor. Scicor is now Covance Labs, which ranks number two in the world in contract research. A visit to the lab was the motivating factor that helped him realise his dream of setting something similar in India.

After a five-year stint at Lilly, he had to shift to Bombay due to family reasons. It was then that the dream matured into reality. His wife is a pathologist and he was trained in clinical research. “So I thought, well, now we can pull our resources together and start a clinical research service laboratory,” Ginde recalls. This led to the start of Diagnosearch in 1997, a central laboratory for clinical research.

Nothing to mortgage

Companies need monetary resources to function. The challenge for Ginde was that even though they had the human resources, they did not have the necessary monetary resources to back them up. “The overall story is pretty scary in the sense that I borrowed something like Rs 80 lakh through banks and personal loans. At that time it was $2,21,000 and the interest rate was 19.5 percent. We mortgaged all our houses to get that loan,” he remembers.

Fortunately, it worked because ever since starting operation, they backed quality. Most of their clients have been global pharma companies. Around 2001-02, Ginde realised that if they don’t scale up to a critical mass, they will lag behind. And he knew that in 2005, clinical research was going to take off in a big way. So he started doing rounds of venture capitalists making presentations. “But I guess the timing was wrong because the world over, VCs had burned their fingers (due to the dotcom bubble burst),” he observes.

He spent almost 18 months trying to raise funds. The only other option was to go back to the banks and do the same thing all over again. But, this time the loan was somewhere around a million dollars at the singular interest of 16.5 to 17 percent and he didn’t have anything to mortgage for that kind of an amount. Coincidentally, iGate corporation, a Pittsburgh based company was looking at moving up the value chain in terms of services. Clinical research is on the higher end of the value chain and Diagnosearch was merged into the corporation. Ginde still holds a minority stake and heads the company.

Sharing success

But success is not a one man job. Ginde pledges his achievements to his mentor-Dr Vinod Matoo. He worked with Matoo in Wockhardt and subsequently in Eli Lilly. He has played a very significant role in shaping Ginde’s early career in terms of giving the right values and setting somebody, who is fresh, on the right track. “I worked for only one person in my life, Vinod for almost eight years,” he says.

They say that there is no successful man without a woman behind him. And that’s the co-founder of the company and his wife. “Manisha supported me all through. She stood all through with me in all the four seasons one faces in life. It couldn’t have been possible without her,” Ginde declares. She never fails to amaze him as to how she manages both work and home. “She is switch-on switch-off kind of person. When she is here, she is completely professional, when she is back home, she is a mother,” he exclaims.

‘You sang all summer, now dance the winter away.’ This is what the hardworking ant told to shun the lazy cricket who lazed his time in spring and had nothing to do in winter. Even though he did not land up in the cold like the cricket, Ginde did sing his way through his time in medical college. β€œI would be in dramatics, I would be in singing, I would be in sports, I would do everything else but medicine,” he reminisces.

Medicine is such a course where the students are recognised as people who have their noses constantly inside big fat books. But Ginde went against these popular notions by joining a professional music band as a singer and making the most of his college life. But what happened to the music band? β€œIt was called Jhalkiyan and it closed down but not because of me,” he laughs.