The guts behind the glory
Suresh Pareek, Founder and Managing Director, Ideal Cures, is the quintessential Indian entrepreneur: beating a debilitating hardship on the personal front, putting two failed business ventures behind him, then taking on global competitors to become an industry leader of reckoning. In this Idea Exchange, Pareek shares his learnings with the Business Publication Division, The Indian Express…
Could you give us a brief idea of your family background?
I was born in Nawalgarh, Rajasthan. My father, Rukmanand Pareek was teacher and later on worked with Zenith for 30 years at Khopoli, Maharashtra. I did my schooling in Nawalgarh, Lakshmangarh, Jaipur in Rajasthan and Khopoli, Maharashtra. Later I did my graduation from Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Pune. I did my chartered accountancy articleship with M/s M M Nissim and Company between 1976-1979.
Your first job was with Grauer & Weil, which is into metal finishing, offering an integrated package of Chemicals, Plants, Effluent treatment systems and Waste recovery techniques from spent solutions. You had a meteoric rise thru’ the ranks – joining as an MT (management trainee) in 1979 and becoming a RM (Regional Manager) in just five years, and GM (General Manager) heading the North region by 1987 …
I started my career as a management trainee in Grauer & Weil India Ltd. In 1979. Later I was promoted as management accountant in 1981, as regional manager in 1984, and as general manager (North India ) in 1987. During this period I set up three new plants, one at Vapi and two at Noida. In 1988 I left Grauer & Weil India and joined Kanoria Industries as Vice President, at Mumbai. In 1989 I was deputed as whole time Director of Rajasthan Communications, Jaipur until June 1990. I rejoined Grauer & Weil India as President in June 1990.
How was it to rejoin the company where you were an MT … did your former colleagues accept you?
There was some resistance but I overcame it with my work. I was promoted as whole time Director in 1992, was also taken on the Board of Poona Bottling Company (Franchisee of CocaCola India). I planned the takeover of Bombay Paints in 1994 and was appointed on the board of Bombay Paints as whole time Director. Later I left the Growel group in 1998 to start my own business.
It was after two decades of a very successful corporate career that you left it all to start your own business in 1998. What made you take this decision, leave the comforts of a corporate life and start from scratch?
In 1996, I was suffering from bilateral necrosis of hip joint and all the doctors had advised me to undergo hip replacement. The very thought of walking on crutches in front of so many colleagues was painful as they had seen me as figure of authority and I worried that they would cease to respect me as a business leader after seeing me so helpless. During this time of difficulty Dr Ali Irani and Dr Vaishnav came to my rescue. Under their guidance I toiled hard for many months and now I can walk on my own. Even today I regularly exercise. I decided to start my business as I finally felt it was time to be the master of my own fate. However I was appointed as Independent Director on the Board of Grauer & Weil India in 2006 and even today I am on the board as well as the Chairman of the audit committee. So In 1998 I started a business of Industrial Automation in association with an Australian company and executed automation for the test launch pad of ISRO. This was a Triple redundant system for cryogenic fuel. After execution of this order, received order for second launch pad however this business had to be shut down because of problems.
Then I started a software company Eeshan Infosystems for Y2K solutions as well as other software’s. This also had to be shut down due to problems.
So before you tasted success, you had to taste failure …
Yes and success won’t happen unless you are willing to have a go, fail and have another go. In 1999, I started my third business venture, supplying ready-to-use film coating systems, drug delivery systems, taste masking agents and specialty products for the pharma industry.
Don’t you regret entering the very regulated field like pharma?
Not at all. In fact I think regulation is good for everyone.
So looking back in hindsight, the learnings from the initial two enterprises did become the building blocks for Ideals Cures which within a decade is an acknowledged leader, even winning two commendations / awards from export promotion councils, and most lately, in Spetember, a National award for Outstanding efforts in entrepreneurship in the MSME manufacturing sector. What is your success mantra?
The very essence of a successful leadership is that you have a vision. You can’t blow an unsure trumpet. When we started out, there was only one global competitor in India. As we were beginners, obviously catching up with such players was practically impossible. However, we believed in fulfilling requirement and demand of our customers. For instance, we were ready to provide even small quantities to our customers. I think other companies were not so understanding of customers’ need while we took this as an opportunity and increased our customer base. Today, I am proud that while other companies are known by their company name, we are known by name of our product. For example, customers call us the ‘INSTACOAT’ guys rather than the ‘Ideal Cures’ people. This is successful brand recall.
Looking back over this eventful decade, what are the major milestones for your company?
We started operations with a small unit at Andheri, in suburban Mumbai. As we expanded, we then set up new plants at Vasai (also in suburban Mumbai) in 2004, Jammu in 2009 and Khambhat, Gujarat in 2009. The company introduced many new products for coating, taste masking, sustained release and targeted drug delivery. We went on to create a network of distributors and dealers in 18 countries and export to 43 countries. We have developed a strategy to identify and meet the needs of customers for specialised product also for solving customer problem.
The Ideal Cures R&D Centre has been recognised by Department of Scientific & Industrial Research, Ministry of Scientific & Technology, Government of India. I am proud to say that we have been granted nine Indian Patents.
How modern are the plants? Since you supply globally, what certifications do they meet ?
Both our Jammu and Vasai plants are licensed by Indian Food & Drug Administration. Moreover, Vasai plant has US Drug Master File (DMF) and all the transparency of quality standards maintained. We are also an ISO 9001 – 2008 certified company. Our plants are audited and approved both by customers, as well as quality and regulatory authorities. All documentation and processes are transparent. We have TGA – product notification for Instacoat.
The chemicals industry suffers from a negative image in the minds of the public. Accidents like the Union Carbide gas leak return to haunt public memory, so how do you plan to build a sustainable, green business which is also profitable? Do you look on it as a CSR activity or is it a key part of your business strategy, a differentiating edge which is part of your ‘sales pitch’ to your clients …
All the three plants at Vasai, Jammu and Khambhat are designed so as to save energy and have state of art water treatment plant and the residue water is used for gardening. We also promote the use of water-based rather than solvent based coating systems so that our user-clients use less water and solvents, which cuts down on their effluents as well. In fact towards this objective we have a knowledge sharing three day training sessions for our customers which are conducted twice a year by us at our premises.
What is your stance on patents?
We value IPR and respect the same. However patents obtained on the basis of prior art with changed wording and claims should be challenged. We challenged some patents on coating systems and won the cases resulting in patents being revoked or not granted. We just wanted to prove a point that there was nothing new in those patent applications or granted patents.
How are you contributing to prevent counterfeiting?
Counterfeiting of medicines is one challenging task the pharma industry and the regulator are facing today. We have developed two products to restrict this problem. Instacoat Unique is the coating material which imparts two different shades to the tablet when viewed from different angles. Second product is Instacoat Spectrum use of which provides two different colour coating to the tablet. These are the two products which we have developed so far.
What is your succession plan?
Though my business is related to the pharma industry, I am a CA by training and the knowledge I have about the pharma sector is acquired by experience. Today people start their career in the pharma industry after proper education in pharmaceutical sciences. So I ensured that my daughter got the relevant pharma-related education and qualifications. My daughter now works with me in my company; I want her to practically learn the requirements and skills of the business.
How do you balance your professional life with your personal life? I believe you are associated with many charities …
I do take out time to go for holidays once a year and some times my family accompanies on my work tours. I started the TB project for Rotary Club of Bombay North End and was Chairman for three years, during which 500 patients per year were treated free of cost. I am also trustee in couple of charitable organisations. I consider it is important to return to the society what we have gained from it either by giving time and funds or both and towards this objective which gives me immense satisfaction.
What challenges are ahead, specifically for your company as well as for the industry? How are they different from what you faced…
Where we are now is just the beginning, I believe it is better to wear out than to rust out. As a company we will always strive to offer innovations and value added services to our customers.
Presently, the most important challenge is to work on aqueous based products which will offer high productivity as well as moisture barrier properties, also on excipients like spheres and new compounded excipient formulations like extended cooling boosters so that we can offer a wider portfolio to customers. At the initial stage when we started the main challenge was to be able to offer competitive products at better service standards than what was existing and also building a modern infrastructure and facilities and the present challenge would be to develop innovative user friendly products and maintain the balance of margins.
Does the SME & MSME sector get the support it needs from the government?
The government as well as export promotion councils take lots of initiatives in encouraging and supporting SME sectors by providing assistance for quality systems, technology up gradation, export market development and other areas.
What’s your advice to the entrepreneurs of today?
My only advice is that in order to succeed you don’t have to be afraid of failures. Hard work and persistence is the key. Success comes before work only in the dictionary!