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Mankind Pharma: Resilience and ambition have got us to where we are today, say Mankind’s Juneja brothers


When Ramesh Juneja quit his job in 1983 to start his own company, little did he know that he would become the owner of India’s fourth-largest pharmaceutical company by revenue. It was a “herculean” task, but Juneja said it was their “resilience”, “ambition” and “motivation” that got the Juneja brothers where they are currently.

With just ₹50 lakh to invest when he started, Juneja has since made fortunes from Mankind Pharma, a name he coined in 1995.

Introducing pocket-friendly medicines in a price-sensitive market like India was a revolutionary strategy that made a big difference. “It took us 2-3 years to establish (ourselves). Though our medicines were half the price or even lower compared to our competitors, we were as effective. We were also earning – it’s not that we were doing charity. We knew the secrets of the trade; there was no funny business. Once we succeeded, we were motivated, encouraged and there was no looking back,” said Ramesh Juneja, chairman and wholetime director of Mankind Pharma.

The Juneja brothers – Ramesh and Rajeev – are joint winners of ET Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The company has state-of-the-art R&D centres in Manesar (Haryana), Mumbai and Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh), and a manufacturing facility each in Paonta Sahib and Behror (Rajasthan) which are USFDA-approved. Mankind Pharma also has offices in the US and Dubai.

Starting its journey as a small company catering only to western UP, Mankind Pharma currently has 12,000 people working in the field and another 20,000 people in its offices.Juneja, 69, is not just the person behind Mankind – he has also coined the names of many brands like Manforce, Preganews, and Unwanted 72, among others. “I give names to all my brands. It requires time and that’s when I don’t want to be disturbed.” Ramesh’s younger brother Rajeev, the managing director and vice chairman, was just 18 when they started the company. Rajeev, who is now 59 years old, wanted to join the Army but couldn’t pursue his dream. However, one important thing that he learnt looking at the army men was “hard work” and “discipline”. During his initial years, he worked 10 hours a day on the ground to learn the secrets of the trade. From seeing reports at chemist stores to checking expenses, he said that he understood what a common man needed and expected when he fell ill, very early on.

Rajeev still believes in working hard and weekends are like any other day for the junior Juneja. He says it’s not the qualification that gets a person into Mankind. “I am a dropout, couldn’t finish my graduation.”

‘Resilience and Ambition have Taken Us Where We’re Today’

To join Mankind, one has to pass the litmus test – their training – and if one does that well, it doesn’t matter how qualified a person is, they are in.

“The best suggestion comes from the youngest person. So I always want the junior most in the room to speak first. I want his opinion and two things happen. You will come to know how creative or intelligent this person is. Second, you get new ideas.”

Having started with a few products, Mankind Pharma is currently the market leader in several categories.

With 90% of sales coming from the domestic market, the company is not too keen on aggressively entering overseas markets. However, it wants to eventually get a foothold in other countries by introducing complex products. “We are an absolutely domestic market-focused company. We are so focused we did not launch our products in one go all over India. Our philosophy is clear: to make products which are difficult, complex – where entry barriers are high and not just any company can export that, then we can go all out. That’s why, including the US and the rest of the world, only 7-8% sales come from exports. India is very big; every company is coming here, and we have always believed in focusing on our country,” Rajeev said.

He says they are comfortable with the Indian market as they know the pulse of the people and going big in other countries is not their goal. “Why should we? We are the fourth-largest company. Prescription-wise, we are number one.”

Mankind is the first pharma company to have introduced OTC products like contraceptives. Manforce is India’s top-selling condom brand, according to market research firms.

Rajeev said it was people’s criticism who questioned their quality that made them plunge into the OTC segment. “Based on this perception, we launched our consumer OTC division. While the hard work and mind was always behind, it was also luck that Manforce became Manforce.”

According to Rajeev, the two brothers were fuelled by the competitive spirit to become the market leader across product categories. “Wherever we have entered, the objective was how can we become number one,” he said. “So, while the companies were going gaga over the dotted condoms, Mankind decided to bring flavoured condoms. That clicked.”

“A turning point was signing Sunny Leone – it changed the fate of Manforce. We give a lot of credit to her. At that time, everybody said don’t do it because of her history,” Rajeev reminisced. With an 85% market share, Mankind’s Preganews is an even bigger product. Even Gas-O-fast-jeera active sachet – which competes with Eno – is the only product to have successfully competed against the popular antacid brand and emerge as an ₹80-90 crore brand.

“We are never worried about profits but opportunity. Because profit I can earn but opportunity I can’t miss,” Rajeev said. He is not a believer of following his peers. ” We don’t want to follow; unless we can find some kind of a differentiation, we will not like to come. We need to stand out”.

But Mankind has also experienced failures. “We failed in many products. Behind every successful brand, there are many failures.”

Inspired by JRD Tata, Rajeev’s goal is to make Mankind into an institution. “My ideal has been JRD Tata. I read his book, ‘Behind The Last Blue Mountain’ and since then, I have been thinking can we create some kind of institution.” His aim is to make Mankind the number one pharmaceutical company in India by revenue. “Growth is a byproduct, but we want to become number 1 in terms of value and culture too”

Senior Juneja also believes in sharing fortunes and the company takes care of its employees and families.

On the business front, Junejas are open to mergers and acquisitions. “Once you have strong cash in hand, the best use of cash is to acquire a company which can add value to Mankind. We are not in a hurry and we are not desperate,” says Rajeev.

The ET Awards 2023 ceremony will be held in Mumbai on Friday, March 15, 2024


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