Updated on 11 May 2012
"The genesis of Cipla lies in that visit from Mahatma Gandhi," says Dr Hamied. That Cipla was instrumental in getting India its freedom is the story that inspires not just Dr Hamied but also each of its 20,000 employees, today. "Nation building is the job of every Indian," he says. The spirit of nationalism is at the core of all that Cipla has achieved so far.
Hamied, at 23, received his doctorate in organic chemistry from Cambridge University under the guidance of Lord Alexander Todd, who had received Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1957, the same year Hamied joined him. In 1960, Dr Hamied came back to India to join Cipla as its research & development officer. By then, Cipla was a public limited company and "License Raj" was the order. Since, he was related to the director, an application was made to the government to allow him to join Cipla and set his salary. It took one full year to get permission, which came through in 1961 setting his sal ary at `1,500 for three years, after which an application was to be made for renewal. "I got my first salary after one full year at work," he recollects.
At Cipla, he rolled up his sleeves and immersed himself in learning more about chemistry, hands-on. Given that Hamied Senior was also an organic chemistry scientist, helped. But Dr Hamied considers himself largely self-taught on all fronts. It didn't take him long to learn that every major drug that he wanted to manufacture was covered by patent and that the MNCs had 85 percent of the domestic market and export of drugs from India was negligible. He also realized that active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) is more important than formulations and went on to pioneer bulk drug manufacturing in India.
The India of 1960s was still following the British Patent Act of 1911, even though Britain had amended its patent laws in 1949. He brought together like-minded souls and in 1961 Indian Drug Manufacturers Association came into being with a single point agenda - change India's patent laws. "It took 11 years to achieve this objective," he recollects. That one change which came about in 1972, led to what Dr Hamied calls the golden period of India's pharma industry. The amended Indian Patent Act of 1970 that excluded pharmaceuticals from its purview gave the pharma industry the legal freedom to manufacture and market any drug required in the country. The development led to many MNCs packing their bags, Indian companies readily filled in.
Today, India is a major supplier of APIs and formulations. The country has the highest number of FDA certified manufacturing plants. For India, Cipla played the leader in not just substituting imports but also in acquiring a reputation for high quality exports.