- The art of doing impossible
- must read success story
VaraPrasad and the art of doing impossible
In the early nineties in India nearly 340, 000 were dying of Hepatitis B in every year because of the cost of the vaccine, which was priced at Rs 750 per dose and Rs 2250 for an entire course. Then one man, a radical innovator came with a background in batteries and electronics and developed an Indian vaccine costing Rs. 50 per dose and Rs 150 for the total course. Today, the same vaccine is available for Rs. 15. The total no. of vaccines rose from 80,000 in 1991 to 10 crores in 2008.
So how was the journey to success and the lessons
Leverage the anger to passion/obsession
Varaprasad, was very angry as he was cheated by his partner in business. He went to Geneva with his cousin to see the Alps and happened to attend a health conference. He was shocked to see that the Indians were treated as beggars asking for free handouts of the vaccine, as the vaccine was too expensive for them. Instead of bearing the insults, he vowed that he would do something. He heard about Hepatitis B and decided to manufacture it. He went to a leading US firm and was told derisively that the technology was too advanced for Indians and anyway the population being so large a few deaths because of Hepatitis did not really matter. This made him furious.
Marshall your resources
Appeal to emotions and feelings where logic does not work
Varaprasad asked his cousin in the US to organize a meeting with fellow Indians in biotechnology and passionately appealed to them. His passionate and emotional appeal moved the Indian scientists and they promised to find people who could help in training Varaprasad’s team to manufacture the vaccine for Hepatitis B and they also pooled Rs 120 lakhs for this noble purpose.
He then went to the Osmania university and impressed the VC, Dr. Mala Reddy with his passion and energy who in turn allowed him to use the University microlab for research in exchange for upgradation of the lab. Varaprasad also recruited Dr. Gita one of the senior scientists direct the lab work and also can worked on her pet project. Thus he aligned her dream of working in her dream project with his of developing the vaccine gaining her loyalty and full support
Impressed, by his energy and dream Dr. Guntika Reddy a brilliant microbiologist in the US also started helping him. Dr. Reddy was so impressed that he got personally involved into achieving the dream that he offered his own lab in Columbia (US) for the research.
The work was quite challenging and technology quite advanced neverthe less Dr. Gita was able to master the technology in US.
Facing the challenges
Two years has passed and the money was running out. Varaprasad had sold his family property.
The banks not only refused to give him a loan but also insulted him. The venture capitalists demanded huge equity to fund the project. The funds were required to set up the plants, buy machinery to manufacture the drug. Then coincidentally the Oman foreign ministry representative was scouting for investment opportunities and impressed by Varaprasad’s zeal and passion for a social cause not only gave him initial funding but also helped him get loan from the Bank of Oman at liberal terms.
The other challenge was to manufacture the product, his team uptil then consisted of scientists who were more into pure research. He met people, wrote letters did everything possible, his home became a guest house and again the people rallied to make the dream the reality. He created the company Shantha on the name of his mother’s name who inspired him to go into a business that would impact society .
Meanwhile, the lab facility usage from Osmania university was withdrawn . Dr. Guntika Reddy referred to him to Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). The vaccine was tested on animals and then on humans. Varaprasad was the first volunteer for the test along with his family and friends. After one year phase 2 trials were conducted to test the efficacy of the vaccine and it came out with flying colours.Shanvac was finally ready and launched after tears, blood and passion of six years.
Dealing with the competition
The battle was won but not the war, the competition(MNC pharma company) first crashed the price , increased the commission to Doctors and then spread the rumour that the vaccine was unsafe.
Shantha decided to fight fire with fire and took the matter up with the Drug control Authority. A comparison test was conducted between the MNC and the Shanvac and Shanvac was equal and in some parameters better than the MNC product. It was published in the Internationally respected journal Vaccine and 200 doctors rallied to support Shanvac.
Create your own environment.
Do not forget your dream.
Experts from the pharma industry advised that Shanvac should be sold at a price slightly lower than the MNC vaccine projecting the sales of Rs 50 lakhs,75 lakhs and 1 crore for the next three years. This was not in line with Varaprasad’s dream. He wanted to make it affordable for masses. He wanted to inoculate 10 % of Indian children right away.
Again there were huge challenges. Shanvac expanded the market but the benefit went to the MNC vaccine and the unprincipled Doctors who used the Shanvac vaccine but charged the MNC rates from the patients. Meanwhile, Shanvac sold for Rs 50 by the cost Rs. 180 to the final consumers after taking into account the margin of the distribution and the Doctor’s commission.
Varadaprasad realized that the vaccine did not need any prescription and could be bought over the counter. He went to Indian Medical Association and told them of an Indian vaccine with low cost. He was invited to give a lecture and got huge support and response from the doctors. He eliminated the middle man and along with doctors organized a mass vaccination camp. There were protests, dharnas from pharma associations and trade unions but this did not deter Shantha and Varadaprasad following hisdreams .
Shantha ended up selling the vaccine at Rs.50 and earned revenues of Rs. 8 crores the first six months and by the end of 2009 they crossed Rs 200 crores .
The cost of Shanvac is now Rs. 15 in keeping with the Varaprasad’s commitment to keep the price low for the consumers. Shanvac is widely used by the World Health Organization(WHO) and also sells in USA.
The next challenge
As Varadaprasad continues in his effort to eliminate Hepatatis B from India the next battle is to bring down the cost of Drugs for cancer. The objective is to reduce the cost from Rs 3000 to Rs 400 per dose for the drug used to fight the cancer. The same battle with fixed mind sets, bureaucracy and established market players will continue.
Shantha launched Shaneferon having milder side effects.
As a guiding philosophy Shantha will manufacture anything
•That needs to be imported
•Improves the quality of the life
•The cost of the product is high and prevents the common man from benefitting it.
Varadaprasad, makes the impossible happen over and over again by believing in the Gayatri Mantra
‘Let the good task begin ; everything will be allright”
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