Business Line
August 06, 2003

Sami Labs sees big money in herbal products


Madhumathi D.S.
Bangalore, August 5

OVER a year since it opened the domestic innings in herbal nutraceuticals, Sami Labs aims to be a market leader in the field.

The Rs 75-crore Bangalore-based company that was mainly into research and export of standardised herbal products until April 2002 now wants to be a significant player in nutraceuticals. Armed with 12 years of R&D, it is now finetuning its domestic act, especially in marketing and distribution, Ms Neeraja Shetty, CEO, Formulations, told Business Line.

Last year, Sami invested a few crores of rupees into setting up a new Nutraceuticals Formulation Division at Peenya. The division has lined up nine products in its `Care' range to treat problems such as HIV and cancer, liver, diabetes, arthritis, women's problems and prostate enlargement.

By April next, five more new nutraceuticals would be launched while Sami plans to foray into herbal cosmeceuticals — another niche area combining cosmetics with a medicinal edge, Ms Shetty said. Sami would also be ramping up its operations by the end of the financial year, Ms Shetty said, adding no further details.

The Indian nutraceuticals scene is an untapped goldmine and Sami is eyeing the "huge gap in the market" mainly for anti-oxidants, preventive and supportive therapeutics. "Nutraceuticals will be our core and focus area. We want to be a market leader and we have a clear vision for it."

The five new products include a probiotic; an anti-obesity formulation; a cholesterol lowering agent and a couple of anti-oxidants. These, she said, would be part of a large portfolio of therapeutic food supplements that is being built up around the flagship, anti-oxidants.

In a segment that is worth Rs 150-200 crore, the division would be aiming at garnering 5-7 per cent (or Rs 8-10 crore) of the market share in the first year of operations. Though it has a strong global network to back its forte — R&D, the company is addressing its weak link - sales and distribution in the country.

While various modes and options are being weighed, the company would not be averse to complementary tie-ups or joint branding with "the right kind of partners" to push its products in the market. Talks are on with a half a dozen companies.

Sometime next year, Sami plans to unmask its first batch of cosmeceuticals under the brand name `Johara'. Currently, the line is being tested at Dubai. Its ingredients such as proprietary white turmeric and pepper have been used in brands such as JK Helene Curtis, Avon, Estee Lauder and Amway; and domestically for Godrej, HLL and L'Oreal.

Eventually, Sami also plans to develop a domestic B2B business for the bulk ingredients that it now exports. "We would also like to get a strong holding in the flavours and fragrances market, develop a couple of biotech products and establish ourselves as a strong life sciences company," said Ms Shetty.

Clinical trials in US

THE US National Cancer Institute is using Sami's SelenoCare to conduct 12-year clinical trials on the benefits of selenium in treating prostate cancer. SelenoCare, Sami's new launch in the country, is targeted at AIDS, cancer, ageing, heart diseases among others.

Sami projects sales worth Rs 2 crore this year from the product, which is priced Rs 87 for 30 capsules.