N. N. Sachitanand
India’s pioneering nutraceuticals manufacturer, Sami
Labs Ltd, is all set to tap the domestic market for its products.
Since its founding in Bangalore back in 1991 by Muhammed Majeed,
a pharmacist from Kerala, Sami Labs has been exporting its
products in the form of bulk drugs, mainly to the U.S, Japan
and the Middle East, where local formulators convert the raw
material to tablets, package them and market them under their
own brand names. Sami’s turnover from such exports exceeded
Rs. 71 crores last year.
by its export success, Sami Labs is now targeting the domestic
nutraceuticals market, which according to the newly hired
CEO of formulations, Neeraja Shetty, has at present a size
of Rs. 300 crores per annum. In the Indian market, Sami Labs
will be selling its own brand of formulations, in association
with American Formulary Inc., U.S. In the first instance,
the portfolio comprises nine products comprising anti-oxidants,
agents to manage arthritis, osteoporosis, hepatic dysfunction
and prostate cancer, a supplement to retard age-related macular
degeneration and food supplements for diabetes. Another six
products, in the areas of cholesterol regulation, pain relief
and fat management are expected to be introduced in another
Labs has established an enviable global reputation as a developer
and producer of standardised herbal extracts, nutraceuticals,
cosmeceuticals, fine chemicals, probiotics and various enzymes.
Over the years it has built up a research and development
team of over 100 scientists, including 20 doctorates and it
now holds nine U.S. patents. According to Dr. Bammi, Director,
R&D at least 15 more U.S. patents are in the pipeline.
company has so far invested around Rs. 50 crores with three
manufacturing units located around Bangalore and one in Mysore.
The latest unit at Nelamangala, near Bangalore, commissioned
three years ago, has the country’s first indigenously
developed reactors (for extracting active agents from herbs)
which use high pressure (up to 300 bars) carbon dioxide as
an extraction agent is eco-friendly, compared to the traditional
method of using chemical solvents. The unit was designed by
a group from IIT, Mumbai, and has cost the company a fourth
of an equivalent imported system. Can Sami succeed in the
Indian market? Ms. Shetty acknowledges that in the U.S., nutraceuticals
have a marketing edge over pharmaceuticals since they are
easily accessible over-the-counter products and regarded as
much cheaper alternatives to prescription therapies, particularly
for chronic, non-life threatening maladies. The situation
is different in India. Nutraceuticals have tough completion
here from standard pharmaceuticals, which are cheap and can
be accessed without prescription.
“We are, therefore, pegging our products in India as
complementary to prescription drugs and as health supplements,
rather than therapeutical alternatives to pharmaceuticals,”
says Ms Shetty. “Our sales pitch will be made initially
to the specialists, rather than the general practitioners.
We have already put in place a medical sales force covering
the Western and Southern regions in the country. We hope to
notch up a sales turnover of Rs. 10 crores for our formulations
in the current financial year and touch Rs. 100 crores per
annum by 2006.”