April 14, 2003

A taste of our own medicine


In 1975, when he was just 23, Muhammed Majeed moved to the US from Kerala, armed with undergraduate degree in pharmacy. Fourteen years later, he started a venture of his own in the US, and today he boasts companies both in that country as also in Bangalore (called Sami Labs), that are into nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharma. Majeed speaks to Sjit john and Darlington Jose Hector.

You started with nutraceuticals (food supplements with preventive and curative healthcare Ingredients ) in the US. What's the potential you saw there?

I saw the Chinese selling enormous amounts of nutraceuticals/herbal products in the US. India at the time was exporting just two laxatives. It made me think - India has so many herbal/ayurvedic products, why can't we do what the Chinese are doing? The US requires standardised items and Indian ayurveda had done nothing by way of standardisation. I felt India could become a big player in this business if we could become a big player in this business if we could standardise, develop clinical documentation and a scientific basis to support claims of safety and efficacy. Our group companies successes owe much to our bulding the necessary credibility by adopting these processes. Even today, the Chinese export 50 times more than India does.

Sami plans to do something similar now in cosmeceuticals (ingredients with medicinal properties used in cosmetics)....

We plan to bring science into cosmetics. Cosmetic companies tend to make claims about things like skin lightening and skin/wrinkle conditioning without providing the scientific basis for such claims. We will be bringing out a line of cosmetics in India, with clinical documentation and biostandardisation (exact measurement of impact in biological terms). Globally, cosmetic companies are beginning to do this.

Do you see a lot of scope for Indian research in these areas?

Research is the future for us. Indian manpower is of very high quality. There are also plenty of natural molecules available to be used. Sami plans to come out with some unique products with these ingredients.

How do you see the Indian market for nutraceuticals?

The origin of nutraceuticals can be traced to the alternative medicine movement in the US. The US is still the biggest market, but other countries including India, are now taking to it. Most major pharma companies are in the process of entering this market Nutraceuticals should come under the drug control authority so that people don't get away by making tall claims.