"Once a mistake is made, it is often difficult to undo the process"
Tuesday, 30 May 2006

30 MAY 2006

"Once a mistake is made, it is often difficult to undo the process" 


Harinder S Sikka



Mergers and acqui­sitions (M&As) have helped Nicholas Piramal India Ltd grow by around as percent ear-on-year. Clearly, the strategy that has brought us to the op five positions in the phar­raceutical industry in India as been M&As.



One of the biggest mistakes rat the company made was /hen we acquired the Hyderabad-based pharma company, umitra Drugs and phar­raceutical Company ltd, in 1998. He kcyrnistake we made with i.e. acquisition was that our due iligence was not strong laugh. As a result, we believed .I that the promoters told us rd took their word for grant.. This acquisition proved to be a blunder and bled us in terms of time, money, energy and resources.


There were many legal aspects that we had not looked into. After a thorough under­standing of the liabilities the company had, we realised that the company was not worth even half the money of Rs 75 crore that we had bough tit over for!


The on I y silver lining to the entire goof-up was that we took it as a challenge. We modernised the com­ pany and made instate-of-the-art, Instead of a generic drugs company, we repositioned it into an innovation-led one that started to deal in  custom-built drugs. Today, this is one of our biggest strengths and the company contributes to 10 per cent of our turnover.


Then, in 1999, we went in for a Rs 1 Do-crare collaboration with LaportePLCin Hyderabad, to manufacture fine chemicals. It was a big investment eight years ago. But we messed up with the fi ne-print that legally put our partners in stronger po­sition, instead of creating a win­ win situation at par. The lesson we learnt from this was that if you do not look carefully at the fine print, the acquisition and resultant merger will not ben­efit you as much even-if it looks like a win-win situation  for both parties.


Organizationally, we have a culture that is built on trust. Some of our early acquisitions like Roche Products had been smooth and there were no prob­lems. But after the two blun­ders we made with the above acquisitions, we realised that we needed to be a lot more careful than we thought we were. What should you keep in mind?


One needs to remember that mistakes happen all the time it is a part of the learning curve.


At the same time, we maintain that no one should be allowed to make the same mistake twice. We pull up a person if he is found to have re­peated a mistake, what are the best practices of M&As that we have learnt from our mistakes? Today after fierce brain-storming sessions before an M&A, we even look at the full stops and the commas be­fore we finalise the deal.




We have also learnt that once a mistake is done, very of­ten it is too late to undo the process and there is no time to regret the action. At such a time, the on! y thing left for you to do is to see how you can make the most of the situation


Harinder S Sikka is Senior President, Corporate Affairs, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd

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