Sandeep Jain Shares His Journey and Insights Leading Akums in the Pharma Industry

Sandeep Jain Shares His Journey and Insights Leading Akums in the Pharma Industry
Sandeep Jain, the Co-Founder and Joint Managing Director of Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited

Embark on an enlightening journey through the vision and philosophies of a leader shaping the pharmaceutical landscape, Mr. Sandeep Jain, the Co-Founder and Joint Managing Director of Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited. Gain insights into his leadership, innovative strategies, and the thriving culture at Akums. Read on to explore his perspectives on professional life, industry myths, and more.

StartupTalky: Sandeep, could you please share with us a brief overview of your journey, starting from your family background to your entry into the pharmaceutical industry?

Mr. Jain: I was born into a middle-class family, and our father, hailing from Haryana, set out for Delhi with the aspiration of a brighter future. Starting from ground zero, he embarked on his professional journey in the private sector and built a foundation for himself and five other family members in a modest single-rented room. Our father devoted his entire professional life with unparalleled dedication, and witnessing his unwavering commitment has served as a mutual inspiration for both my brother and me.

Right from the start, on the inspiration of our father we collectively made the decision to enter the business world. My elder brother, Sanjeev Jain, identified a compact 55-square-foot space for a shop, marking the beginning of our pharmaceutical trading business. In pursuit of promising business prospects, I made the decision to forego my MBBS seat and joined with him, a journey that commenced in 1984

Since I was underage, I couldn't assume the role of a partner, leading us to seek a business partner and financier to kick-start our enterprise. Fortunately, we found a suitable collaborator, allowing us to launch our business. In this timeframe, I concluded my studies and completed my B.Com from Delhi University while simultaneously being self-employed.

During a time when quality medicines were scarce, and multinational corporations fell short in meeting the demand, we decided to step in. The era of contract manufacturing prompted us to establish our own unit in Haridwar, an excise-free zone. From day one, we faced challenges - from acquiring barren land to the absence of infrastructure. Establishing a manufacturing unit in such conditions was no small feat.

We started enjoying with repute in the pharma industry which helped us to access to few major companies for contract manufacturing, capitalizing on our positive reputation for significant collaborations. To align with our production budget, we needed to kick-start production within a specific timeframe. Although we acquired the land in April 2004, construction of the manufacturing unit didn't commence until July. Despite the delay, we managed to build an 800-meter road, level the land, and handle all tasks using generators. The first phase of construction concluded by the end of November, and production began in December.

Initially, our operations heavily relied on generators for about a year and a half. Setting a modest turnover target of Rs. 19 crore for the first full financial year, we surpassed expectations, achieving Rs. 190 crore which was around ten times the initial goal. Only in a few years, our reliability in contract manufacturing was established, leading to the incorporation of two more units. Fueled by sustained growth and market demand, we further expanded our operations, adding more manufacturing units in the subsequent year on year.

In the pharmaceutical domain, we bear a profound responsibility. Our steadfast dedication propels us to pave the way for impact and innovation, ensuring the health and well-being of numerous lives. Presently, we oversee twelve manufacturing units and three dedicated API units. Additionally, we operate four Research and Development units, where a team of approximately 400 scientists spearheads continuous innovation. Proudly, we meet over 10% of India's medicine requirements. The journey, though appearing straightforward, was far from easy. We pooled our savings and mortgaged our sole house in Delhi to the bank, forming the cornerstone of our business initiation. Furthermore, crucial funds were secured through a bank credit to kick-start our operations.

We worked tirelessly around the clock to build our manufacturing unit. We constructed a small room within the manufacturing facility where we could take short breaks. The story of our struggle and hard work is an outcome of the collective efforts of dedicated individuals who worked alongside us. We only conduct a sincere assessment of people's skills, offering them suitable guidance and support according to their capabilities, as it is the responsibility of a conscientious leader.

In the entrepreneurial journey, the common counsel of regarding employees as assets is frequently encountered. Nevertheless, our hearts have consistently resisted this notion. The term "asset" carries a materialistic undertone, and deeming a human being as a mere possession has consistently struck us as entirely inappropriate. Our core motivation in this business has always been to ensure the availability and accessibility of high-quality medicines for everyone.

Sandeep Jain at Akums
Sandeep Jain at Akums

StartupTalky: Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you?

Mr. Jain: I wake up at 6 in the morning, and after getting ready, I dedicate an hour to a session of yoga and meditation. Occasionally, I opt for treadmill workouts or take a leisurely stroll through the garden, although maintaining a consistent exercise routine proves challenging for me. Afterward, I savor a cup of tea and share quality moments with my family. Following this, I take a bath and follow my regular worship routine. Once breakfast is concluded, I commence my travel to the office.

Upon reaching the office, my first step is to express gratitude to the omnipotent. Whether I am at home or in the office, both spaces carry the significance of a temple for me. I begin my day by reviewing feedback from the previous day's meeting and familiarizing myself with today's schedule. Following this, I collect workflow details from my secretariat team and solidify schedules based on my availability. Concurrently, I consistently document my business ideas and strategies, adhering meticulously to the schedule.

Throughout the day, I participate in discussions with various officials, exploring different facets of ongoing business and soliciting feedback on the progress of our work. In addition, numerous other meetings take place, involving conversations with industry bodies, government officials, etc. to address policy frameworks. I allocate my time thoughtfully to actively engage in all these meetings. In the interim, I make it a point to address the concerns of employees who seek my attention.

I typically have lunch around 2 o'clock, and my preference leans towards a salad and my primary focus is on home-cooked food. Dinner is usually around 7 o'clock, and I either bring meals from home to the office or enjoy them with my family at home. More often than not, I find myself having dinner in the office due to my workaholic tendencies.

Interestingly, I discovered that the more I engage in work, the more energized I feel. While I'm not particularly keen on watching TV, on occasions when I do, my preference is to concentrate on industry-related news. I have a passion for reading in the traditional manner, akin to practices followed for generations. I derive inspiration and knowledge from books, magazines, and research papers. However, with the changing times, the current digital era has inclined me towards becoming someone who prefers technology. I retire to bed at midnight and rise at 6 in the morning, ensuring I get a solid 6 hours of sleep, contributing to the maintenance of my overall health.

StartupTalky: What are some challenges you've faced in your journey, and how have you overcome them?

Mr. Jain: The concept of failure does not exist in my lexicon. I believe that every setback or challenge is an opportunity for learning. Embracing these experiences allows you to facilitate your own path to success. Terms like "fail" and "hard to achieve" are reserved for those who lack belief in diligent effort and hard work. When I initiated my business, success wasn't my initial goal; survival was. I didn't harbor grand aspirations; instead, I dedicated myself to diligent work and remained fully focused on the tasks at hand.

Failures did not bring me satisfaction, as I chose not to dwell on them. My confidence stems from my dedication to work, faith in religion, and concern for the well-being of those around me. The achievements I have gained are a testament to these principles and the grace of God. Certainly, there has always been room for improvement, and I have consistently worked towards it. Whenever faced with challenges, I try to turn them into opportunities, making the most of what life has offered and savoring the results.

The love of my parents and elders, the dedication of those who worked hard for us, my steadfast faith in God, and the unity of my family have collectively become my sources of strength. Being surrounded by supportive individuals, particularly my parents who consistently guide me, is a wellspring of profound strength. In their presence, I acquire both unwavering faith and the resilience necessary to confront any difficulties that life may present.

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StartupTalky: What are the main strengths that have helped Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals succeed and build a strong family-like culture?

Mr. Jain: The decision to enter the business was fueled by two motives: survival and a dedication to manufacturing high-quality medicines for everyone. Since its inception, Akums has steadfastly upheld its commitment to producing medicines of exceptional quality. Guided by positive feelings, I believe a divine power has directed me on this path. Through the grace of God, my true spirit is reflected in my behavior, thought process, and business acumen.

Our business has consistently been shaped by our conduct, stringent quality standards, and prompt service. The goodwill cultivated by both me and my elder brother at Akums has nurtured this venture and played a pivotal role in building strong connections with our clientele.

In the saga of Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals, I am not the lone hero facing struggles and hardships. The narrative of our perseverance and hard work is the result of collective efforts from dedicated individuals who stood by us. They are the sturdy pillars of our organization.

Many who joined us as executives or junior officers in the early days have become leaders in their respective fields, such as plant heads, unit heads, or leaders of core teams and departments. We have consistently conducted sincere assessments of people's skills, offering guidance and tailored support based on their capabilities—a responsibility I consider crucial as a conscientious leader.

For Akums, it's more than just a business; it's a family to us. Every employee, regardless of their position, holds a special place in our affection, emphasizing the unique bond within our work family. Over the past two decades, I've been deeply involved in manufacturing, overseeing API, and leading R&D units. Surprisingly, in this time frame, there hasn't been any union formation - a testament to the strength of our work culture and the genuine care we share for each other.

Hence, the doors of my office are open to every employee, creating an environment where their concerns are heard, and solutions are provided. Finding joy in even the most challenging work, and taking pride in small accomplishments, my overarching goal is to create job opportunities and provide essential medicines to those in need.

Witnessing employees achieve significant milestones, such as purchasing homes, and cars, and building families, brings me immense satisfaction. The true measure of success in my life is the progress of those dedicated to their responsibilities, transforming dedication into tangible achievements.

Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Limited Values
Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Limited Values

StartupTalky: What misconceptions about the pharmaceutical industry would you like to address, and what truths should the general audience know?

Mr. Jain: The pharmaceutical industry stands as a noble profession dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of individuals. Dispelling the misconception that it is solely driven by financial gains, the primary objective of the pharmaceutical industry is to advance and provide essential medications and therapies for the healthcare well-being of society. In contrast to the belief that profit is its main focus, the industry genuinely operates with a higher purpose - the healthcare of the people. While pharmaceuticals do generate revenue, their core mission is to actively contribute to public health and welfare.

It is essential to recognize that not all medicines are affordable; some can be quite expensive. The high costs are justified by extensive research, innovation, skilled manpower, advanced machinery, high-end technology, and rigorous testing aimed at enhancing quality and evaluating lab results in the manufacturing of medicines. Additionally, obtaining numerous approvals from various authorities adds to the overall complexity of the process. Despite these challenges, prioritizing health ensures that the need for medicines arises less frequently, or perhaps not at all.

We find great pleasure in consuming a pizza priced at Rs. 200, yet a medicine costing Rs. 50 may feel like a financial burden to our pockets. The reality is that we meticulously manage our expenses on food, drinks, travel, clothing, and lifestyle, often overlooking the importance of prioritizing our health. Interestingly, the cost of many medicines is lower than that of a bottle of cold drink. It's ironic that while enjoying a cold drink can be a delightful experience, taking medicine might be discomforting.

Paradoxically, unhealthy eating and drinking habits, such as consuming junk food or regularly opting for outside food, may eventually lead to the usage of medicines. We respect people's feelings, which is why we are working tirelessly on cost-effective and affordable medicines.

StartupTalky: Could you share the key tools and technologies you use in your pharmaceutical business to enhance productivity and streamline operations?

Mr. Jain: Although I'm not very tech-savvy, I recognize its significant role in simplifying daily tasks, especially in the business context. I rely on specific tools and technologies that are essential to me, influencing and streamlining our daily work processes.

Leveraging Microsoft Office applications and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom enhances communication. The integration of Google Calendar and Time Sheet aids in effective time management and scheduling. Utilizing a tab and wearing a smartwatch underscores my commitment to staying connected and organized. The indispensable mobile phone remains a fundamental tool for seamless communication. My technological toolkit is thoughtfully crafted to support various facets of my daily work life.

In our organization, staying ahead of the curve in technology is a priority. We've implemented the latest trends, utilizing biometric and face recognition applications for attendance tracking. Our operational workforce benefits from state-of-the-art gadgets and apps, all supported by a world-class data center hosted in the cloud.

From our inception, we've embraced advanced technology, incorporating platforms like SAP right from the outset. Every operational function is technology-driven, with each requiring approval and inclusion in the technology-based list to ensure seamless functionality. Elevating our operational prowess, we have powerfully integrated cutting-edge tools into our framework.

Envision this: LIMS for Quality Control, Ample Logic for QMS, a game-changing Single-Window System (SWS) for capex and opex, EY’s Planvisage steering product planning, and Harmony dictating carton and packaging designs with artistic precision.

Beyond these, our commitment to innovation boldly extends—from revolutionizing software solutions for diverse canteens across varied locations to orchestrating seamless movement and facility management and delivering an unparalleled visitor experience through an advanced visitor management system. This isn't just integration; it's a powerhouse initiative propelling us into the future of operational excellence.

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StartupTalky: Please share a couple of hacks/ learnings that make your professional life easy/productive.

Mr. Jain: You don't need any hacks to simplify your life. It's essential to focus on the right things and your goals. I prioritize paying attention to detail, concentrating on the task at hand, and focusing on productive work. I believe in fostering healthy competition, and instead of dwelling on negativity, my focus remains on self-improvement and contributing to the betterment of the organization.

In the tapestry of life, when asked about our priorities, we often weave responses around home, family, work, or business. Yet, beneath the surface lies an undeniable truth — the most crucial element is our own life. It takes precedence over everything else. Placing a paramount emphasis on well-being, particularly health and safety, is essential. However, beyond these considerations, the linchpin of existence is happiness. The things that bring us joy serve as mirrors to our inner selves. The pursuit of materialistic aspirations for happiness is a fleeting endeavor, unlikely to yield lasting contentment. True fulfillment arises from valuing personal satisfaction and nurturing the happiness of the soul.

In the grand symphony of existence, the simplest melody is dedicating life to one's own happiness. To craft a life that resonates with joy, one must strive for what brings genuine happiness. The framework of our existence finds strength when built upon the pillars of joy. Yet, the journey to happiness is marred when we engage in ceaseless comparisons, mindless races, and relentless pursuits of material possessions. These endeavors entangle us in the shroud of sorrow, casting shadows over the true essence of life.

Life, akin to a challenge, demands our participation, but the competition should be a source of inspiration rather than fueling inferiority or jealousy. A positive and healthy competitive spirit serves as a driving force, propelling us toward progress. This mindset, when harmonized with our endeavors, has the power to unlock the door to success.

Effective navigation through life involves executing tasks with thoughtful planning, and embodying genuine time management. Discipline becomes the compass that guides us through the complexities. Crucially, placing passion above monetary gains becomes the beacon illuminating our path. Compelled actions rarely yield happiness; it is the alignment of our actions with our innermost desires that paves the way for a fulfilling life.

In conclusion, the symphony of a well-lived life is composed of the prioritization of self, the pursuit of genuine happiness, the harmonious balance of healthy competition, and the thoughtful execution of tasks driven by passion. In this symphony, success is not just a fleeting note but a sustained melody, echoing the perpetual sense of fulfillment that comes from a life well-lived.

StartupTalky: What do you look for when choosing partners or hiring people for your pharmaceutical projects?

Mr. Jain: We anticipate that individuals or groups joining us will be proficient in managing their skill sets, capable of summarizing their tasks, and focused on maximizing every moment to accomplish their work. Whether an individual or a group, whether an employee or a partner, we expect them to demonstrate respect for everyone's work. We commend employees who care for each other and provide assistance, as it contributes to creating a healthy work atmosphere.

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StartupTalky: Can you describe what your workspace setup looks like and how it helps you and your team work better?

Mr. Jain: Our workplace is more than just a corporate office; it holds the essence of a temple. Here, we have all the necessary facilities and amenities one would expect in an office. However, for me, this space transcends its physical attributes. The energy, aura, and atmosphere that permeate this place are imbued with a unique richness.

To all of us, this office is a sanctuary, a temple of sorts. The collective mindset here is that of reverence— viewing our work as a form of worship. Every individual working here approaches their tasks with a sense of devotion, understanding that the work we do is not merely a job but a sacred endeavor. Our business, centered around providing good health and breathing new life into people, inherently carries a positive and meaningful purpose.

In the hallowed halls of our workplace, the act of working is elevated to something more profound. It becomes a contribution to the well-being of others, a positive force that ripples beyond the confines of our daily tasks. Our shared commitment transforms this office into a place where the spirit of service and the sanctity of our work converge, making it a temple where each endeavor is a step toward enhancing lives.

Every corner of Akums is embraced by a pervasive tranquility, akin to the comforting ambiance of home. The echoes of patriotic or devotional tunes, whether in the canteen or across the campus, forge a deep connection. The culture at Akums embodies unity, respect, and a collaborative spirit, reflecting the same warmth and familiarity found within the confines of home.

StartupTalky: What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the pharmaceutical industry?

Mr. Jain: The pharmaceutical industry is undertaking a commendable mission—a service to humanity. If you comprehend the profound significance of this business, embrace the weighty responsibility it carries, and possess the courage to shoulder the well-being of others, then entering this profession becomes not just a career choice but a calling.

The primary objective of this business extends beyond mere financial gain; it is dedicated to serving human life. If you derive joy from contributing to the well-being of others, then this profession is well-suited for you. It's crucial to understand that this is not merely a profit center or a conventional business avenue; instead, it represents a significant responsibility—a commitment to the betterment of human life.

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StartupTalky: Is there anything else you'd like to share, like a personal motto or a lesson you've learned in your career?

Mr. Jain: I'd like to offer a piece of advice to today's youth—don't rush ahead chasing fleeting trends, and resist the temptation of quick fixes by comparing yourself to someone else's progress. Life unfolds over an extended period; take the time to understand and express yourself. Provide yourself with the necessary time and support. Regardless of your pursuits, approach them with passion and dedication. You'll find that success often accompanies steps taken with genuine enthusiasm.

Embrace the transformative power of love in every moment. Start loving whatever you're doing. Whether mundane tasks or grand endeavors, infuse them with passion. Shift your focus from outcome-driven urgency to the joy found in the process. Mundanity becomes extraordinary when approached with a heart full of love. Liberation from external validation follows; success is measured by the love invested in each endeavor. Extend this philosophy to relationships - listen with love, and connect authentically.

Life, when lived as an art form, transcends tasks, becoming a symphony of joy. In a mere shift of perspective, discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, finding fulfillment in the present.

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