Book Review : The Reluctant Billionaire

The Book ‘The Reluctant Billionaire- How Dilip Shanghvi became the Richest Self-Made Man’ is written by a business journalist Soma Das

The Book traces the journed of Dilip Shanghvi from a shop assistant in Kolkata to one of the richest men of India as the owner of Sun Pharma.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the remarkable life of Dilip Shanghvi.

Some which I learnt from Dilipbhai are:

  1. Learning Machine: Dilipbhai was a Commerce graduate, yet he could hold his own against scientists. The reason was he continuously learnt from medical journals,publications etc and once had even hired a Chemistry Professor to teach him.
  2. Ambition: Dilipbhai , from Day One, wanted to be bigger than Birla and Tata. When he was taking Sun Pharma public, he told analysts : “Every three years, I want my sales figure to become my profit figure”
  3. Detail Oriented: One of the favorite sayings of Dilipbhai is “Both God and Devil lie in the details”. His super attention to detail even in the minutest of things ensured Sun’s success
  4. Relationship Focused: Because of his MR experience, Dilipbhai realized how difficult it is to create relationships and how important to keep it. He was able to rope in talent and keep their loyalty because of this aspect.
  5. Business Savvy: Dilip Bhai always thought in terms of business growth, revenues, margins , business risk etc. His uncanny grasp on the numbers and ability to look at the big picture led to Sun’s profitable growth. What I especially liked was his business philosophy – he wanted to be in areas where the competition was less either due to size of the market or due to the complexity involved.

The Book does a splendid job of narrating the world of Indian pharma and that of its foot soldiers-the humble Medical Representative (MR). I never knew about the passion, the persistence and hardwork of the MR . It may astonish you to know that the MR, whom we often see waiting at the Doctor’s clinic, usually brings in a business of 1 Cr+ at cos like Sun.

The Book also covers the major acquisitions of Sun including TDPL, Taro, Caraco and Ranbaxy. They make for super interesting reading. I was stuck by how difficult acquiring companies in foreign lands could be and explains why there are so few Indian MNCs out there.

The author is clearly in awe of the subject and the Book can get hagiographic at times which can be irritating.

But otherwise the author tries her best in bringing in different perspectives and add more color via anecdotes etc

The narrative ends in 2017 and hence the subsequent controversies such as the USFDA issues, whistle blower letter etc is not covered.

I would strongly recommend this Book to all those interested in India’s pharmaceutical industry.

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