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For Bhai Mohan, Ranbaxy was an estranged son

By Bhupesh Bhandari in New Delhi
June 12, 2008 12:34 IST
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"Ranbaxy is my fourth child," Bhai Mohan Singh would often tell friends. So fond was he of the company he had nurtured since 1947, that he spoke of it on a par with his three sons.

It would be difficult to tell if he would have shared the elation of his grandson, Malvinder Mohan Singh at the family's exit from the company on Wednesday. Stripped of all authority and power by his eldest son, Parvinder, who he loved the most, Bhai Mohan Singh died a broken man last year.

Bhai Mohan Singh came to Delhi from Rawalpindi after the partition, having made big money in road contracts in the northeast region during the Second World War. He was soon in business, lending money to companies based in Delhi.

One of these was Ranbaxy, a drug distribution company started in 1937 in Amritsar by two cousins Ranjit and Gurbax (hence the name Ranbaxy). The company was unable to repay the money and Bhai Mohan Singh took it over.

Over the next few years, Bhai Mohan Singh saved the company from a hostile takeover not once but twice -- first from Gurbax Singh himself and later from Lapetit of Italy.

It was under him that in 1969 the company launched its first blockbuster drug, Calmpose. After that, it was a swift climb to the top for the company. 

Cracks, however, appeared in the family in the late 1980s. Bhai Mohan Singh divided his business among his three sons. Few were surprised when Ranbaxy went to his favouite, Parvinder. But in a few years, the father and son were at each other's throat.

Parvinder's global vision and his trust in his key executive, DS Brar, were too much for Bhai Mohan Singh to swallow.

After a short but bitter boardroom fight, Parvinder ousted his father from the company and was firmly in the driver's seat. Bhai Mohan Singh, who was happy to work the licence-permit-quota regime for as long as it lasted, found himself on the sidelines.

It was under Parvinder that Ranbaxy first spread its wings abroad and started to dream big. But  he was soon diagnosed with cancer. His disease did not check the company's growth.  He died in 2000, weeks after he had passed the baton to Brar, regarded by many as the brightest man ever to have worked in the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

At the funeral of his son, Bhai Mohan Singh could be seen lobbying for his grandchildren and Parvinder's sons, Malvinder and Shivinder, to be inducted on Ranbaxy's board. But the brothers said they would honour their father's commitment to keep family out of the company.

Despite that, Malvinder rose quickly rose through the company's ranks. By December 2003, he was firmly in control and Brar was out. Less than five years later, the Singh family has cashed out of the company.

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Bhupesh Bhandari in New Delhi
Source: source

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