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Published on: Feb. 27, 2023, 12:25 p.m.
How Akums emerged as a force to reckon with
  • Sanjeev & Sandeep: aiming to further expand the share

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd is now India's largest company in the contract research and manufacturing (CRAMS) sector. Founded in 2004 by the Jain brothers, Sanjeev and Sandeep, this Delhi-headquartered company, which is supported by the Singapore-based private equity firm Quadria Capital, currently produces over 12 per cent of all drugs consumed in the country. With more than 15,000 employees across 15 state-of-the-art facilities, the company, with a revenue of  Rs4,000 crore, has the capability to manufacture formulations across a broad range of dosage forms and therapeutic segments

The company has recently received approval from DCGI to launch an antidiabetic drug called ‘Lobeglitazone’ for the treatment of diabetes in India. It offers several advantages, including a higher safety profile, greater effectiveness in lower dosages, a lower risk of hypoglycaemia, and improved pancreatic beta-cell function. The company also plans to introduce more fixed-dose drug combinations (FDCs) in the future for the treatment and management of diabetes.

Akums has become an integrated solution provider for pharmaceutical companies seeking specific development and business goals. Along with its core service offering, the company is aiming to scale up its revenue to around Rs10,000 crore and market share to 20 per cent in the next 4-5 years. It offers a comprehensive range of services, including formulation development, stability to regulatory approvals, packaging, designing, and market launch. In addition to pharma formulations, the company also manufactures Ayurvedic and herbal preparations, nutraceutical and cosmetic preparations, food supplements, and animal health care products for a wide range of customers, including Dabur, Dey’s, St Botanica, Marico, P&G, Cargill, Oriflame, Chicco, and many others.

In 2019, Quadria Capital invested $70 million for approximately a 10-12 per cent stake in Akums. The healthcare-focused private equity firm from Singapore specializes in growth capital investments in small-cap and middle-market companies within the healthcare sector across South and Southeast Asia. Founded in 2012 by Abrar Mir and Amit Varma, over the years, Quadria has evolved into one of Asia's largest healthcare-focused private equity investment firms.

“Akums is an internationally recognized WHO-GMP certified and one of the leading pharmaceutical contract manufacturers. In a short span of time, we have emerged as an integrated solution provider for companies seeking specific development and business goals. Along with our core service offering, we offer advanced solutions for formulation development and testing. In fact, we have built up capabilities to offer a comprehensive range of services beginning from developing drug formulations to go-to-market strategies. While building up our capabilities, we have taken both organic and inorganic routes and thus put up a world-class manufacturing and platform for our customers,” says Sandeep Jain, 55, founder & director, Akums.

Making an extra effort

“We wholeheartedly appreciate the enthusiasm and ability on the part of Akums to support us through the timely delivery of products, which has a significant and positive impact on our business. We rely on good services from suppliers like Akums to keep our schedule intact. They have consistently made an extra effort to assist us in meeting our targets,” states a spokesperson from Lupin, which has a long association with Akums.

“We thank the entire Akums team for their efforts and their regular engagement towards meeting our goals. We appreciate the timely supplies provided by them to help us achieve our targets. We expect a similar commitment from them going forward as well,” says an official at Abbott, another major customer of Akums.

“As a business partner, we are really thankful to the Akums team, which recently went the extra mile to help us during a serious outbreak of LSD (Lumpy Skin Disease) in the northern part of India, where there was a very high mortality rate of animals and a drastic drop in milk production. Responding quickly, they provided us with additional quantities of products like Polygesic and Unimycine injections, Pyridase bolus, and thus helped us in dealing with the trying situation,” states a spokesperson from Cargill.

  • The company offers a comprehensive range of services, from developing drug formulations to go-to-market strategies

Apart from serving the domestic market, Akums also exports through its wholly-owned subsidiary Unosource Pharma Ltd. The company entered the export market in 2014 through its Mumbai-based entity and currently exports generic and branded formulations (around 5 per cent of its production) to over 50 countries. The company is expanding aggressively to high-value, semi-regulated markets such as MENA, LATAM, and Eastern Europe. It is looking to more than double its export contribution in the next 4-5 years.

It has filed substantial numbers of dossiers in these countries. Around 1,500 dossiers have been filed as per CTD, ACTD, and the guidelines of the Ministry of Health of various countries. The company enjoys various international accreditations/approvals like ANVISA, Brazil; NAFDAC, Nigeria; FDB, Ghana; TFDA, Tanzania; FDA, Philippines, and TFDA, Tanzania.

“The endeavour is to export our unique formulations around the globe and re-design global healthcare towards a happier world. There are also plans in the pipeline to create joint ventures in various countries, to set up manufacturing units and/or packaging units for semi-finished products exported from Akums’ Indian facilities,” says Jain.

Akums has also backward integrated into active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturing. In December 2019, it acquired listed bulk drugs manufacturer Parabolic Drugs Ltd through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code process. Through this acquisition, the company, under its subsidiary Akums Lifesciences Ltd, now has 3 manufacturing facilities across Punjab and Haryana. Designed per WHO and US FDA standards, these facilities manufacture 40+ APIs, focusing on beta-lactams and the oral & sterile range of cephalosporins. The company also has a dedicated facility for sterile and lyophilised anti-cancer drugs. Akums’ API is currently a Rs700 crore business. One of the company’s API facilities also has a state-of-the-art R&D centre for development and contract research & custom synthesis.

Focus on R&D

“With an array of clientele, including some of the biggest pharmaceutical brands across the globe, we have a great sense of responsibility. Hence, our core operation is quality, a trait that cannot be compromised. At Akums, quality-first commitment to regulatory excellence supports the objective of providing safe and efficacious pharmaceutical products to customers worldwide. Also, innovation is our building block; we have brought innovation not only into our existing products but also in R&D and various facets of production, among others. We are glad to be a trusted name in the country and will always maintain our promise in exceeding quality expectations and bringing innovation in pharmaceuticals,” says Sanjeev Jain, 57, founder & director, Akums.

For the last few years, Akums, being a technology-driven company, has been focusing considerably on R&D to improve the quality of formulations and developing newer and innovative dosage forms. The company invests around Rs50 crore every year in ramping up its R&D infrastructure. It has four DSIR-approved R&D centres, supported by fully integrated SAP & LIMS equipped laboratories. 

Apart from having centralised R&D centres in Haridwar where formulations are developed and researched, the company also has a modern R&D centre at Navi Mumbai where product development-related activities are carried out exclusively for regulated markets like the USA, EU, Canada, and Australia. Akums laboratories are fully equipped for physical and metallurgical testing, microbiological testing, effective controls of the process, chemical testing, pharmacological testing, and stability studies.

Akums has recently formed a partnership with Leiutis Pharmaceuticals LLP and Biophore India Pharmaceuticals to develop a range of products for multiple therapies. This partnership is expected to address the needs of patients suffering from CNS disorders, pain management, and hormonal disorders in an effective, safe, and convenient manner. 

  • The company is consistently ramping up its manufacturing facilities

The collaboration between the companies creates a unique value proposition for doctors and patients and leverages the strengths of each company.

Biophore is an established pharmaceutical company that develops and manufactures niche products for the generic industry, while Leiutis is a pharmaceutical product innovation company. Biophore’s state-of-the-art, multipurpose API manufacturing facilities in India comply with cGMP standards and meet the requirements of the US and EU drug regulatory authorities. Its technology development centre in Hyderabad facilitates the entire drug research process, from conceptualisation to regulatory submissions.

Akums, founded by Jain and his brother Sanjeev in 2004, started as a contract manufacturing facility in Haridwar for oral solid dosage with a turnover of around Rs190 crore within 2 years. Since then, the company has expanded its manufacturing network to 15 facilities, including three API facilities, investing over Rs2,000 crore in setting up additional infrastructure. Out of its 10 formulations facilities, Akums' nine manufacturing units are in Haridwar, and one is in Kotdwar, Uttarakhand, which it acquired in 2021. The company also has a new formulation unit at Nalagarh in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, which resulted from its latest acquisition of a facility from Ankur Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Akums has created one of the best pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in the industry, boasting of 16,500 product SKUs. Its world-class manufacturing facilities are equipped with ultra-modern equipment and machinery for manufacturing formulations in a wide range of dosage forms, including tablets, hard and soft gelatine capsules, dry and liquid syrups, dry and liquid injectables, prefilled syringes, large volume parenterals, eye and ear drops, and herbal, nutraceuticals, dermatological, hormonal, and cosmeceutical products. The company has a total formulation manufacturing capacity of 64 billion units per annum.

With these ramped-up capabilities, Akums has positioned itself strongly in the CRAMS market, which has grown rapidly in the last decade. The company has created an integrated portfolio of services, which has provided it an edge over the competition. Apart from building a strong manufacturing capability, the company is also investing in R&D and is therefore emerging as a one-stop solution provider for a large number of marquee clients. Going forward, Akums will continue to leverage its position and share in the market.

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