Dilip Shanghvi Biography: How he Built the $8.7 Billion Sun Pharma

Dilip Shanghvi Biography Review: The Reluctant Billionaire

By Anindita Paul Apr 12 2021 2:21PM 4642 Read
Dilip Shanghvi Biography Review: The Reluctant Billionaire

Dilip Shanitilal Shanghvi was born on 1st October 1955, in Amreli Gujarat to parents Shantilal Shanghvi and Kumud Shanghvi. His father was a wholesale drug distributor and for most of Dilip Shanghvi’s childhood, employed in the Burrabazar region of Kolkata. Before Dilip Shanghvi’s biography was published in 2019, his private life was mostly shrouded in mystery; his professional achievements were what most defined him.

The writer of Dilip Shanghvi’s biography Soma Das, named the book The Reluctant Billionaire, not because Shanghvi was reluctant to grow financially into a billionaire, but rather, he was reticent about the buzz surrounding the status of one. The glamour that is expected of the uber-rich of this country, due to the precedent set by certain figures, is something that Dilip Shanghvi was unable and unwilling to participate in.

For an interview with Telegraph India, he said, “I am not comfortable at all with this tag of “the richest Indian” and all the attention that follows for the reason.”

But alas! Few things in life are under our control; as Sanghvi briefly took over Mukesh Ambani as the ‘Richest Indian’ in the year 2015, his image entered the limelight as the new face of entrepreneurial inspiration. Because he wasn't just a billionaire, he was India's richest self-made billionaire.

Even Dilip Shanghvi’s biography promises to tell the readers “How Dilip Shanghvi Became the Richest Self-Made Indian”.

The Reluctant Billionaire: A Short Review

The founder of Sun Pharma had always been an elusive figure and the subject of curiosity of many people who are interested in the business world. Dilip Shanghvi’s biography provides a lens to different parts of his life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and being a tycoon. But most of the entire book attempts to humanize him.

Soma Das’ writing is neat and doesn’t lean too much into sensationalism; it is grounded in honest storytelling. And that’s what makes the narrative so engaging. For people more interested in the business side of things, the book also deals deeply with the how’s and why’s of Sun Pharma and its history.

Dilip Shanghvi’s biography tells his story from the mouths of his loved ones, his friends, colleagues, former coworkers, even brief rivals. Das manages to build a solid and firm image through hundreds of different perspectives and doesn’t lose sight of Shanghvi’s character anywhere throughout this.

If you’re worried about whether or not Dilip Shanghvi’s biography will be fair to the readers and the man himself, let something that Shanghvi said in the book, put you at ease:

“You must know that everyone is a sum-total of their positives and negatives. And I don’t think hiding the negatives and only highlighting the positives would be valuable for your readers.”

Lessons to Take from Dilip Shangvi Biography:
  • Find your niche: In the 80s India, psychiatry medicines carried a huge margin of profit and had less amount of competition from the Big Pharma companies. Dilip Shangvi, well aware of these factors, decided to root Sun Pharma in psychiatry. Sun Pharma started with five psychiatric drugs in their product lineup, and as we can see today it soon expanded way beyond that.
  • Leap of faith: The term ‘leap of faith’ can often sound like one is making an uninformed decision, but that’s far from the truth in Dilip Shanghvi's case. He was fiercely motivated and clear about his goals, even when his father wasn’t fully convinced of his decision of leaving trade for manufacturing. The community that he belonged to follow the trend of children joining their parent’s business when they come of age, but Sanghvi wasn’t afraid to step out of the tradition and make his path.
  • Pay your dues: This goes beyond business advice but is priceless in business. While cutting corners can be necessary, it should never be taken out of what someone is honestly owed. In an episode of Dilip Shanghvi’s biography, his friend Ashok Butta recalls the time when he was surprised to be paid for an errand he thought was going to be an unpaid friendly favor. He says about that incident, “I kept the money, and I think that was the mark of a good businessman, you pay what’s due and you pay on time.”
  • Never stop being Curious: To the admiration of his friends and colleagues, and the fond exasperation (and sometimes mild embarrassment) of his wife, Dilip Shanghvi is a passionately curious person. His deputies say that one can often find Shanghvi saying: “Mujhko samjha nahin, mujhko samjhao,” I don’t understand, explain it to me. As we grow up, we are afraid to appear uninformed, but as we can see, the sign of true intelligence isn’t the appearance of being all-knowing but rather the desire to never stop learning.

While Dilip Shanghvi’s biography can give us a glimpse into the personal life of the man behind Sun Pharma, his professional achievements need a dedicated section of their own. Let’s take a look at a few milestones.

Dilip Shanghvi Biography: Achievements
  • He was lending a helping hand in his father’s wholesale drugs business in Kolkata when he had the idea of manufacturing his products instead of selling others.
  • In 1982, he borrowed $200 (approx. Rs. 10,000 at that time) from his father to start Sun Pharmaceuticals.
  • Under his guidance, Sun Pharma opened its own research and manufacturing units in the 1990s and expanded its product line into the fields of cardiology and gastroenterology.
  • They acquired Carco Pharma in 1997 in the hopes of expanding into the American market. Carco Pharma was at loss at that time.
  • Dilip Shanghvi won his first entrepreneurial award from Ernst & Young and was named Entrepreneur of the Year (Healthcare and Life Science) in the year 2005.
  • In 2010, Sun Pharma purchased a controlling stake in Taro Pharmaceutical, followed by a three-year takeover battle. Once finalized, it almost immediately doubled Sun Pharma’s U.S. revenues to more than $1 billion.
  • In 2012, Sun Pharma entered the Forbes 100 Most Innovative Companies list. They made it to the list once again in 2014.
  • In 2014, Sun Pharma acquired Ranbaxy for $4 billion. This move made them the largest pharmaceutical company in the country and fifth largest worldwide.
  • In 2014, Forbes recognized Dilip Sanghvi as the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.
  • Dilip Sanghvi was awarded the fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri by the Government of India, in the year 2016.
  • Indore Management Association awarded Dilip Shanghvi the Lifetime Outstanding Achievement Award in the year 2018.
  • He was appointed as a member of the Reserve Bank of India’s central board in the year 2018.
  • Sun Pharma formed a partnership with China Medical System Holdings and officially entered the Greater China market.
  • Sun Pharma acquired Pola Pharma in Japan to expand its business hold in east Asia.
Final Words:

As I read Dilip Shanghvi’s biography I realized that the more I learned about him, the more curious I got. It is in our nature as humans to try and understand everything, and control every aspect of a situation. But the truth of the matter is the narrative of life isn’t something that can be understood through equations. Shanghvi’s life and experiences are too expensive for us to simply grasp.

I took my lessons, firmly placed my admirations, and let my curiosity keep burning.

I’ll end this with my favorite quote from Dilip Shanghvi’s biography:

“‘Who apart from you could have run Sun the way it has been managed in the last three decades?’

Shanghvi replied, ‘No one. Even I, as I am today, couldn’t have run the company the way I have in the last thirty years.’”

Anindita Paul
Anindita Paul View More Posts

I’m an avid reader and a wobbly but driven writer, who hopes to make her mark in the world of writing one article at a time. I am passionate about creative writing and storytelling, for me this is where my love for art meets my love for language. I am pursuing my masters in English literature, a course that has equipped me to question, comment and analyse the world from diverse points of views, and writing is how I plan to not let these skills go to waste. In my free time I can be found neck deep in meme culture foraging for my next pop-culture obsession.

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