Piramal Healthcare, a part of Piramal Enterprises, is expecting to grow its over-the-counter (OTC) business aggressively, and expects it to be among the top three such businesses in India.
Addressing a press conference to launch its premium anti-ageing cream, ‘Lacto Calamine Reneu’, Ajay Piramal, Chairman, Piramal Enterprise, said Piramal’s OTC business grew at 30 per cent last year, twice the rate of the Indian OTC market.
“When we ventured into the OTC business, we were ranked 48, and are now at number 7. We are investing in the OTC business in terms of new products, brands and our reach,” he said.
Besides Lacto Calamine, the company’s OTC product portfolio include, among others, Saridon, nutrition supplement Supractive Complete, i-pill emergency contraceptive kit and antacid Polycrol.
The product launched on Thursday has patented ULMAe (ultra low molecular Aminoglycan extract) technology which helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and firmness, and is priced at Rs. 799 for a 50 gram jar.
Kedar Rajadnye, President & COO, Consumer Products Division, Piramal Healthcare, said the anti-ageing segment of the skin-care market was growing at 25-30 per cent. “We aim to make Lacto Calamine a Rs. 100-crore brand soon.” Mr. Rajadyne said.
Under the ULMA platform, the company was “looking to develop several other products such as under-eye cream.”
Expressing disappointment at the slowdown in innovation and R&D in India, Mr. Piramal said, “due to the new rules, getting approval to conduct clinical trials here is a big problem. In the last three years, we have moved three of our clinical trials from India to the USA.”
“There is no R&D by multi-national companies taking place here and we would have thought they would come here but they chose China or Singapore.”
On whether the company was looking at acquiring brands, Mr. Piramal said it depended on the valuation. “We will look at personal care products but valuations are so rich and difficult to justify,” he said.
Plans to exit Vodafone
Piramal Healthcare, on Thursday, said its plan to offload its 11 per cent stake in telecom major Vodafone India was well on track.
“We had invested in Vodafone and it was 24-36 months exit plan. We are still within the track for that, and we will exit either sometime this year or next year,” Mr. Piramal told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.
Pirmal Healthcare had picked up 11 per cent stake for Rs.5,900 crore in two tranches in the Indian arm of Vodafone.
The company had paid Rs.2,893 crore in August 2011 for a 5.5 per cent stake, and then paid another Rs.3,007 crore in February last year for another 5.5 per cent holding. Mr. Piramal said his company chose to invest in Vodafone for the short-term because of strong growth prospects. The company was expecting 17-20 per cent return in around 18 months.
“We are merely a short-term investor in Vodafone. We don’t want to be in the telecom sector for the long-term. We have three options to exit. We could exit whenever Vodafone comes out with its initial public offering (IPO), or we could sell our stake to other companies, or we could even sell it to Vodafone itself,” Mr. Piramal earlier said. To a question on his group’s foray into the banking space, Mr. Piramal said the group was still evaluating the prospects. “There are 100 people looking at entering into banking and there will be probably 5-6 licences. There is still time and we are still evaluating what we will do. We are in the process of evaluation,” he said.
The Ajay Piramal Group, at present flush with funds from the sale of its domestic formulations business, had evinced interest in banking business.