Dr. Shama Bhat, has leveraged his 35 years of rich experience in R&D and manufacturing in the Biotechnology area, to conceive this enterprise. An alumnus of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Dr. Shama Bhat is trained at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, USA. Dr. Bhat strengthened the faculty of the Neurology Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA from 1983 to 1994. His discovery of Galactosyl Ceramide, as an alternative receptor for HIV in neural cells, won him both universal acclaim as well as the undivided attention of scientific circles, the world over. Dr. Bhat has over forty publications to his credit and is a recipient of the prestigious Ranbaxy Award.
When he was a professor at UPenn researching a lot of HIV, he came to india for a conference and he realized that there were no kits that were manufactured in India and every kit was imported from the USA. Sensing this opportunity, he decided to start a diagnostics company that would manufacture Lateral Flow (Readymade test kits) and the market was just picking up in the 80’s. Today, the lateral flow test is available everywhere where you can get the result in two minutes.
Before he relocated to India, he spent around 6 months travelling all over the US to learn the technology and he also paid money to a consultant to get the technology knowhow as he knew that technology will be his differentiator. He also understood that once he gets one technology cleared, he can understand the others much faster. His first office was in Electronic City, Bangalore and he got help from two of his best friends in US (One was a Cardiologist and the other one was a Scientist).They started the company with a modest investment of around 20 lakhs together . Dr Shama then approached KSIIDC (Karnataka State Industrial Investment Development Corporation) along with his auditor (Mr. Acharya) for loans to set up a bio technology company. Since this was one of the first bio tech companies in India, he had to do a lot of selling about the concept and then got a loan of around 73 lakhs and built a 6000 sq feet plant in 1994 and then got the land allotted by the government after 6 months .
Believing in quality that would sell by itself, the team began making Lateral Flow test kits for multiple diseases and began selling this across the country. They began with pregnancy test kit and now they have more than 100 tests on multiple platforms. They are launching a patented and a novel technology called capacitance based or voltage based detection of DNA which is cost effective by 10 times both in terms of the machine as well as in terms of consumables.
Seeing the unique technology being put into use for a common man began asking if they are manufacturing only for themselves or doing contract manufacturing for other pharmaceutical companies also. With quite a few queries on the same line, they began deep diving into the thought of setting up a contract manufacturing practice where the design, testing and the packaging will be decided by the client and the manufacturing will be done by Bhat Biotech and began socializing the thought to the sales team who went and began talking to prospects. At that time, Organon, a part of Merck now was being serviced by one competitor of Bhat Biotech but Organon was not happy with their service. One day one of their senior officials contacted them and came to inspect and do due diligence and within 3 months , the two companies had an agreement which went on for several years. This gave birth to a new service – contract manufacturing and now Bhat Biotech has more than 15 large pharma companies that includes Piramal etc.
Today Dr Shama talks about having channel partners of 200 and more than a team of 60 sales and marketing people. They also supply Crores worth of goods to the government entities. They are also exporting the kits to more than 30 plus countries.
Dr Shama’s advice to start up founders who wanted to focus on a regulated market like Pharma or Diagnostics – One needs to have to have good technology and also deep pockets to support for at least 3 to 4 years. Today most of the startups think that they will become a very large one within one year and that may not necessarily be right in a regulated market as one needs to play for atleast 3 to 5 years. He advices startups to begin with a product that you know well, do a market survey about market and competitors and try not to get in, if there are many as you can’t sustain. Create a new one , do a good job in the quality of the product and solve problems for customers and customers will come by themselves with a little bit of push from the sales and marketing team.