The case of the Singh brothers (Malvinder and his brother Shivinder Singh) is one of hope and despair.
The hope that employees, shareholders and the lay public had from the legacy of the great Dr. Parvinder Singh who put his sweat and blood into creating a company that India could be proud of. And despair when this sordid tale finally ended yesterday with the news of the arrest of a senior executive and one or both brothers – sons of the great Dr Singh.
Ranbaxy was much loved in India. So much so, that when the erstwhile CEO of Pfizer said unpleasant things about its products and processes in the early 2000s, Pharma professionals across the board in India stood with the company – many in person, many more in spirit.
Ranbaxy was a great company built on the vision of Dr Singh and one that sought to put the Indian generic industry on the global map along with Dr. Reddys and Glenmark.
In the late 2000s, in less than a decade since Dr Singh’s passing, when news broke out that the Singh brothers had sold off the company to the Japanese, many of us were disappointed. Yet we sought solace in the fact that Indian companies seemed to be cutting their losses (with Piramal also selling to Abbott) and expected that the proceeds would be invested in diversifying the equity that Ranbaxy carried in healthcare. As the SRL and Fortis groups came up, we had high hopes that the Singh brothers were showing the way to other entrepreneurs too by carving out a new path.
In the years that passed, as news of the data fudging, manipulation and the very integrity of the group came under scrutiny, people gave more heed to what were earlier dismissed as rumours and conjecture. That at Ranbaxy, profit always came before patient. No matter the cost. Drugs, sometimes unfit for consumption- with glass residue in them- were palmed off. This came to light only when the diligent USFDA put a halt to batches bound for US shores. No recalls were ever made in India and one shudders to think of what may have passed for medicine to the hapless millions of this land.
With their integrity in tatters, the news of financial embezzlement and attempts to escape from paying penalties to Daiichi Sankyo were the final nails in the coffin for the brothers.
A half-hearted attempt to gain public sympathy by renouncing the world to join the Radha Saomi sect didn’t cut ice with anyone who followed the case.
The arrest yesterday and the all-too possible conviction seems to have ended speculation that the rich and powerful can get away with murder. India is well on its way to seek a seat at the world table. Making an example of these once-powerful tycoons being brought to justice will do its global image a world of good.
A strong country is one with a strong judicial system, tight corporate governance and one that can demonstrate that no one is above the rule of law. Surely, a fierce patriot like Dr. Parvinder Singh would have wanted this. Even if those behind bars are his own two sons.