It took just three words from India’s most reticent businessman to change Sundaresh Raju’s life. It is with a sense of pride that Raju says he was employee number 44 at Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. He joined the company, then housed in a small office in the Mumbai suburb of Vile Parle, on the first day of 1987 as sales manager and spent the next 17 years there before calling it a day. “The shrewdness and maturity that is associated with Dilip Shanghvi today was obvious even then,” says Raju, who was coaxed into joining the company from Tamil Nadu Dadha Pharmaceuticals (TDPL), where he was comfortably placed.
Sitting at his Janakpuri home in Delhi on a hot afternoon in July, Raju was quite perplexed to see Shanghvi at his doorstep. He had come in unannounced after hailing a taxi from Connaught Place. Raju had known Shanghvi’s father Shantilal for a while, since he was a distributor of TDPL, Torrent Pharmaceuticals and a few other companies from Kolkata. He had met Shanghvi on a couple of occasions, though there was never any serious conversation.
The young man, who was barely 32, was then as straightforward as he is known to be now. He spoke briefly about his five-year-old organisation before looking Raju in the eye and saying, “Please join me.” Raju, while laughing about the story today, admits to then being a little unsure, since Shanghvi was young and without a track record. “I was 45, with parents, a wife and children to take care of, besides having a pretty secure job. It was not an easy decision,” he says.
After many rounds of conversation in Mumbai and Vapi, where the company had a factory, Raju decided to back “the entrepreneur with fire.” Impressed by his focus and clarity, he bought into the story. “Dilipbhai is extremely shrewd when it comes to judging people. He has the ability to identify the right man for the job,” says Raju.
Making a mark
Entering the pharma business with a commerce ba