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Wind beneath his wings

India's most reticent billionaire is betting his money on the alternative energy space and here's why

On a scorching humid day in Mumbai, an Audi unobtrusively zips across the driveway of a suburban hotel. The doors open to reveal India’s most reticent billionaire, who steps out amid a flurry of camera flashes from the assembled media contingent. Dressed in a simple white shirt, the gentleman quickly slips into a coat. And it’s not just journalists — even analysts from research houses mill around him with requests for a meeting. He nods politely. If the media and the Street are willing to eat out of the tycoon’s hands, it’s not without reason: the man in question — Dilip Shanghvi — runs India’s largest drugs company, worth ₹16,000 crore in revenue and ₹2.28 lakh crore in market cap. 

The managing director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries meeting the media is a rarity, considering he lets his work do all the talking. A rare display of his standing in society was seen a few years ago when his son Aalok got married to Priyanka, who is from the family that promotes Deepak Fertilisers; the political dispensation of the time turned up in large numbers for the wedding. In the recent past, Shanghvi was also a part of the prime minister’s delegation to Japan along with other prominent names. 

Today, he is here to announce the formal completion of Sun Pharma’s $4-billion merger with Ranbaxy, the troubled domestic pharma company owned by Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo. For a change, Shanghvi drops his guard and flashes a smile at the assembled contingent.

A man of few words, Shanghvi possesses the rare ability of understanding both commerce and pharmaceuticals. This ability allows him to seamlessly move from an issue like generic drugs to Ranbaxy’s dwindling profitability in some markets with élan over the course of the 45-minute media interaction. Shanghvi is understated but reveals his tacit aggression remarkably well.

When he says something gently, the point comes across clearer and firmer than usual. But he can be witty as well, especially when talking about his son, who heads the emerging markets business at Sun Pharma. “Markets like Russia and Ukraine have witnessed a devaluation in their currency. In that sense, Aalok has a very interesting job,” says the father, barely holding back his laughter.

The only other time that Shanghvi stepped out of this pharma-commerce b

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