Story of Ranbaxy, Religare and Fortis: Crumbling Down of a Great Empire

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Family feuds regarding money and business aren’t uncommon in India. Financial woes and difference in mindsets have the power to create a rift among the best of minds and divide families apart. One such Delhi-based business family that fell victim to such an affliction is none other than the Singhs of the Ranbaxy, Religare and Fortis Healthcare Group.

HISTORY

The company was started by brothers Ranbir Singh and Gurbax Singh in 1937 as a distributor for a Japanese pharmaceutical company, A.Shionogi, manufacturing vitamins and anti-TB drugs. ‘Ranbaxy’ is a portmanteau of the names of its first owners Ranbir and Gurbax.

They defaulted on a loan taken from their cousin Bhai Mohan Singh who then bought the company in 1952 for Rs 2.5 Lakh.

Since then the company has gone through several structural and cyclical changes under the leadership of the three generations of the family.

BHAI MOHAN SINGH

Under Bhai Mohan Singh, the company expanded its domestic penetration thus bringing about a pharmaceutical revolution in the country. With his super-brand ‘Calmpose’- he made his mark in the industry. He was quick in realising the vast potential of pharma business in India. He established R&D facilities in the Northern Region and by the year 1973, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd became a recognized brand of India.

PARVINDER SINGH

Passing on the company’s reigns to his eldest son Parvinder Singh, the company then entered in its second phase. He studied at one of the best pharma institutes of the world and was more of a global citizen. He did not favour the antediluvian ways of practicing business.

Under his leadership, Ranbaxy spread its wings abroad and set up manufacturing facilities in several countries. The company achieved exponential growth with a vision of achieving a turnover of $1 billion by 2003.

He paid great heed to professionals handling a business as complex as pharma. He wanted a strong team to run the company, giving it full freedom to call the shots. The real tension between Bhai Mohan Singh and Parvinder began then.

However, the seeds of dissension were sown when Bhai Mohan Singh thrilled from Ranbaxy’s success under his son’s guidance went for a family settlement in December 1989. The jewel of the crown was given to Parvinder, Manjit Singh got Montari Industries and the youngest Analjit got Max India. (Max now has a turnover of Rs 3000 crore and has been growing at 35% per annum!)

After an intense acrimonious power struggle in February 1993, Parvinder ousted his father from the board. After Parvinder’s death in 1999 due to cancer, he did not induct his sons directly into the company, who were still completing their studies. He intended to keep ownership and management separate. He therefore named his confidante – DS Brar as the CEO.

From him, the sons Malvinder and Shivinder Singh acquired Ranbaxy and the financial firm- Religare along with other tertiary businesses.

MALVINDER AND SHIVINDER SINGH

The brothers co-founded Fortis Healthcare in 2001. They put up an ambitious target of opening up a bank after successful overseas acquisitions and spread the company’s presence to 11 countries.

Alleged Defrauding of Daiichi – 2008

The downfall began once the family jewel ‘Ranbaxy’ was sold to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo in 2008 for $4.6 billion. The cash was supposed to fuel their future plans. But 10 years from then, no one knows where that money has gone.

The sale was followed by a ban on imports from two of the company’s Indian plants. In the same year, the US department of justice launched a probe which ended in a guilty plea by Ranbaxy and a $500 million settlement for selling adulterated drugs.

Recently in February 2018, the Delhi High Court upholded an international arbitration order and directed the brothers to pay Rs 3500 crore to Daiichi Sankyo for misleading the Japanese drug-maker during the deal by withholding information.

Bad Habits Don’t Change – Alleged fraud in Religare – 2015

It has been alleged that the lending arm of Malvinder and Shivinder Singh’s publicly traded financial services firm, Religare Enterprises Limited, made loans over Rs. 1,000 crores to firms which were directly or indirectly controlled by Singh brothers.

In 2016, Religare Enterprises, said in its BSE filing that its subsidiary would write-off a total of Rs 793.67 crore on account of non-receipt of dues. These were the same loans that were given to the firms controlled by Singh Brothers. The result is that the share of Religare Enterprise, which used to trade over Rs. 300 on BSE up to 2016 is now revolving near Rs. 50 for past few years. Public shareholders and Foreign Portfolio Investors suffered huge losses due to this

And Again – Fortis Healthcare Limited – Rs. 445 crore Fraud

In 2018, another fraud came to light in another listed company managed by the Singh Brothers, Fortis Healthcare Limited.  Securities and Exchange Board of India(Sebi) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) have opened an investigation of alleged money laundering amounting to Rs 445 crore in Fortis. This time also loans worth Rs. 445 crore were given to the promoter companies and later these borrowers defaulted. Once again, as the share price of Fortis crashed, the public and foreign investors lost their hard earned money due to the alleged acts of the mischevious Singh Brothers.

CONCLUSION

The two brothers represented a strong legacy set up by their grandfather and father. Only a few individuals get an opportunity to inherit such large quantum of wealth, that too at such a young age. If the going had been good, they could have contributed a lot to the society, both economically and socially. No one knows the real reason that led them to destroy their burgeoning business. But what is known is that it is going to be a long uphill task to gain back their credibility and revive remnants of their now crumpled legacy.

Sources: The Mint, scroll.in and www.mapsofIndia.com

Author | Deepti Kansal