Where Innovation is a Tradition

Herbs sell - Sami Labs wants to be a 1,000-crore company

Dr. Muhammed Majeed

When most Indian pharma firms were using reverse engineering techniques – a process under which copies of best selling drugs are sold cheaply – a US based Indian pharmacist, Dr. Muhammed Majeed, chose not to tread that path. Instead, he blended Ayurveda with research, innovation and hi-tech manufacturing process. The result with Sami Labs, a company which makes drugs and products based on Indian herbs.

Dr. Muhammed Majeed

Majeed’s street-smartness can be gauged from the fact that he exports curcumin (commonly known as turmeric powder) that most cosmetic companies avoid due to the deep yellow color it adds to the product. “I converted it into a white powder through a hydrogenating process. Several cosmetic firms buy it from me,” says Majeed. Now, he sells 20 tonnes a year. His products are not cheap. “Why should I charge less? It has world-class quality and is developed in state-of-the-art laboratories by top scientists,” he says.

It has been a long journey form Kollam in Kerala to the US and back home to India. In 1975, Majeed moved to the US to do MS in industrial pharmacy from Long Island University, New York. While he completed his doctorate from St. John’s University, he also worked as a pharmacist in Pfizer, Carter-Wallace and Paco Research, In 1988, he set up a company called Sabinsa to launch nature-based drugs and extracts. After extablishing himself in the US market, he setup Sami Chemicals & Extracts in 1991 in India and Sabinsa was made into its global marketing arm. His first brush with success came with the launch of Citrin, a weight management product, made from tamarind.

The company now produces herbal extracts, spice extracts, minerals, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, fine chemicals and oils used in the nutritional, pharmaceutical and food industry. The company, which had a turnover of Rs.482 crore in 2005, plans to go public this year. “Sami Labs aims to become a Rs.1000 crore company in next two years,” says Majeed. For this, the company plans to introduce 20-25 new drug formulations every year for the next five years. It also plans to strengthen its marketing muscle abroad. To increase its income from India, which is currently just 1 percent of its overall revenue, the company plans to launch its cosmeceuticals under the brand name ‘Johara’ within a year.