To be a women entrepreneur in a male dominant industry such as Pharmaceutical is not an easy job. Ask Uma R. Javeri, the promoter of S.Zhaveri Pharmakem Pvt. Ltd: from writing official letters at 3 in the morning to traveling 6 months at stretch to get the business-she has done it all. No wonder, she was the only women representative in an International Pharmaceutical Conference of 400 companies in 1988. YourStory jogs down the memory lane with Uma to find out what it takes to be a successful woman entrepreneur in India.
Why an entrepreneur? Why didn't you pursue a regular job?
I guess the latent desire to do things on my own was always there. As a college student, I use to visit my father's office during summer vacation and help him out in business, which he founded in 1951. Even after I got married, I use to design dresses for children and make jewellery boxes. But the real impetus came from the overwhelming desire to provide for the best to my children. Hence in 1983, I joined my father's business, which was into marketing of raw pharmaceutical materials, chemicals, cosmetics and food products.
How were starting years like?
It was a learning curve. There were two typists and one peon, when I joined the business. We had MNC clients such as H.E Daniel, PPG Industries Inc, and Evonik Rohm GmbH from the early days of our inception. To communicate with our clients we had taken a MTNL number as we didn't have fax machine in office. Every afternoon, I used to go to MTNL office to collect faxes. There was no car waiting for me. I use to travel by trains and buses. At times, I had to wait for four-five hours for a scheduled meeting. Still, I persevered and learned about the trade and products we were marketing. I use to go to customs to clear the consignments, meet clearing agents, collect parcels, travel to different companies to market our products and give presentations, and all this while, tending to my kids and family.
How you use to manage both small kids and business at a time?
Those were the days! I used to get up at 3AM in the morning, write official letters to be dispatched for the day till 7, drop kids to the school by 8, reach office by 9 and give all the letters to the typist, work in the office and finish meetings, take a break at 12.30 noon to pick-up children from school and drop them home, resume work till evening, and then help children in their homework in the night.
Tell us about the challenges you faced in business.
In college days, I never took interest in science and was an average student. Now in pharma business, I was decoding polymers, superdisintegrants, phospholipids etc. But my motto was never to give-up. I visited the R&D facilities of my clients in U.S and Germany and taught myself about the products we were selling. Understanding chemicals, however, was still easier than getting accepted as a woman entrepreneur in this male dominated industry. In 1992, Evonik Rohm GmbH, our German client for nearly 40 years, wanted to tack back our agency. They contended that women entrepreneurs are not well accepted in India and I won't be able to give them decent sales from India. I went to Germany to persuade them and was interrogated by a panel of 9 members. All I asked them was to give me a year's time to prove myself. PPG Industries even fixed a target- USD1million in sales in a year or forget about the agency. I proved myself on both the accounts and outdid their expectations. My husband has been a great support throughout this entrepreneurial journey.
Major turning points
It took some time for our business wheel to start rolling. We had to wait for six years to bag the first order of a product with new technology (film-coating for tablets) that our firm had developed. Challenges faced in 1992 also motivated me to increase the basket of products and we tied-up with many MNC firms to market their products in India. In 1994, we also started importing huge quantities-from 5kg to5tonnes- of these products. We started stocking these materials to supply to Indian companies and to export it to neighboring countries. Currently, we supply to almost 200customers. In 1999, we also started R&D centre in a 1500sq ft space in Mumbai and after a year opened a new research facility spread over 10,000sq ft in New Mumbai. Recently, we have tied-up with JRS Pharma, a German company, to open a big R&D facility in Khapoli at the outskirts of Mumbai.
What are the differentiators of your business?
Integrity, ethics, support to smallest customers, and value addition we do to our clients. There is lot of transparency in our operations and transactions with our clients.
What drives you?
New goals, which are constantly redefined as we grow in business! I also want to open a hospital from my own money.
To have R&D facilities all across India! I might go for an IPO by 2011.
Tips for budding entrepreneurs
Never give up! There will always be ups and downs in career. Be patient and preserve over your dream to turn into a reality.
Key requirements for scaling-up the business
Professionals for research and development from pharmaceutical background!
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