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PNPL's foray in the Nutraceuticals segment in India has been covered in detail by the media. Following is an interview of Mr Arvind Iyer, MD, published in Express Pharma a group publication of Indian Express, one of the most prestigious daily newspapers in India.

(01-15 February 2011)

'Premier Nutraceuticals plans to foray into other areas; on lookout for more partners'
Mumbai-based nutraceutical company, Premier Nutraceuticals, prides itself on its unique features and immense growth. Arvind Iyer, Managing Director, Premier Nutraceuticals shares the company's future plans with Usha Sharma

What is Premier Nutraceuticals Pvt Ltd's (PNPL) core competence?
PNPL was incorporated on February 18, 2003 and started commercial operations early November 2003 onwards. With a single product, coral calcium, in our first year itself we achieved the title of 'the fastest growing newly launched company' by ORG. Now we have completed seven years in operation. Our core competence lies in our ability to identify unique products in the nutraceutical sector from the world and introduce the same products in the Indian market.

What made you to seek an entry into the nutraceutical sector?
As we all know, the nutraceutical industry worldwide is considered as a 'sunrise' industry. It is growing tremendously even in the West. The Indian nutraceutical market is estimated to be growing at 18 percent to 20 percent per year and Asia-Pacific countries like China and India are set to dominate this segment due to the availability of raw material and manufacturing capabilities. The Indian pharma market is dominated by the big players, which control all aspects of the pharma industry, and small or mid-size players have to follow their cue. This trend is not seen in the nutraceutical market, which is why we entered this segment.

In India, the nutra market is at a nascent stage, with the market dominated by prescription drugs rather than OTC. What strategy do you have in mind considering this scenario?
As stated earlier, the strength of PNPL is in introducing 'unique' products which basically re-define the concepts of present day treatments. For example the first calciums used in treatment of calcium deficiency were 'in-organic'calciums, or chemically derived calciums. Then came the 'organic' calciums where the source of calcium was organic/natural, like oyster shells. When PNPL entered into the calcium segment, we 're-defined' the calcium with 'ionic' or 'absorbable' calcium. PNPL raised the question of 'absorption' rather than only elemental which organic calcium addressed. Thus, a new segment of calcium was born and the focus shifted from 'elemental' to 'absorbable' or 'ionic'.We have done this to each of our products.

How is PNPL the first pharma company to enter the Indian market with exclusive nutra products when there are already many companies in the same space?
PNPL commenced marketing operations in November 2003 with a single product--coral calcium--after which we did not launch any product for six months, and our entire sales team was involved in promoting this product alone, which took it to the top 20 calcium products on an all-India basis. In the mainstream pharma sector, companies are launched with a mixed bag of four to six products. Most products manufactured in India are manufactured at plants which also manufacture mainstream allopathic medicines. PNPL is the only company in India which manufactures nutra products exclusively at its facility at Dehradun.

At present, how big is your product basket and what therapeutic areas do they cater to?
PNPL believes in offering the Indian market 'signature' (read unique or concept driven) products rather than pedestrian or 'me too' products. We have seven products, each unique in concept. PNPL is predominantly concentrating on the obstetrics and gynecology segment. We also cater to the CNS neurology, dermatology, orthopedic and pediatrics.
Currently, we have products which will increase our presence in the above mentioned therapeutic areas. We have entered into agreements with companies based in US, Australia, Israel, and Europe. And we have planned to launch a minimum of two.

At present, how many manufacturing facilities you have?
Presently, we have a WHO GMP certified 18,000 square feet manufacturing facility located at Dehradun. We have a single shift capacity to manufacture 10 lakh tablets and two lakh capsules and a separate food plant for the manufacture of protein powder. Recently, in December last year, the government issued a circular which clarified that for manufacturing plants located in Uttarakhand, expansions in capacities and addition of dosage forms would also be eligible for exemptions from excise duties. This has encouraged us to set up additional facilities having dosage forms besides tablets and capsules. We have already purchased land for the same. We plan to set up a plant with the Rommelag blow-fill-seal machine for single dose liquids which will revolutionise the way therapeutic liquids are administered in India.

Who are PNPL's global competitors, and what is the USP of your company Vis a Vis these competitors?
PNPL's global competitor companies are based in US, Japan and Europe. Our USP is that we are the only ones who are hard core nutracutical manufacturers in the Indian market and are seen as a major player in the nutraceutical arena. If we will calculate location-wise the proximity to China, Japan, Korea, they can offer access to all major nutraceutical raw material suppliers. Whereas market wise, India and China are marked as future markets due to increase in disposable incomes, greater awareness and increased preference for speciality products.

Does Premier have any upcoming partnerships or tie-ups?
At present we have exclusive tie ups with Marine Bio Co (Japan) for coral calcium; Biotron labs Inc (US) for entire range of chelated minerals; Poly Phenolics (US) for grape seed extract. We also have few more ties ups in the pipeline with companies from US, Australia and Israel.

What are your future plans for the company?
Besides our own marketing team, we plan to offer our unique products to select companies in the Indian market under their brand names. The first step in this direction was taken in November 2008 with the launch of corcium, a product none other than coral calcium under the brand name of Lupin Pharma. The said brand features in the top 10 calcium brands in India. Our company also signed an agreement to manufacture the said product for a subsidiary of Lupin Pharma, for the Philippines market. PNPL is on the lookout for more partners for their present as well as future products. Presently, we have total work force of 250 people. We have plans to increase this to 500 people by the end of next financial year.
We are fully equipped to manufacture our products in bulk quantities within stipulated periods to cater to the needs of our associates in the Indian pharma industry. After the WHO GMP certification we are planning for NSF International, an agency working closely with the US FDA. This will enable PNPL to gain easy access and acceptability in the US market. It is our endeavor to take the company public in the near future so as to enable us to set up a US FDA approved manufacturing facility and setting up operations in US, including manufacturing and marketing, which is also on the agenda in the near future.

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