After skilfully negotiating blind turns and pitfalls,
Indra Subramanyam, managing director, has set the sixty-six
year old Ehrlich Laboratory Private Limited on a straight
former Sholavaram car racer has now taken the road to
transform her diagnostic lab into a clinical research
organisation (CRO). CROs are the ones who do the clinical
trials for drug companies.
Ehrlich will start testing the blood samples of several
thousands of school-going teenage girls to check for
metabolic syndrome. The study results will be sent to
a US organisation, which in turn will be used by a pharma
company to decide on the development of a drug to treat
diabetes. Talks are also on with a couple of other US
research is the logical progression for us, says
Subramanyam. Towards that she is taking the necessary
steps like applying for accreditations with organisations
like the College of American Pathologists and others.
India, Ehrlich does some work for the Bangalore based
CRO, Lotus Lab Pvt Ltd and pharma companies like Tablets
India Limited, Orchid Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals
Limited and others for their drug development programme.
It hasnt always been a smooth ride for Subramanyam,
who got into the drivers seat only in 1997. Before
that, this genial B.Sc Maths graduate didnt greatly
involve herself in the lab activities.
her husband, Dr. B Subramanyams sudden death changed
her life as she was forced to assume the mantle. The
home front was taken care of by her mother- in- law
and fortunately the two children Sandhya and Dr. Shravan
(a national level swimmer), were both grown up.
a non-medical person was a major stumbling block during
the initial days. Sensing an opportunity, some unscrupulous
doctors started demanding commission to refer patients
decided to continue with the tradition and reputation
built by my father- in- law and my husband and refused
the kickback demands. That stance resulted in a 25 per
cent downslide in business. In addition, vested interests
started floating rumours about us and that in turn resulted
in low walk ins by patients," Subramanyam reminisces.
It was then that she decided to stop at the curb and
take stock. Subramanyam stopped the construction of
an additional 23,000 sq.ft facility midway.
was at that crucial period when she was looking for
directions that Suresh Krishna, chairman and managing
director, Sundram Fasteners Limited showed the first
a non-technical person need not be a handicap in business,
said Krishna, and he cited himself as an example for
running an engineering company successfully. The nuts
and bolts of a successful business hinges on quality
and reliability, he advised her.
made her undergo quality certification and in 2000 Ehrlich
became the first diagnostic lab in the country to sport
the ISO tag. Subsequently, Ehrlich also got the quality
certifications from National Accreditation Board for
Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and others.
other people who she recalls with gratitude are the
late industrialist N P V Ramasamy Udayar and management
consultant Thilak Shankar. "Udayar guided me on
the financial aspect while Shankar advised on lab management."
the business nuances soon, she upgraded the lab into
a full fledged healthcare testing facility by installing
equipment like a treadmill, x-ray, scans, etc. while
completing the remaining part of the building.
ISO tag brought in several leading corporate accounts
for carrying out preventive testing for their employees
/ workers. All private life insurers send their prospects
to Ehrlich for the health check before accepting the
competition turned very severe with the mushrooming
of labs in every nook and corner. Unlike the other city
based Lister Metropolis that manages the Malar Hospital
lab, Ehrlich does not have any major hospital accounts.
In addition, Metropolis is on the expansion mode, acquiring
and opening new labs and getting into the clinical trial
Subramanyam is not interested in expanding her lab network.
"Focusing on expanding to other cities through
owned labs or franchisee managed ones will divert our
attention of becoming a CRO fast," she reasons.
is waiting for her son, Dr. Shravan, to return from
the US after completing his graduate degree in health
management at Cornell University, to take over.
business, Subramanyam is an active Rotarian. She is
also an executive committee member of Narada Gana Sabha,
Chennai, Mylapore Academy, a fifty year old social and
cultural association, and an executive committee member
of Tamil Nadu State Aquatic Association.