big pharma

How to make and break a fortune in 10 years: The rise and steep fall of Ranbaxy’s Singh brothers

It’s been a downhill journey for the former Ranbaxy promoters since they sold their stake in the drug maker in 2008.

Just 10 years ago, they were the poster boys of India’s booming pharmaceutical industry. Fame peaked for Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Mohan Singh in 2008 when they sold their stake in generic drug maker Ranbaxy to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo for a whopping $2.4 billion. It’s only gone downhill from there.

Late last month, Bloomberg reported that the Singh brothers have been taken to Delhi High Court by a New York investor. The promoters of financial services firm Religare Enterprises allegedly siphoned some $300 million to their privately-held firms. They are also alleged to have funnelled out $78 million from hospital chain Fortis Healthcare.

This follows the High Court order for the Singhs to cough up Rs 3,500 crore to Daiichi Sankyo for allegedly luring the Japanese drug maker into a deal by withholding information.

On February 8, the billionaire brothers stepped down from the Fortis Healthcare board, which reportedly decided to distance itself from the promoters’ legal battles as they were hurting the firm’s performance. Besides, banks were hesitant to extend even working capital loans to a company associated with the brothers.

In November 2017, Malvinder stepped down from Religare Enterprises – and both he and Shivinder exited the board, making way for a professional management.

The Ranbaxy saga

Ranbaxy in some ways embodied the success of India’s generic drugs industry. Valued at $4.6 billion at the time of its sale in 2008, the company was not just a Singh family jewel, it was India’s moment of reckoning on the global pharma stage.

The story began in pre-independence India in Amritsar, Punjab. Ranbaxy got its name from two cousins, Ranjit and Gurbax, who started a drug distribution firm in 1937. However, after failing to repay a loan, they had to forego their company in 1947 to a businessman, Bhai Mohan Singh, who had come to Delhi from Rawalpindi in Pakistan following Partition.

Under Bhai Mohan, the company launched its first blockbuster drug, Calmpose, in 1961. His son, Parvinder Singh, took the company abroad, setting up plants outside India. Following Parvinder’s death in 2000, Malvinder and Shivinder expanded the horizons beyond pharmaceuticals. Shivinder was still in his first year of MBA, at Duke University in the US, when his father succumbed to cancer.

Parvinder’s brother, Analjit, is a billionaire investor who owns the Max group that runs businesses spanning from hospitals to insurance to real estate. Analjit also owned Vodafone’s India subsidiary until 2014, right around the time the telecom industry went into a spiral in India.

An uncanny knack to exit businesses at just the right time seems to run in the family.

Malvinder and Shivinder, too, sold Ranbaxy at its peak. Just days after the deal, Daiichi got a rude shock from the US drug regulator in the form of an import ban on Ranbaxy, citing poor quality of its drugs. Daiichi sued the Singh brothers in 2013 and sold Ranbaxy to Sun Pharma in 2014. By then, though, the Japanese company had lost Rs 6,000 crore, according to one estimate.

The Singhs’ downward spiral may have begun after the Daiichi deal, but they had kicked up enough dust even on their way up. From a whistleblower’s account that led to the US ban to the brothers’ alleged connection with the Clintons, they seemed to tide over all headwinds.

But then, that was 10 years ago.

The Singh brothers have now appealed in the Indian Supreme Court against the High Court verdict favouring Daiichi. They might fight back other charges, too, and the final word may be a few years away. But the stain on their success story is here to stay. The alleged siphoning of funds, in particular, may lead to a wider probe. Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India is already examining the issue.

Once renowned for their business acumen and deal-making skills, the Singh brothers today are being subject to scrutiny and litigation, besides derision, in the companies they once owned.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.