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BW Businessworld

Brand New Empires

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At one point in his interview with Businessworld, Malvinder Singh talks about how he looks at life and business. "I am in the business of doing business. When I take business decisions, I take them objectively, based on economic rationale," he says.

It is that philosophy that allowed Malvinder to look at Ranbaxy objectively, to ignore the emotions attached to a company that had been built up painstakingly by his grandfather and father, and to realise that it had no future as an independent entity unless it managed to scale up dramatically. It was no longer good enough to be big by Indian standards. Ranbaxy needed to be big by global standards, and the Singh family was perhaps not equipped to help the company make that transition.

Malvinder and his younger brother Shivinder sold off Ranbaxy and pocketed Rs 10,000 crore cash. A lot of people wondered what they would do without Ranbaxy. A year after the sale, the answer is clear enough. The Singh brothers are focused on building a new empire. Fortis, after the Wockhardt acquisition, has become the second-biggest corporate hospital chain in the country, and is snapping at the heels of leader Apollo. Meanwhile, Religare, the financial services brand, is considered one of the more aggressive players in its field currently. Sure, the new empire is still much smaller than Ranbaxy was when it was sold, but Malvinder and Shivinder are confident of where they want to go from here.  In our cover story this issue, the Singh brothers talk about life after the Ranbaxy sale.

Meanwhile, as we were going to press, the news of Bharti and MTN deciding to call off the talks of merger came in. Though there were a lot of people cheering Bharti on in its quest to pull off this mega deal, there were clear signs much earlier that the deal was in serious trouble. The South African government did not want control of MTN to shift to a new country. And Indian lawmakers were not very convinced that dual listing was necessary just to let a corporate merger go through.

Mega deals concerning companies in other countries can take place only with government support. In the Bharti-MTN case, it was quite clear that the respective governments were not quite as enthusiastic about the deal as the companies were.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-10-2009)