From the safe trappings of a bureaucratic life, HR Srinivasan, VC-MD, Take Solutions, took the entrepreneurial plunge in 2001. This, after stints at well-entrenched finance companies such as the Shriram Group, Sembcorp and Temasek Holdings.

Chennai: His mentor, R Thyagarajan of the Chennai based finance conglomerate, not only dragged him out of his comfort zone, but also got Srinivasan to don the entrepreneur’s hat. Today, Srinivasan is bucking up to achieve the half-a-billion dollar turnover mark by 2021.

Take Solutions, an acronym for Technology, Analytics, Knowledge and Enterprise, has gone through a transformation that represents its shift in strategy and positioning.

Being a pure play logistics player and providing supply chain management solutions are passé. Life sciences is its focus as the Rs 1,400 crore company, which forayed into this domain with baby steps in 2004, is ready for the giant strides.

“What began in a small way in 2004 started gaining prominence in 2007-08,” says Srinivasan, as he takes us through the “punting” and the multi-fold challenges of scaling his business to its current size. “The market for Life sciences is staggering. For us, it is a global opportunity with reports estimating it to be worth $60-$80 billion,” he says, while dwelling on the nuanced stance of strengthening its presence in the pharma R&D outsourcing space.

With capabilities in the clinical, regulatory and safety segments, the company makes a strong case for its dominance in the new vista, that it has put its bet on. Take Solutions has grown to its current size and caters to nine out of globe’s top ten pharma companies.

“What we do is not only technology but core clinical trials. We have capabilities to conduct trials, state-of-the-art labs, detailed analytics and very high domain expertise. We have PhDs, doctors of quality, bio statisticians, bio chemists, and such other people who are intimately associated with the process of clinical trials. So, as a company, we have grown to being a different genre of company than where we had started,” says Srinivasan, who plans to exit from supply chain when the right fit is found.

Take Solutions is a listed company and as such the exit has to be “fair to the business because that which you have nurtured should find a good home to grow from there. We will not be able to sell it in one piece, which means it will have to be broken down into a few more pieces,” he says, pinning his hopes on selling off a piece this year and take it ahead as part of positioning itself as a full life sciences company.

A challenging phase was when Take Solutions reached the Rs 40 crore revenue mark. “We were doing well. We became profitable in the second full year of operation of the company and we have remained profitable ever since. So, the focus has always been to be a profitable one. We have also not taken money from anybody. Since we put in our own money to start the company, there was no money to fool around,” Srinivasan says.

“We started with a South-East Asia focus. This meant operating in a market – covering Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. For the first four years or so, all of us had a grip in this market as most of us had worked in this geography extensively,” he says, and notes that the decision to tap the US came in 2004 not only led to the spotting of their current President and CEO Ram Yeleswarapu but also the inability to afford mistakes. The new leader, who came into the promoter group, also seeded the paradigm vision to be a pure life sciences company.

“The US was an attractive market but to exploit it, we needed skills, which we learnt eventually. The success was much slower than we had anticipated but we were willing to sit through the struggle,” says Srinivasan, who, unhesitatingly draws attention to the role of mentors that he was blessed to find.

Apart from his personal mentor RT (as the southern financial wizard is popularly known) being bullish on his entrepreneurial abilities, Srinivasan also had Lakshmi Narayanan, former CEO of CTS, to mentor him. “I have been fortunate to have met people who have been there and done that. To have received mentorship and their guidance have always been very important in this journey. Hence, apart from being in the right place at the right time, it is also the right kind of people, who matter,” he points out.

Hailing from a family of bureaucrats, Srinivasan chose to create a professional enterprise, that offered flexibility and moved beyond power point presentations. “We are delighted with our performance as when I started, never thought we will be a Rs 1,400 crore firm that is doing so well globally,” says the leader, who believes in setting targets year by year and overshooting them, rather than crafting a five-year plan. For the company to reach this scale, it has had its share of challenges, such as building credibility, the pangs of growing from a small to a big company with a substantial increase in headcount – from 50-100 to its present strength of 1,500 plus people and internationalisation of operations.

Recalling the initial growth challenges, Srinivasan recounts, “as we were trying to build credibility, we started with obviously providing supply chain solutions. The customers, whom we would have known from our past in our engagement as professionals knew us, trusted us, but, didn’t know the kind of solutions we would be providing. Some customers went out of their way, stuck their neck out and relied on our past deliveries. That was the premise for their being able to take up a little bit of risk and give it to us though we were a very small organisation.”

Since the business is not dependent on an offshoring model, getting skills was not a major issue. “We don’t necessarily want all skills in India. The stated policy of our company is whichever geography we operate in, we will operate with locals like in the US, UK, and Germany,” he says and notes that over 80 per cent of the business is from the US. “Skills and competence are our first market, then geography. We never diversified but battled for a high degree of specialisation,” signs off Srinivasan.

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