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Cipla’s global chief operating officer is leaving the company to pursue new interests, amid a spate of top-level exits that have marked the pharma sector in India in 2019.




It has been a year of high-profile pharma exits in India. And after the recent departure of Roche’s India managing director, it’s now Cipla Ltd.’s global chief operating officer, R Ananthanarayanan, who is moving on.

Ananthanarayanan (Ananth to his close peers) took charge as COO in August 2018, coming with a broad remit covering several key operational areas. His role included overseeing R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) business and the key geographies of North America, Europe and emerging markets. He had been tasked to help leverage and grow Cipla’s generics portfolio and competencies in these markets.

Cipla confirmed to Scrip that Ananthanarayanan had decided to “pursue interests beyond the company,” noting that the executive had been a key member of the company’s leadership team.

“Our rich legacy of care and our humanitarian approach to business has made Cipla an employer of choice. As with any organization, our workforce continues to evolve to meet their personal and professional aspirations,” Cipla said, adding that it valued both the "time Ananth spent" with the company as well as "his contribution."

Cipla did not, however, immediately clarify the specifics around the COO’s exit or if a replacement had been identified, whether from within the ranks or external talent. Pharma in India has seen a number of recent top-level exits: Roche India managing director Lara Bezerra, Eisai Pharmaceuticals India Pvt. Ltd. head Sanjit Singh Lamba and Janssen India chief Sanjiv Navangul are among those who moved on this year. (Also see "Roche India Head On Way Out" - Scrip, 28 Nov, 2019.) (Also see "Entrepreneurship Beckons As Eisai India Chief Departs" - Scrip, 22 Nov, 2019.) (Also see "Janssen India MD To Depart" - Scrip, 17 Apr, 2019.)

Rethinking Manufacturing
Cipla's Ananthanarayanan came with extensive industry experience; he was president and CEO Teva API and Biologics from December 2014 to July 2018 and had also been president of the Pharmaceutical Services and Active Ingredients (PSAI) business and member of the management council at Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. in a previous stint. He has also held senior management positions at the Piramal group's pharma operations.

Ananthanarayanan, who holds a PhD in pharmaceutical technology from University of Mumbai, had been working on a string of new initiatives at Cipla in key areas such as manufacturing. In a previous interview with Scrip, the executive outlined how Cipla was rethinking and refining its manufacturing operations in the backdrop of an intensely competitive environment and evolving customer and regulatory requirements. (Also see "Cipla COO On Joining The Revolution In Manufacturing " - Scrip, 9 Apr, 2019.)

Cipla, he said at the time, was prioritizing several initiatives to ensure that its manufacturing keeps pace with the changing environment and demands in the sector, including looking at time to turn around a product and a continued focus on security and assurance of supply, among other areas.

Manufacturing Blips
It is not clear what exactly prompted Ananthanarayanan’s seemingly early exit, but it comes at a juncture when Cipla has been working to resolve compliance hiccups at some of its sites.

A US Food and Drug Administration audit at the firm’s Goa plant recently ended with 12 observations, though the Mumbai-headquartered firm had clarified that these observations ran across 10 of its units in Goa, and none of them was“either repeat or related to data integrity.”

“We're working with the agency to address these and have submitted a comprehensive response to the agency,” Cipla’s managing director and global CEO, Umang Vohra, said on the firm’s earnings call for the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 on 6 November. The updated regulatory position on the Goa site could not immediately be verified. At that time the company also indicated that a change in the distribution model implemented in the first quarter had stabilized and that the business had sprung back strongly. (Also see "Momentum Back At Cipla In Q2 But Albuterol Delayed In US" - Scrip, 8 Nov, 2019.)

Later in November, Cipla said that the FDA had conducted a “routine” cGMP inspection for both formulations and APIs at its manufacturing facility in Patalganga from 4-13 November and that the inspection ended with four observations, none of which was repeat or related to data integrity. “The company is committed to addressing these observations and will submit its response to the agency within the stipulated time,” Cipla informed the Bombay Stock Exchange on 14 November.

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