Mr. S.K. Agarwal and his brothers founded Sisco Research Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. Since 1975, Sisco Research Laboratories has been a pioneer in the Indian research and laboratory arena. Sisco Research Laboratories has been manufacturing very complicated and international-grade reagents and biochemicals in India for over 36 years, during a period when few other Indian enterprises possessed the technical competence to produce complex chemical compounds.
Their first production facility in Mumbai was the first in the country to create Molecular Biology grade items for a fraction of the cost of an identical imported product. The original list of products included just 200 speciality biochemicals, but the significant cost differential allowed the cash-strapped Indian research scientist to do considerably more with their post-doctoral research projects.
This vision is still alive and well today. Except they’re now present in 60 countries, selling over 7000 goods, and catering to thousands of worldwide scientists, enabling them to attain the best quality of research while being cost-effective.
Mr. Surendra Kumar Agarwal/MD, Mr. Akash Agarwal/Director, and Mr. Vikas Agarwal/Director are the cornerstones of Sisco Research Laboratories’ long-standing growth.
We reviewed the present industrial landscape and how Sisco Research Laboratories is altering the biochemical sector throughout the world in a conversation with Mr. Akash Agarwal.
What were your early difficulties?
There has always been a strong global perception in our target markets that ‘things created in the West are superior.’
Scientists hesitated to think that sophisticated chemical compounds could be synthesised somewhere other than the United States or Europe until the year 2000. We’ve spent decades painstakingly educating the industry that, for the last few decades, Asia has been the genuine production centre for all specialist chemicals. Initiatives like as Make-In-India, BIRAC, the National Biopharma Vision, and others have arrived a little late in our country’s growth narrative. Nonetheless, the next 5-10 years will be crucial.
Which event spurred the expansion of Sisco Research Laboratories?
The Rajiv Gandhi government established a distinct Department of Biotechnology (DBT) inside the Ministry of Science and Technology in 1986. India was one of the first countries to establish such a department. Between 1986 and 1994, a slew of new institutes sprang up, focusing on plant genome research, tissue culture, cell culture, DNA fingerprinting, agricultural crop science, and medicinal biotechnology. This was the start of the Indian Biotechnology tale. This was the time when Sisco Research Laboratories began to expand.
Government-backed research spending increased by a factor of ten. Indian scientists now got access to several modern scientific fields due to improved infrastructure. Initially, these scientists were unwilling to employ an Indian product, preferring “made in Germany” or “made in the USA” products.
Sisco Research Laboratories was present in 25 countries by 2003 and had created indigenously dehydrated culture medium for microbiology and fermentation sciences. Mr. Ramesh Agarwal, our father, motivated and strategized this section of Sisco Research Laboratories, and we were one of only a few global organisations to accomplish so.
We were looking for a better footing in biotechnology fields about 2006, thanks to an increase in biotech start-ups and a significant rise in financing for biotech initiatives by different central government organisations. This was the year we completed our first 100% acquisition of a Chennai-based biotech firm. The purchase enabled us to provide a comprehensive range of DNA, RNA, and Protein tools and formed yet another business vertical for our core products.
We pioneered the manufacture of nanopowder and carbon nanotubes in India in 2009, at a time when the world was only beginning to use buzzwords like ‘Nanotech.’ Our present product portfolio makes us the only local Indian firm with such a diverse product offering.
“It fills us with joy when a growing cadre of Indian Microbiologists, Biotechnologists, and Nanoscientists select our world-class goods for their research and quality control.”
It fills us with joy when a growing cadre of Indian Microbiologists, Biotechnologists, and Nanoscientists select our world-class goods for their research and quality control. Through our Tissue Culture chemicals, we have aggressively focused our resources and investments in the last ten years on Renewable Energy goods, Hydroponics (the science of growing plants without soil,’ and Aquaponics (recirculating nutrients between farmed fish to growing plants hydroponically).
This explains our history and some pivotal moments.
How have the graphs at Sisco Research Laboratories evolved since their inception? Could you please provide some statistics?
Our expansion over the previous five years has been really promising. Sisco Research Laboratories has expanded capital expenditures to modernise our research laboratories and improve our logistics and operations. With an installed capacity of more than 10 million SKUs, our Central Warehouse provides state-of-the-art storage facilities for our cold-storage goods and even permits same-day shipments to more than 400 distributors and clients across India.
We have steadily grown our human resources and product offerings throughout the years. Sisco Research Laboratories has grown at a 21% CAGR over the previous five years. The launch of COVID in January 2020 caused an early slowdown, but we expect 2021-24 to be years of robust revenue growth.
What is the secret of Sisco Research Laboratories’ long-term success?
Our ability to pay close attention to all of our activities offers us an advantage over our competition. Training, mentoring, and ongoing motivation all contribute to collaborative work settings. As a third generation entrepreneur, I cannot emphasise how critical this is to the success of any business.
Our contributions have been recognised several times by industry luminaries, major industry magazines, and institutional honorary awards. We’ve had our precious moments, in my opinion.
However, a few of prizes are very dear to our hearts. One of them was in 2014, when our Founder and Managing Director, Mr. S.K Agarwal, received the ‘Indian Achievers Award’ for Industry Development in the field of CSR and Sustainable Development. The other was more recent, and we were awarded the coveted title of ‘SME of the Year 2020’ at the SME Chamber of India Conclave by Shri R.M. Mishra – Special Secretary and Development Commissioner, Ministry of MSME, Government of India.
What products/services does Sisco Research Laboratories specialise in? What distinguishes your services from the competition?
We are surrounded by the need to verify quality and authenticate final goods, whether in education or medicines, food or cosmetics.
Here necessitates the use of Laboratory Fine Chemicals, and this is where our goods and services are used.
Today, our ‘Knowledge Chemicals,’ which include biochemicals, biotech reagents, nano chemicals, and microbiology solutions, are widely employed to advance science and improve quality control in the industry.
Our fundamental competency is inventing and bringing to market uncommon and difficult-to-find items. Our products outperform those of our competitors due to exclusive technology created by us. And, while this may seem cliche, it is the sole reason we have been included in over 100,000 journal papers, including the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Accounts of Chemical Research, ACS, Science Direct, Elsevier, and others.
How did you decide to expand Sisco Research Laboratories’ product/service offerings?
The next step is to aspire higher, whether it’s for flawless service or on-shelf availability. Sisco Research Laboratories must also continually adapt to enhance our testing processes in order to meet the most recent industry requirements. Whether it is pharmacopoeial or endotoxin-tested material, essential aspects testing has always been a requirement of the industry.
Sisco Research Laboratories sees several prospects in nanotechnology and biological sciences, particularly virology as a potentially large development sector. We just launched a line of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies and are now working to increase our production capabilities for cell culture reagents.
Could you kindly tell us about your professional background?
Sisco Research Laboratories is a professionally operated family business at its heart. The board is led by Mr. S.K. Agarwal and Mr. Ramesh Agarwal, with me and Mr. Vikas Agarwal (my brother) handling different elements of Sisco Research Laboratories and projects in our position as Directors.
I earned my B.E. (Chemical) from D.J Sanghvi College of Engineering in Mumbai and my MBA from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (Ohio). I also worked at a Biotech incubator, BioEnterprise Corp. (Ohio), where I gained vital entrepreneurial and commercial skills. I rejoined SRL in 2008 and have since been active in both technical and commercial activities.
Mr. Vikas Agarwal, my brother, earned his Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) from Mumbai University before becoming a Director at Sisco Research Laboratories. After three years in SRL, he saw the need for foreign experience and pursued his MBA at The University of Nottingham Business School (NUBS), UK, with a specialisation on Entrepreneurship.
How do you take care of your employees? What distinguishes your team?
Our present goal is to improve our services by enhancing the quality of individuals with whom we deal. This is referred to as “People Capital.” Our team is made up of both industry experts and ambitious young people. This combination, while not unique, provides us with a more well-rounded approach to whatever activity we do.
Most significantly, we greatly believe in investing in Sisco Research Laboratories’ culture and training initiatives.
Is there any particular experience you’d want to share with your clients?
Because of the diversity of our clientele, we are unable to provide a single solution. An IIT Research Scholar, a QC Scientist at Unilever, and even an R&D scientist at the Serum Institute of India (SII) or Bharat Biotech are among our clientele.
During this pandemic, we also contributed to the diagnostic and vaccine industries, notably in the creation of Covaxin and the many COVID Test Kit. All of these accomplishments were made possible by courageous SRL team members who ensured that our facilities remained open even during the pandemic’s height.
Please provide us with an update on your thoughts on the present Biotechnology and Healthcare industry environment.
Sisco Research Laboratories is tremendously excited about the Biotech industry’s potential. According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the Indian Biotech business was valued at roughly USD 64 billion in 2019, with a 10% CAGR expected until around 2025. (amounting to USD 102 billion).
This expansion is expected to be the consequence of several government programmes such as Biotech Parks around the country, SEZs in high-growth areas, and so on. There are around 2500 biotech enterprises and over 2700 biotech start-ups in India alone. Similar patterns have been noticed in numerous other nations, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and Brazil.
With so much emphasis on growth in the Life Sciences, Healthcare, and Biotech industries, global testing rules are getting more severe and thorough. This is where our expertise comes into play, supporting our optimistic expectation for further solid development.
Is constant vigilance a requirement or a strategy? Please share your thoughts.
Adaptability has become increasingly vital during this difficult period.
For example, having a defined plan has helped us bring our COVID-related solutions into the spotlight. We have served as important KSM (Key Starting Material) providers for over 12 COVID-VTM, RT-PCR, and RNA Purification Kit manufacturers.
Most significantly, we have only been able to maintain our growth by improving our core items and focusing on quality. If we had succumbed to the temptation of expanding our business to include more COVID-centric solutions at this time, we would not have been able to contribute as much to India’s requirements.
My advise to other entrepreneurs is to have a solid plan in place, but also to “dig your heels in for a fair duration before expecting any decent outcomes.”