Quality is the nucleus that must empower all scientific research & development just as a perfectly healthy nucleus empowers a cell by being its core in storing its DNA, maintaining its integrity, and facilitating its transcription, replication, and reproduction.
Sisco Research Laboratories, in short, SRL’s in-house mantra literally reads, ‘Quality is the nucleus of all our operations.’ Being a 47-year-old company, SRL– under its Director and leader, Mr. Akash Agarwal – manufactures complex Biochemicals, Molecular Reagents, and Culture Media used by researchers and pharmaceutical companies for scientific quality control and innovation.
SRL’s uniqueness lies in an evergreen and continuous impact on a huge spectrum of clientele. Customers across all of these are serviced every day with unwavering quality standardization. This is no small feat.
Today, SRL is featured in about 80,000 scientific papers published in globally acclaimed journals. “I attribute this success to our scientific team, which frankly has always been overly obsessive about quality. I believe this mindset enables research scientists to push the scientific boundaries just a bit forward,” expresses Mr. Agarwal.
Enhancements with a Constant Evolution
Sharing his inspiration behind venturing into this industry, Akash shares, “SRL has been a closely held private company, and it continues to evolve in its operational management. At the center of this firm, there exists a deep passion, that of my grandfather, Mr. S. K. Agarwal (Chairman and Managing Director), father, Mr. Ramesh Agarwal (Director), and brother Mr. Vikas Agarwal (Director). Their quest for being pioneers in supporting the international scientific community. It is this commitment that inspires and challenges me everyday.” he expresses.
Thus began Akash’s journey. During his formative and educational years, he remembers being exposed to research-related discussions at home. After he completed his Chemical Engineering from D.J. Sanghvi (Mumbai University) and his MBA from Weatherhead School of Management (Cleveland, Ohio, US), Akash spent three-four years applying his knowledge and gaining some experience on the shop floor, i.e., at his production units.
It was here, he realized that scientific discoveries frequently fail due to the unreliable quality of reagents and long lead times in procuring too expensive and rare chemicals. “Our customer scientists always complained about this during my field interactions with some Indian and International scientists,” he reflects. In fact, the entire industry somehow believed that prices of reagents were directly proportional to their quality.
Typically, these were always American and European companies. Akash envisioned a very different experience for its users if Indian Science had to make its place on the global innovators’ map.
SRL and their teams in R&D, Production, Sourcing, and Operations have spent the last 15 years creating strategic partnerships with global raw material suppliers, improving production processes, upskilling personnel and establishing critical last-mile logistic solutions. “We recruited the smartest and most experienced minds in the industry and got to work fixing gaps, micro-managing, and delegating in a careful balancing act,” expresses Akash.
What has resulted is a fantastic turnaround in SRL’s operations and customer experiences. “Our brand is beginning to scale new heights and along the way, we’ve acquired certifications like the ISO9001, GMP, FDA, CE, and NABL (ISO 17025),” mentions Akash. Their customers now receive deliveries of the rarest of biochemical molecules within 24-72hrs through five well-stocked warehouses across India, and they have even recently on-boarded their 500th global distributor.
Focus with Precision
Shedding the spotlight on SRL’s offerings, the company offers 8000 products in three specialized, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. These products go through industry’s most intense testing and internal compliances. Therefore, they are suitable for Biotechnology, Microbiology, Nanoscience, PCR and Diagnostics, Physics, Semiconductors, and Renewable Energy.
Akash opines that the Laboratory Chemical market is estimated at USD 23 billion by the end of 2022 and is forecasted to reach USD 33 billion by 2028 (at a CAGR of ~6%). Naturally, competition is global and intense.
In the last decade there are new regulations which have led to higher quality compliance from manufacturers like SRL. The service expectations from clients have also become more critical. SRL had to transform itself and re-organize processes regularly to stay competitive.
Global education upgrades have become the focus of many Countries. SRL is now competing with regional and global players in about 80 countries and is keenly focused on aligning its USP with those of its channel partners.
Each market requires a customized approach and the Company believes that one-size-does-not-fit all; in terms of testing, they continually evaluate new methods to conduct application-specific performance validation and best-in-class competitor to ensure their product is always above par.
Sharing his opinion on how adopting modern technologies like AI and ML impacts the industry and how SRL adapts to the change, Akash emphasizes that the reagents and chemicals they produce are the sheer building blocks of any physical product available worldwide. He shares, “Unless the human race ends up living inside a virtual world, I don’t see the demand for chemicals ever declining.” There will always be upgrades in chemical technology, i.e., newer molecules will replace conventional ones, perhaps due to commercial reasons or environmental reasons, etc. But this is truly a never ending process.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are applicable more to clinical or other research arenas than to conventional testing methods. “I see AI and ML being more helpful to our business model as it enhances our clients’ productivity and is used more in conjunction with our products than as their replacement,” he believes.
Shedding light on the challenges SRL had to encounter at the moment, is regulatory documentation, testing, and even environmental norms which have become very stringent. This is true of the Western Countries as well as the APAC region.
“We are continuously adapting to these changes if we have to be a part of our customers’ supply chain. These adaptations also make our organization a safer workplace and have led to an improvement in productivity and scalability,” Akash asserts.
Global political tensions between raw material-producing countries have created a very uncertain environment in terms of the availability and pricing of commodities. This trend has been ongoing since 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down.
“This, added to the increase in utility prices (gas, electricity, etc.), has caused a drastic upward pricing pressure across our portfolio. Although we are absorbing part of these costs in our quest to be a fair-priced producer, we have experienced a broad level of customer acceptance in sharing these costs too. Soon though, we do expect things to plateau out as global harmonies are attained,” hopes Akash.
In his advice to budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the scientific research niche, Akash feels too many entrepreneurs these days begin their journey with the intention of ending it, i.e., ‘Plan your Exit’ being the philosophy. Akash’s advice for entrepreneurs is to dig their heels in, to deep dive and to breathe their ventures everyday. That is the only way to taste success in the initial periods of the operations. Sustaining a business thereafter is always about taking care of its people and using the right technology.
On envisioning scaling SRL’s operations and offerings in the future, Akash reveals that ‘People Improvement’ is one key area they have identified to see sustained growth of the organization. SRL has always been a people-centric organization and has invested heavily in the well-being of its teams.
As the SRL family grows, the Management Team recognizes the greater responsibility to its stakeholders. The company would like to extend special training facilities at its productions as well as administrative locations by incorporating technical as well as well-being modules. It is Akash’s strong belief that SRL is only as strong as its team.
Its Management envisions investments in infrastructure and technology in a more pioneering and progressive manner. As SRL expands its geographical footprint, they have already begun placing a higher emphasis on synergistic collaborations with suppliers and distributors. This is one of the key areas they expect changes to occur in the forthcoming decade.
SRL expects to grow organically but does not see itself limiting to it. If the right opportunity comes along, it will certainly consider acquisitions or add on product offerings. Though Akash feels it is too soon to comment at the moment.
The last 47 years have been a roller-coaster ride for the scientific industry. The next wave of growth is centered around Biotechnology and Life Sciences, “And we are preparing ourselves to be a strong contributor in this growth story,” concludes Akash.
SRL’s Global Clientele:
- Global Pharmaceutical and Chemical (MNC) Clients: Abbott Laboratories, BASF, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Fresenius Kabi, Cytiva, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Sun Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi and many more.
- Hospitals, Diagnostics, and Medical Research: Apollo, Fortis, Wockhardt, Transasia Diagnostics, Agappe Diagnostics, Trivitron Diagnostics, Randox Laboratories, Dr. Lals Path Labs, SGS Laboratories, Metropolis Labs, etc.
- R&D and Science and Technology: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Institute of Science (IIS), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), National Chemical Laboratory (NCL).
- Food, Beverages, and Nutraceuticals: Amway, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Unilever, PepsiCo, Heineken, Nestle, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Heinz.
- Cosmetics and Beauty: Avon, Amway, Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Olay, Oriflame
- Oil Petroleum and Lubricants: British Petroleum (BP), Hindustan Petroleum (HP), ONGC, Reliance Industries, Lubrizol Lubricants, Petronas, etc.
- CROs and Clinical Testing Laboratories: Quintiles, Parexel, inVentiv Health, PRA Health Services, etc.
SRL’s Hall of Fame:
- SRL has been honored by the SME Chamber of Commerce as the best “SME of the Year 2020 – Manufacturing Sector (Chemicals)” award.
- “SRL” page was published by Forbes India Marquee Magazine for their survey conducted for “Game Changer – The Covid Global Heroes” in July’2021. It published a profile of Mr. Vikas Agarwal (Director), a leader in Biosciences who offers High purity chemicals to various industries, universities, and research institutions in the country in the year 2021.
- SRL is Listed as one of the ten most Innovative Biotech Solution Providers in India by Insights Success 2020 Magazine.
- S.K. Agarwal (Managing Director) was awarded the “Indian Achievers Award” in 2014 for Industry Development in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainable Development.
- “SRL is among the 20 top biotechnology companies as per the survey conducted by “Bio Spectrum,” a reputed magazine representing the biotech industry in India. It published a profile of Mr. S.K. Agarwal (Managing Director) as a leader in the field of biotechnology-related reagents in the country in the year 2013.
- The company also makes modest contributions towards CSR activities, and for that, Mr. S.K. Agarwal (Managing Director) is an active participant. He has been a member of the International Scouts & Guides Fellowship (ISGF) World Committee from the year 1993 to 1999. He was honoured with the Appreciation Award in 2010 by the International Scouts & Guides Fellowship (ISGF) and India Scouts & Guides Fellowship for his contribution in support of the Scout and Guide Fellowship during the past 50 years in India.