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This Indian scientist-turned drugmaker doubled his wealth to $6 billion during coronavirus pandemic

This Indian scientist-turned drugmaker doubled his wealth to $6 billion during coronavirus pandemic
Divi's Lab
  • Since 2013, Divi’s wealth has increased nearly five times. He’s worth $6.3 billion as of September this year, according to Forbes.
  • According to Forbes, he ranks 538 on the world’s richest people list
  • Divi Laboratories has seen a 175% increase in its share price since the beginning of the year. It has also reported an 80% increase in its consolidated profits for April to June quarter on the back of strong sales.
The coronavirus pandemic has not just infected people but disrupted livelihood and forced some businesses towards the verge of bankruptcy. However, that is not the case for all. In some cases, the rich are getting richer — especially those in the pharmaceuticals business — have earned billions of dollars during this deadly pandemic.

One such billionaire is Murali Divi, who founded Divi's Laboratories three decades ago.

Divi Laboratories has seen a 175% increase in its share price since the beginning of the year. It has also reported an 80% increase in its consolidated profits for April to June quarter on the back of strong sales.

Here’s the story of Murali Divi —

​The billionaire scientist whose wealth has risen nearly five times in seven years

​The billionaire scientist whose wealth has risen nearly five times in seven years
Forbes India

The 69-year-old owner of Divi Laboratories, Murali Divi, is a US-trained scientist who returned to India after he got the opportunity to get on board as a partner in Dr Reddy’s Lab back in 1984. But six years later, he parted ways to start his own company Divi Labs in 1990.

However, it was not until 2013 that Murali Divi entered India’s billionaire club. He was worth $1.3 billion as of March 2013. Since 2013, Divi’s wealth has increased nearly five times. He’s worth $6.5 billion as of September this year, according to Forbes.

According to Forbes, he ranks 538 on the world’s richest people list. His story is one of learning from circumstances, resilience and building on his vision.

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​Divi was once a small towner who barely knew a word of English

​Divi was once a small towner who barely knew a word of English
Wikipedia

Murali Divi is from Machilipatnam, a small town in Andhra Pradesh — located about 350 kilometres away from Hyderabad. His father was a retired government officer who would receive ₹10,000 ($136) a month as pension. His father had to manage the expenses, keeping in mind all his 13 children, including Divi.


However, this never bothered Divi, until he failed his intermediate exams, twice. In an interview with Forbes, he said that while he studied most sincerely for the exams, he did so by rote because of poor English language skills. It was his failure in first-year examinations of graduation that made him realise he had to be more responsible. Divi became aware of the family's financial strains and wanted to help out and become better at studies.
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​The fortuitous US-trip to become a scientist

​The fortuitous US-trip to become a scientist
Divi's Lab

It was serendipity that led to Divi choosing the pharmaceuticals path that eventually led to building Divi’s Labs. According to Forbes, Murali Divi would have followed his elder brothers’ footsteps and ended up as a chemist, had he not filled the form for an American visa at the right time in 1976.

For Divi, it was destiny that led him to the US. “Within a month or two I got a green card because there was a shortage of pharmacists in the US at that time. I was told to collect it at immigration. I went to the US with $7, that was all the foreign exchange one could get to travel abroad at that time,” he told Forbes in 2019.

He then worked hard — to earn a salary of $65,000 a year — at a range of top organisations in the US, including Trinity Chemical and Fike Chemical across Texas, New Jersey, and West Virginia. But along the way, he got homesick, and soon returned to his motherland.

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The success at Dr Reddy’s Lab and the birth of Divi’s Laboratories

The success at Dr Reddy’s Lab and the birth of Divi’s Laboratories
Divi's Lab

Divi landed in Hyderabad with his wife, children, and $40,000 without any plans for the future. He started working at Warner Hindustan in Hyderabad. It was there that his paths crossed with Kallam Anji Reddy.

Reddy had worked with Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd and was also the founder of newly formed Dr Reddy’s Labs. Murali Divi helped Reddy build his newest takeover Cheminor to new heights, but left the organisation six years later for reasons that are not known.

Today, he’s five times richer than Satish Reddy, who just became a billionaire in 2020. Satish Reddy is the son of late K. Anji Reddy and runs Dr Reddy’s lab with G.V Prasad.

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​The highest-paid Indian pharma executive in 2019

​The highest-paid Indian pharma executive in 2019
Divi's Lab

Murali Divi getting an award from the then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

Thirty years into the pharmaceutical industry, Murali Divi emerged as the highest-paid pharma executive in India. He was paid a sum of ₹588 million ($8 million approx) in 2018-19. According to Economic Times, Divi’s Lab offered the namesake CEO a 46.3% hike in remuneration as compared to the previous year.


At that time, Dilip Shangvi, one of the richest pharmaceutical executives in the country, charged ₹1 for being the managing director of Sun Pharma. Whereas, Aurobindo Pharma paid ₹146 million ($1.9 million) — one-fourth of what Divi was paid — to its managing director N Govindarajan. GV Prasad, co-chairs Dr Reddys Laboratories, took home a salary of ₹124 million ($1.6 million) in the same year.
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Murali Divi got richer by $3 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic

Murali Divi got richer by $3 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic
Divi's Lab

Divi has increased his wealth to $6.8 billion, according to Forbes. Interestingly, he has earned half his wealth — nearly $3 billion — during the coronavirus pandemic.

His Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical laboratory witnessed robust growth after PM Narendra Modi launched Atma-Nirbhar Abhiyan that promoted made-in-India products. Moreover, India’s anti-China sentiments because of the border tensions have worked in his favour too.

However, it is not just the conducive market environment that made Divi richer. He had been consistently growing over the last few years. In the last three years, the share price of Divi's Laboratories has surged over 400%. Several brokerage firms, including Emkay Global Financial Services, are bullish on the future prospects of this company and have a 'Buy' call.

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