Enthusiastically working 365 days a year, without taking a single vacation, HiMedia Laboratories’ Founder & CMD, Dr. Gangadhar M. Warke gleams with enthusiasm when talking about new innovations and potential opportunities through which the Indian Bioscience giant can contribute to the nation’s economy.
Having recently turned 80, , Dr Warke remains committed to his quest to make the company stand out globally as a ‘Make in India’ success. Almost 5 decades, 2 international offices and 150 countries later, brand HiMedia continuously endeavors to be the global leader in world-class quality products. The fact that HiMedia has been ranked among the top 3 microbiology media manufacturers in the world by the American Society of Microbiology (ref-Handbook of Microbiology Media, 4th Edition, Prof. Ronald Atlas, ASM, CRC press) speaks of his perseverance despite tough challenges.
“This is the kind of recognition that drives us every single day to make science easy and lives easier. We have already shifted the game towards India’s favour by spreading our footprints in over 150 countries where our products are exported. These countries include some of the most technology driven nations like Japan, Germany, USA, etc.,” says Dr. Warke.
Creating Brand HiMedia – Moving Beyond Hurdles
At the start of his journey in 1974, while making Microbiological media from a kitchen to help the Indian scientific fraternity, little did Dr. Warke imagine the monumental impact his humble venture would have on scientists and the country’s economy. The first major breakthrough came when HiMedia successfully manufactured the Dehydrated Culture Media (DCM) products using its indigenous technology, thus breaking the monopolies of multinationals in the UK, the US and Germany. This helped India emerge as the 4th country in the world specializing in manufacture of dehydrated culture media products.
Dr. Warke faced many challenges during his research on the technicalities in manufacturing various recipes to develop a perfect culture medium to getting approvals and obtaining requisite licenses from the government offices after multiple visits. In the initial stage, his venture also went through financial hassles while procuring raw materials since dealers would not provide material on credit to a new company leading him to borrow from family and friends.
New Global Headquarters of HiMedia at Thane, Maharashtra
Despite the challenges, in less than 2 decades HiMedia’s products became a dependable name among India’s premier scientific and research institutions like AIIMS, PGI, CCMB, IARI, CDRI, CRI, IISc, ICT and Indian arms of trans-nationals like Roche, Uniliver, Hoechst, May & Baker to name a few. The company’s reach extended till Dakshin Gangotri, India’s permanent research station in Antarctica, where products of HiMedia were used for detection of dormant bacteria in the sub-zero environments.
Evolving Into Novel Biosciences
Over the years, Dr. Warke has spearheaded the company’s evolution from a Microbiology media manufacturing company to a fully integrated Bioscience company with a vast product portfolio spanning across 7 businesses namely, Microbiology, Animal Cell Culture, Molecular Biology, Plant Tissue Culture, Chemicals & Biochemicals, Lab Consumables and Hydroponics. The company has recently shifted its global headquarters to Thane, Maharashtra, with world- class infrastructure and research and development laboratories.
HiMedia is currently working towards expansion within pharmaceutical, healthcare, food & brewery, and diagnostics industries. The Microbiology portfolio has expanded to a wide range of ready-prepared media in addition to a complete line of animal- free culture media and ingredients under the brand name HiVegTM. The Animal Cell Culture business has set up a world-class upstream media development and bioprocess optimization lab for biosimilars and further working on development of media for storage and transportation of organs including products to support stem cell and gene therapy.
In addition to developing a comprehensive molecular diagnostic platform for COVID-19 detection, HiMedia’s Molecular Biology business plans to unravel the untouched space of intuitive medicine by means of PCR based detection of anti-microbial markers to help clinicians decide their drug of choice.
The hydroponics business, which goes by the name Higronics® is all set to lead the soil-less home and urban farming space in metros. HiMedia is a pioneer in providing hydroponics turnkey solutions. This soil-less farming technology is the newest venture that Dr. Warke has entered into.
Dr. Warke has been the recipient of several awards and accolades like being named ‘Brand Ambassador of Maharashtra’ in the category of research and innovation by Maharashtra Industrial and Economic Development Association (MIEDA) and the ‘Bio Supplier Industry Leader of the Year Award 2020’ by BioSpectrum.
HiMedia was ranked as ‘Best Company of the Year 2018’ in the ‘Pride of Maharashtra’ award series. Brand HiMedia has been felicitated as a first ranking unit from Nashik, Dindori Taluka for ‘Make-in-Maharashtra’ and ‘Make-in-India’ in the Maharashtra Investment Seminar 2016. The company has also received the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi National
Quality Award twice from the Bureau of Indian Standards, for quality services to the consumer in 2006 and 2011.
“Right from the beginning, our motto was to provide quality products at reasonable prices. Besides this, we were designing tailor- made products for our customers as per the requisite specifications,” says Dr. Warke.
The problems he faced as a research student made him resolute in achieving the goal to provide the Indian scientific fraternity with products easily available and competitive in price. HiMedia’s range of products span across industries like pharmaceuticals, food, dairy, environment, water testing as well as vaccines.
“Due to this, we could successfully expand our customer base and along the way, gradually gained their trust. All our customers find our products highly trustworthy and this reflects in the wide number of citations (more than 0.1 million as on Google scholar and 2.5 million on Google) received at an international scale,” says Dr. Warke.
During the health pandemic, the company had to stop production of all other products and focus on mass production of the Viral Transport Media (VTM) Kits for COVID-19 sample collection and RNA extraction kits, required for detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “We were definitely not prepared, but managed to maintain the course of the ship. Our VTM kit was developed in 2009 during the Swine Flu epidemic and until before COVID-19 outbreak, the number of VTM kits manufactured per year were merely 5 lakhs. However, due to the pandemic, the demand for VTM test units soared to 5 lakhs per day, and meeting those numbers was the biggest challenge for HiMedia. We had to put up extra investments to procure additional machines, manufacturing aids, swabs and human resources,” states Dr Warke.
True leaders lead by example, scripting positive and impactful narratives by thinking out of the box. Dr. Gangadhar M. Warke is a shining example of such a leader. HiMedia Biosciences’ motto of “Serving Humankind” paves the way for future communities.