“The entrepreneurial journey of a woman entrepreneur “
This is the story of a young girl from a Small Town in India whose passion has propelled her business to earn the sobriquet of India’s Small Giant. It is a story of strong will, character and the hunger to do something valuable.
Srilakshmi Desiraju, is a first generation entrepreneur in the Pharma space. Her young company Triphase, is making great strides in innovating new probiotic products. Her story is the story of many youngersters, especially from smaller towns who grow up with the hunger to do something. It is a desire to make a mark that drives them. So has been the case with Sri.
She grew up in Ujjain, a small and historical town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Being born in a family where both parents were Teachers, Sri grew up in an academic environment. Her passion for chemistry inspired her to gain a Doctorate in Organic Chemistry from Vikram University, Ujjain. What followed was a decade of rapid growth in her chosen domain. Sri went on to do two Post-Doctoral fellowships. One at one of India’s most prestigious Chemical labs, The National Chemical Laboratories, Pune and the other one at India’s premier institution for Science – The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Inflection point 1
The first inflection point in her life happened after her marriage to Aditya in 2000. Like most Indian women, she prioritised her family life and relocated to Canada following the footsteps of her husband. But then, the small city bug of “Kuch tho kar dikhaana hai – gotta achieve something” was in her blood and she grew restless. She joined NAEJA Pharmceutical, Edmonton. Over a period of the next six years, her hard work saw her growing from Research Scientist to Senior Research Scientist, a rarity in the flat hierarchies of the R&D domain. But the itch to grow faster and still do something more led her to the next inflection point.
From Scientist to Saleswoman
Not satisfied with being restricted to creating molecules, she wanted to move to the people side of the industry. In her own words, she was tickled more by the thrill of interacting with the users of her products. An MBA from the University of Alberta followed. Sri was back into NAEJA, albeit in a new avatar – Business development.
71% entrepreneurs find the inspiration for their business idea from their employment. The learnings at NAEJA motivated Sri to set out on her own path in the pharma industry and more specifically in Probiotics.
Circa 2009, Sri was bitten by two bugs – the Entrepreneurial bug and the passion to create probiotic bugs to solve India’s health challenges.
Armed with all her experiences of the past decade she plunged into entrepreneurship. Relocating from Canada to India, Sri started Triphase Pharma, initially, as a Services company. But it did not satisfy her hunger to do something new. In 2011, a chance meeting with Dr Gautam Das from Syngene Blocon gave her clarity and direction. Dr Rao asked Sri – what tickles you? Her immediate answer was “to make the company a giant” – to which he suggested, “The service industry cannot make you big, R&D can!!”
Life had come a full circle. Sri was back to her strongest base – R&D.
Triphase pharma began its journey of innovation in the field of Probiotics. The first big challenge that Triphase solved was in eliminating the cold chain from the Probiotics industry. It filed a patent for a new technology by which Probiotics could withstand temperatures of upto 250 degrees. In one single stroke the company had eliminated any need for cold storage.
Triphase had arrived. The industry took notice. In fact, the magnitude of the invention is so huge that the company is patenting the process in over 40 different countries. The success was all the more sweet, as many people had written off the idea even before Sri began her courageous journey to make a mark in a niche male dominated domain.
With the rapid success of Triphase, another rare incident by Indian cultural standards took place. Her husband Aditya quit his high flying career to join her in the venture.
Over the past two years, the company has seen rapid growth and has 4 major Prescription products in the market. Triphase has made a significant dent in the pharma universe dominated by large corporations. The David had arrived. Sri is now leading the company towards its next phase of innovation by creating probiotics that can fight diseases including Cancer and Diabetics. Positive results are already on the table.
The journey has been challenging, but like her products, her entrepreneurial will has been resistant to them. The baby steps have been taken and it is time now to transform the company into the giant that it can be.
To borrow from two poems of Frost, Sri and Aditya took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference. Yet, the journey has just begun…. and they have many more miles before they can sleep.