Dr. Gangadhar M. Warke | HiMedia Laboratories Pvt. Ltd.
Dr. Gangadhar M. Warke is the Founder & CMD of HiMedia Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. With a presence in more than 150 countries HiMedia - A company established by professionals and technologists for manufacturing high quality culture media for microbiology - is amongst the top three brands in microbiology in the world. It has created a rich portfolio of quality products over the years.
Dr Warke endeavours to capture the essence of his idea and organization for our readers…
“HiMedia possesses world-class hi-tech knowhow for manufacturing a complete range of chromogenic and HiVeg™ media products. We have the broadest range of Vegetable Hydrolysate based microbiology culture media (HiVeg™), in the world. This is due to our vertically integrated manufacturing that produces a comprehensive range of Plant and Animal based hydrolysates. Advanced products in the fields of Animal Cell Culture, Plant Tissue Culture and Molecular Biology came next as demands grew. An excellent chemical testing facility equipped with the latest analytical instruments enables HiMedia to deliver consistent ultra-pure products.
With firm commitment to excellence in work Culture and products, HiMedia has its own in-house bulk raw materials manufacturing plant. This enables us to deliver consistent quality products that conform to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2012 and WHO: GMP. The technical product-service package offered by HiMedia globally enables patrons to tap the expertise of HiMedia's Central Laboratory in matching products to their precise needs. We also honour custom manufacturing requests for small product quantities”.
We start the session in a curious frame of mind, looking to understand more about Dr. Warke’s initiative. What, for instance, is the big need-gap his venture is addressing? What makes it a game-changer and need-of-the-hour? Mr. Warke shares in detail…
“There were a few critical need gaps within the field of Microbiology and Lifesciences, such as technology gaps and gaps in scalable quality and affordability which have been addressed by HiMedia.
When I started HiMedia back in 1973, I took it up as my personal mission and challenge to manufacture microbiology media of world class quality and provide them at affordable rates in the domestic market. This was in line with my pursuit of supporting fellow Indian scientists and research associates.
The real need of the hour is to fire up the spirit of innovation in Indian minds so that with a ‘Self Belief’ we can develop and manufacture world class quality products. Instead of chasing turnover, entrepreneurs need to committedly build an enduring global brand that is rooted in India.”
Was there a special event or reason that triggered or accelerated this mission? We request Dr. Warke to take us back to the genesis of his journey, and the idea leader happily toggles into ‘history mode’ …
“To give a little background on this, I came face to face with the struggles of a research associate in procuring microbiology media while pursuing my post- graduation as well as my PhD. Back in the times, the media was imported from either US or Europe and the costs of these media were astronomical. The best way to put it is, that they were even more expensive than gold.
I approached a British company asking for a joint collaboration with India to manufacture these media however; they rebuked the offer stating that no one in India could possibly produce such high- tech products. Their response made me more resolute in taking up the challenge and I decided to give it my all to start manufacturing on my own.”
While pursuing a lifetime’s goal is often its own reward, Dr. Warke’s mission has been tasting success in more tangible ways as well. In his own words…
“Today, 48 years later, HiMedia has changed the landscape of Microbiology business in India and many other parts of the world. We are now, ranked among the top 3 media manufacturers in the world by the American Society of Microbiology (ref- Handbook of Microbiology Media, 4th Edition, Prof. Ronald Atlas, ASM, CRC press). 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. “
How would this visionary personality describe his life’s driving passion? What keeps him going with the same energy and enthusiasm as he had on Day One? Dr. Warke shares…
“J. F. Kennedy had said, and I quote – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.
HiMedia, from the day of its conception, has been working towards this endeavour of giving what our has nation has needed the most- raising science in India as well as globally and we have been doing this by contributing in all the fields of our expertise, be it Microbiology, Animal Cell Culture, Molecular Biology, Plant Tissue Culture, Hydroponics, etc.
As long as one focuses on the ethos of giving back instead of being calculative of what’s being received in return, it will transform India on the global landscape. “
We want Dr. Warke to go down the memory lane and capture his family-life, education & early career journey for our readers. The leader reflects…
“I was born into a humble family of farmers in rural Maharashtra. Life was difficult and I had always dreamt of getting highest educational qualification. Hence, I studied hard and completed my PhD in Microbiology from Bhavans College in Mumbai. I also excelled in various sports like shot-put, kabaddi, javelin throw and running. I had built a strong physique by engaging in vigorous and intense exercise regimens. I was the kabaddi captain of my college and helped my team win the KM Munshi trophy, which was awarded to me by Shri K M Munshi himself.
My wife, Saroj, is an Electrical Engineer and one of the co-founders of HiMedia. She is also the IT Director of HiMedia and has been instrumental in building a robust information security system for the company. I have two sons, who are doctors too, and have their share of responsibilities in the organization.
My younger brother, Vishnu, is a lawyer and along with my wife Saroj, he is one of the co- founders of HiMedia. My elder brother Tryambak supported us financially in the beginning and joined the business later. Today, their children, i.e., my nieces and nephews are also a part of the business where they contribute in different divisions of HiMedia based on their respective expertise.
Before establishing HiMedia, I had experience of working in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years, I could have easily set up a pharmaceutical company of my own which would have, by today, grown into a larger MNC. However; I chose to rather not go down the beaten path and carve a path of my own which was the need of the time, and critical for Indian scientists, just so that they would have it a bit easier than I had during my time as a researcher.”
Was there any big turning point or eureka moment that changed his journey? The thought leader digs into the barracks of his mind, surfacing with precious memory details…
“There have been many flashes of insights that led me to critical breakthroughs during my product development. Microbiology media are extremely complex and are very difficult to make.
One such medium is the vitamin B12 assay medium, Everyone I spoke to within the pharmaceutical industry, responded in negative saying that, my success in manufacturing that medium would prove my technical mettle.
A Japanese company named Eiken is number one in manufacturing TCBS medium. When I had decided to attempt to develop TCBS medium, I had initially struggled a lot and there was a point when I had hit the dead wall. My eureka moment came while I was once sitting outside the famous Tirupati Balaji Temple and pondering over this problem. I kind of had a sudden flash of insight that helped me overcome the dead wall and successfully develop the TCBS medium.
Similarly, there are many incidents where we succeeded in developing unique products. Development of HiVegTM media is another success story where I substituted animal origin raw materials (hydrolysates as protein source) with plant- based hydrolysates and created an entire range of plant- based media that are unique in the world, thus contributing to reduced carbon footprints.”
No odyssey of change comes easy. Every leader who dares to transform the status-quo, has to go through layers of adversary – some overt, some covert. What has been Dr. Warke’s own experience like, when it comes to setbacks? And what have been the important lessons gleaned, thereof? Dr. Warke is candid as he reveals…
“To start from zilch and stand in competition against companies ruling as global giants from USA, UK, Germany, etc. since centuries together, this, in itself has tremendous challenges. There are numerous incidences that could contribute to quite a long narrative however; each setback had a challenge of its own to overcome and today, I can proudly say that we have come out be much stronger.”
Leaders are known by their work, and often, it translates into an abiding recall in the public consciousness. How will posterity regards Dr. Warke’s redoubtable impact in this space? How would he like to be remembered? The idea leader is frank and humble as he tries to describe the legacy he is sure to bequeath…
“I am a hard-core microbiologist and enjoy playing with the microbes that happen to be the tiniest creatures on the planet. After formulating thousands of microbial media recipes, I wish to be remembered as “A Microbial Media Magician”, the one who can make recipes for any microbe in the universe. My legacy of respecting microbes should be carried ahead by all microbiologists, rather biologists, for, every life is precious.”
We sign off this edifying session by requesting Dr. Warke for his views on a community connect platform like VOH - Here’s his generous take…
“I heartily appreciate the readers of VOH as they are connected with one of the finest voices of healthcare systems. Our existence is due to the microbes that surround us, that are mostly useful to us in many ways. The microbes are creatures that brought nitrogen from air into the soil and then in all other life forms including humans. However, we must also be aware of the fact that if they exceed in numbers, the same microbes can cause mayhem too. So, let us respect and appreciate every life form on the earth.”
*This story is published by VOH team*
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