Mr. Bhargav Kotadia

Managing Director at Sahajanand Group

Is a Purdue University alumni and second generation entrepreneur who is spearheading India’s rise as a manufacturer of world class healthcare equipment. His success story is as much a triumph of innovation and leadership as it is reminder of what the human spirit can achieve as long as it is focussed and fearless.  

For most of us, David taking on Goliath (and winning against all odds) is a story from an ancient legend. For Bhargav Kotadia, it’s simply a blueprint for business strategy. Something his company SMT (Sahajanand Medical Technologies) –  a Rs 500 crore Mumbai based stent manufacturing leader and disruptor – is becoming increasingly good at. 


It’s perhaps best to start at the beginning when in 1997, Bhargav’s father Dhirajlal Kotadia laid the foundation of a what can be described as a modern fairy tale. Hailing from a humble background in Saurashtra’s Junagadh district, Dhirajlal – with an electrical engineering background – decided to start his own business. SMT – today a stent making phenomenon – almost had a Google-like genesis, starting off from a small room with four assistants. An ingenious mind and hard-working soul, Dhirajlal’s winning formula of iteratively engineering and re-engineering upon fresh ideas went on to breathe life into India’s first manufacturer of affordable cardiovascular medical stents. His instruments didn’t just match global standards, but – thanks to their innovative edge - gave industry Goliaths such as Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Medtronic sit up and take notice.  SMT’s cardiac stents were being admired by the medical fraternity globally. When one takes into account that Dhirajlal scaled this mountain in the pre-Google age with a home grown team and limited access to resources and networks, the magnitude of his achievement appears a lot bigger. 
After Dhirajlal took a backseat due to health reasons, however, the company hit a trough in its spectacular journey. A lack of patents meant that competitors could easily replicate  SMT’s proprietary ideas and approaches. The global Goliaths had stepped up their own R&D and were making rapid advances. SMT’s painstakingly built goodwill and reputation was in danger of erosion. Market share had dipped alarmingly. Dhirajlal’s labour-of-love was starting at an uncertain future. 


Into this crossroads of confusion stepped the scion and torchbearer of the family legacy,  Bhargav Kotadia. Bhargav had initially been focussing on the Group’s other frontiers – namely the diamond-cutting machine and dietary supplements divisions, which we're also making a dent in their respective spaces. It was only in 2013 that he turned his attention to the ailing SMT. Soft-spoken and introverted, Bhargav was gifted with a steely determination - and was committed to turning things around for SMT. 
A sharp and analytical mind, it didn’t take long for Bhargav to realize where the ‘blockages’ (pun intended) lay. R&D, market presence and backward integration all begged renewed and dedicated attention. Rebooting the ‘winner’s momentum’ in a team that was now beginning to have self-doubts, quite apart from upgrading technologies, systems and processes, wasn’t easy. But then again, great milestones never start out easy. However, a focus on in-house innovation, training and bolstering the sales force got things moving. In time, SMT started to regain lost ground and market share. 


As attention and accolades starting pouring in again from all quarters - the sense of deja-vu was palpable. A study involving patients from multiple European countries established that the quality of SMT’s devices were right up there with the ‘best’ - in parameters like performance and safety. This wasn’t just a moment of celebration – it was also a validation of the team’s commitment and Bhargav’s unrelenting resolution. Impressed with the new found climate of positivity and SMT’s culture of innovation (that visibly ran right across the rank & fibre of the organization), funders started spotting a bright future for the organization and began to invest in this ‘resurrection’. 
Bhargav’s mission had come full circle. He had achieved the holy grail of successfully blending quality with affordability. SMT was a sparkling feather in the new ‘Make In India’ narrative. SMT single-handedly injected fresh conviction into India’s quest of becoming a global hub in affordable healthcare. Perhaps most satisfyingly, the healing touch of technology was now accessible for the ‘next billion’.  


So how did Bhargav turn the story around so tellingly? It all boils down to a mix of upbringing and passion. Being born to a pioneer, Bhargav had closely witnessed – and been inspired by – Dhirajlal’s rare success of putting a home-grown entrepreneurial story on the world map. His father’s advice – Whatever you do, leave it in a better state than when you found it – still acts as gospel. Faith in human ability and his team remains a vital ingredient to success. A classic brew that blends global perspectives (a result of a foreign education) with quintessentially ‘Indian values’ lies behind Bhargav’s open and flexible approach – one that always respects both sides of a story and brings balance to his boardroom strategies. An ability to learn from the lessons of adversity amps up the resilience factor while endowing his initiatives with the power of insight. When you add an economics background, a brain that loves to solve problems and a driving ambition of making a difference to the maximum number of souls in the minimum possible time, it translates to a potent recipe for disruption. His many awards act as a reminder of the disruptive transformation he has undeniably ushered in healthcare. 


Challenge is everywhere, but like all true-blue visionaries, Bhargav is quick to spot the upsides and opportunities first. The market for cardiovascular stents is growing. And if SMT has to own a bigger pie, everything will need to be scaled up – from research to production to marketing. The good news is that this isn’t a problem, because optimism tends to be infectious. Led from the front by Bhargav’s buoyant stewardship, the company is actively eyeing expanding its product portfolio. Yes, it’s an exciting time to be part of Bhargav’s team today. 


Ask the humble Bhargav Kotadia, though, and he’ll be equanimous about it. It’s all a part of his plan. A grander design. A burning ambition – of elevating Sahajanand Medical Technologies into a global super-power in Medical Devices. And India into a global hub of healthcare. Those who know him well realize that the man is getting there. Steadily. Surely. One headline, and one milestone, at a time. 


*This story is published by VOH Team*

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