The Coronavirus pandemic has led to the healthcare sector coming to the fore in the 2020 edition of Fortune India’s list of The 50 Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Business. This year, there are seven women from the sector who make it to the list, and as many as four of them feature in the top 10, demonstrating the importance of their work in a year where the virus has ravaged the world.
While Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson of Biocon, India’s largest biopharma company, figured at No.3 on the list, the highest ranker from the healthcare sector, she was followed by Suneeta Reddy, managing director of Apollo Hospitals at No.4 and Cipla’s executive vice chairperson Samina Hamied at No.6. Hamied also was the highest rank gainer in the list this year, moving up from No.29 last year to No.6. Another big gainer from the healthcare sector this year was Lupin’s CEO Vinita Gupta, who moved up from No.20 to No.7 this year.
Ameera Shah, promoter and managing director of Metropolis Healthcare (No.19), Meena Ganesh, managing director and CEO of Portea Medical (No.39) and Natasha Poonawalla, executive director, Serum Institute of India (No.46) are the other three listers from the healthcare sector this year. Poonawalla makes her debut on MPW this year.
Mazumdar-Shaw’s companies Biocon and Syngene made significant contributions to addressing the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. In July, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted ‘restricted emergency use’ of Biocon’s novel biologic drug, Itolizumab, for the treatment of cytokine release syndrome in Covid-19 patients. Suneeta Reddy’s company Apollo Hospitals, India’s biggest hospital chain, saw its gross revenue top ₹10,000 crore in FY20. The company has been at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19. Apollo Hospitals allocated over 2,000 beds for Covid-19 patients, which included 1,000 ICU beds or about 15%-20% of its overall capacity.
Hamied’s company Cipla is known to be at the forefront whenever there has been a global health crisis— whether it is bird flu, swine flu, or the Anthrax scare. Cipla has taken the lead by making available affordable life-saving medicines. And its response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been no different. The ₹17,000-crore pharmaceutical major brought to market antivirals remdesivir and favipiravir, and the immunosuppressive drug tocilizumab, for the treatment of Covid-19. It also took efforts to ensure that there was fair and equitable access to these drugs across the country, despite varying state-wise lockdown restrictions.
Vinita Gupta was tasked with building Lupin’s U.S. business in the early 2000s, and that now accounts for about 35%-40% of the company’s overall business. Lupin has emerged as the third largest generic pharmaceuticals company in the U.S., delivering over 17 billion doses of medication per year.
During the early days of Covid-19, information about the virus was meagre. But Metropolis Healthcare, under Ameera Shah’s leadership, rose to the challenge. From March, when the lockdown was announced, the diagnostics chain trained a large number of people, and tried to alleviate the fear of the virus from them. It now has eight Covid-19 testing labs, the highest for any private player. The company is valued at $1.25 billion, which is up from a valuation of half a billion dollars at the time of the company’s IPO in April 2019.
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a watershed moment in innovation for the healthcare industry. And Meena Ganesh’s home care services company, Portea Medical, has been on the ball. By marshalling resources, mobilising key relationships with contact centre partners, and even executing unprecedented collaborations with competitors like CallHealth and HealthCare atHOME, Portea delivered home isolation support for Covid-19 patients under agreements with the governments of Delhi, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, and the local administrations of Chennai and Mumbai.
Natasha Poonawalla’s core business philosophy is that nobody in the world should be denied the ability to access quality vaccines and preventive healthcare. Her family-run Serum Institute of India—the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume—is at the forefront of Covid-19 vaccine development and production today. While husband Adar, chief executive of the company, is driving the initiatives, Poonawalla has been closely involved in expanding the company’s manufacturing facilities over the past few years, including a new 50-acre campus in Pune that is now being used to manufacture the Covid-19 vaccine.