A little over a week ago, GSK Velu occupied centre stage at an event in New Delhi. Neuberg Diagnostics, Velu’s two-year-old diagnostics venture, was entering into a strategic partnership with the Centre for Cellular And Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), an initiative of the Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.
Among other things, the memorandum of agreement signed at the event would give Neuberg access to C-CAMP’s high-end technology, like electron microscopy. And while the C-CAMP partnership is largely for research purposes, it is yet another statement of intent from the young and hungry company.
Neuberg’s genesis in itself is fascinating. In 2015, when Velu exited Metropolis, the diagnostics giant he co-founded, most thought it was the end of his journey in the pathology lab industry. And with good reason. Velu, who sold his stake in Metropolis to PE firm Carlyle for Rs 900 crore ($127 million), has many other irons in the healthcare fire.
Trivitron Healthcare, Velu’s medical device manufacturing business, for instance, clocked revenues of Rs 650 crore ($92 million) in the year ended March 2018. Trivitron also has a joint venture with the listed Apollo Hospitals—Alliance Medicorp—which operates both Apollo Dialysis and Apollo Dental, which has over 80 clinics. Velu serves as director of both businesses. There’s also Maxivision, a chain of eyecare hospitals, where he is both founder and chairman.
But return he did. And how. Velu’s re-entry into diagnostics in 2017—some two years after he left—has been nothing short of stellar. Neuberg, the veteran entrepreneur’s comeback vehicle, has grown at a pace never seen before in Indian diagnostics. In just two years, the company managed to clock revenues of Rs 450 crore ($64 million) in the year ended March 2019—its first full year of operations.
From out of nowhere, it is now the fourth largest player in terms of revenue in India’s pathology lab ecosystem. “Being rated as possibly the second largest startup in India just after Reliance Jio with Rs 450 crore in revenue in the first [full] year of operation and targeting over Rs 1,000 crore ($141 million) revenue within three to four years of operations… We could not have asked for anything better,” Velu said in an emailed response to The Ken.
Neuberg’s rise surprised many who thought the space was crowded enough as it is. While the opportunity is huge, with the Indian diagnostics space valued at $4 billion by brokerage firm Edelweiss and growing at 27.5% annually, it is dominated by a raft of large competitors. Dr Lal Path Labs, SRL Diagnostics, Metropolis and Thyrocare all have a pan-India presence.