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New-look Hamdard gets down to business 

Veeshal Bakshi  
New Delhi, Jan 19: Winds of change are sweeping through Hamdard, the traditional trust which is the world's largest manufacturer of Unani medicines. Set up 95 years ago by Hakim Hafeez Abdul Majeed, Hamdard's affairs are now managed by his great grandsons who say their motto is "there is business so there is the Hamdard trust."

The Hamdard story began when their great grandfather set up a small Unani medicine clinic in the Old Delhi area. He called the clinic Hamdard to signify "sympathy for all." Profit was not his motive.

The gifted Hakim died young in 1922 and his son Hakim Abdul Hameed and two grandsons Hamid Ahmed and Abdul Mueed made the organisation into a household name. They converted Hamdard Dawakhana into a trust -- Hamdard National Foundation -- in 1948.

Now it is the turn of the great grandsons to take the organisation further in a direction of their choice. Mr Hamid Ahmed is 24 and Mr Asad Mueed is 27. Both have management degrees from foreign universities. While Mr Ahmed is responsible for marketing, his first cousin Mr Mueed heads the research and development department.

With over 1,200 products and a legacy of famous grandfathers, both have a famous brand but marketing it in modern times will be a different ball game altogether. "The biggest challenge is to transform Hamdard into a vibrant organisation which can keep pace in the rapidly changing environment," says Mr Ahmed.

He, however, quickly adds that in no way would they ever dream of converting the trust into a solely commercial enterprise. "It's an organisation started by our grandfather where profit is not the only motive to do business.

Hamdard makes effective medicines at affordable prices and reinvests all the profits into charitable activities. We will continue to expand that endeavour," he says.

The young blood at Hamdard, however, strongly believes that the organisation needs to be made more market savvy. "We have changed our motto from `there is a Hamdard trust, so there is business' to `there is business, so there is a Hamdard trust."

Mr Ahmed promises that Hamdard brands would be much more visible as the group has chalked out an aggressive marketing strategy. Hamdard has fired the first shot in this direction by shooting its latest audio-visual ad-campaign for its health drink flagship brand Rooh Afza with a group of young boys and girls partying on a beach.

"Hamdard has to be transformed into an organisation which can respond quickly to a changing market and environment," says Mr Ahmed.

It's a tough call since the organisation's character and style of functioning have been like typical of charitable trust. A corporate culture is lacking. So is the marketing talent.

"There are grey areas in the organisation. We are on the lookout for talented people in marketing department. We need major improvements in our sales force and advertising strategy," he adds.

It reflects in the group's revenues. Though Hamdard has been in existence for over 95 years and has several strong brands such as Rooh Afza, Cinkara, Safi, Sualin, Rogan Badam Shirin and Hamdard Chayawanprash, the group's turnover is just around Rs 150 crore.

"We are developing R&D on several new products. Our R&D in hypercholestemia (high cholesterol levels) and liver related diseases. We will bring new products based on internal research and will also enter new markets," he said.

Though the company has several products in the pipeline, it will launch them in the market gradually. "We can't launch all products at the same time due to our present marketing set up and small advertising budget," according to Mr Ahmed.

Mr Ahmed says that all these changes in the organisation will not in anyway take Hamdard away from its charitable work. The group, till a couple of years ago, was completely funding Hamdard University in Delhi. The University Grants Commission has very recently started giving matching grants. Hamdard also funds the 200-bed Majidia Hospital located in the sprawling university complex. Hamdard Education Society, the parent body of Hamdard University, also runs a public school in Delhi.

Copyright © 2001 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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