Dr M Ayyappan retires as CMD after steering HLL Lifecare past several milestones

Thiruvananthapuram, May 31: A good 13 years ago, when Dr. M. Ayyappan appeared before the Hindustan Latex Limited’s interview panel tasked with appointing the PSU’s Managing Director, he was asked: “What is your aim?”

Pat came the reply: “To jack up the company’s annual turnover from (then) Rs 141 crore to Rs 1,000 crore.” It took only five minutes for Dr. Ayyappan, then 46, to present his business model to the board members.

Today, HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL) — as the mini-ratna PSU is known — looks at hitting the Rs 10,000-crore mark by 2020, much to the credit of helmsman who is retiring.

When Dr Ayyappan joined as its Chairman and Managing Director in 2003, Hindustan Latex was no more than a factory manufacturing one product, Nirodh — a popular condom. Currently, there are seven companies functioning under HLL, which is to shortly take over two firms in Gujarat.

In less than three years, HLL is set to own 20 groups of companies, having found presence in all the states that are striving to make giant advances in the field of healthcare. That apart, the company has a marketing system in as many as 118 countries besides 22 regional offices and seven factories within India.

“It has been a gratifying experience,” notes Dr. Ayyappan, who holds a Bachelors degree in Engineering, besides an MBA. He joined HLL in 1991 before he was appointed the company’s Marketing Director in 2002.

In the field of healthcare, Dr Ayyappan led a mission where indigenous business competed with the private sector even as he took diversification to new heights by equipping HLL to excel in segments such as manufacture of vaccines, medicines, research development, installing medical equipment and maintaining them, modern treatment systems, management education and production sector in general. From being just a government company manufacturing a basic contraceptive device, HLL went on to acquire a corporate house that had an exemplary work culture in the field of healthcare.

Today HLL and its subsidiaries are worth an estimated Rs 4,75,000 crore. “HLL can achieve the turnover target of Rs 10,000 crore in four-and-a-half years,” Dr. Ayyappan says. “It can generate employment running into lakhs.”

The PSU has HLL Biotech functioning in Chengalpet near Chennai. The Rs 594-crore subsidiary produces vaccines.  HLL has a 74% stake in Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals.

HLL Family Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) is a leading organisation in the field of charity, helping the country make advances in the child healthcare, HIV-AIDS prevention and general health. Lifespiring Hospital in Hyderabad, which is HLL’s joint venture with US-based non-profit initiative called Acumen Fund, works for the uplift of marginalised people.

The outgoing CMD notes that absence of a strong recruitment policy is what often weakens a PSU. “In HLL, I never allowed political interference when it came to inducting employees. My way of functioning seldom prompted any leader to do so,” he says.

Dr. Ayyappan is happy that he enjoyed the cooperation of HLL employees across grades, boosting the company’s overall performance. “From within colleagues, I got a team that spread awareness about the value of labour,” he notes. “HLL employees know they are doing first-rate job. And that the growth of the company on corporate lines will eventually benefit society.”

As CMD, Dr. Ayyappan infused certain new ethos into the company. HLL began celebrating a Victory Day on the 10th of every month. It would organise planning workshops on December 7-8 each year. Besides annual meets, there would be “think tank lectures” on the first of every month to improve efficiency and service. He introduced a system to allow every HLL employee to present their suggestions directly to the CMD.

Dr Ayyappan can be credited with turning a central public sector enterprise into an efficient global corporate company.

He arrived at the then Hindustan Latex Ltd. in 1991 armed with 12 years of experience in marketing. He was able to raise the profile of the company as a globally recognised brand by working in the firm belief that as a PSU it could only grow by focusing as strongly on marketing as on manufacturing.

Dr Ayyappan took charge as the Managing Director of HLL in 2002-2003 and was promoted to its Chairman and Managing Director in 2005. Under his stewardship in 2010, the company realised its revenue target of Rs 1,000 crore. He leaves a rich legacy and a word of optimism for HLL’s employees that the next turnover goal of Rs 10,000 crore may only be four years away.

Dr Ayyappan was born to Mr Madhavan and Mrs Shyamala in Thiruvanathapuram. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kerala University and an MBA in Marketing from CUSAT. He received a doctorate in Social Marketing from Kerala University. Dr Ayyappan is married to Mrs Sivakumari and they have two sons, Govind and Nandakumar.

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