By Kuldeep Raina
Kashmiri Pandits have
excelled in academics, professions, managerial skills etc. But entrepreneurship
has never been their forte. Dr. Gouri Shankar Muju, a Kashmiri Pandit by descent
and a leading industrialist in Mumbai, has belied this myth. His success
story-from a brilliant academician to a successful entrepreneurs, has written a
new chapter for Pandit excellence in entrepreneurship as well.
Born in 1938, Dr. Gouri
Shankar Mujoo hails from Brekujan (Lower Sathu) quarter of old Srinagar city. As
most of the Kashmiri surnames are nicknames the family lore says Mujoos are
originally Rainas. Some members of the extended Mujoo family prefer to write
Raina in place of Mujoo.
Rainas' traditional home
has been Rainawari, a suburb on the outskirts of Srinagar city. As per the
family story Dr. G.S. Muju's grandfather's grandfather bid adieu to Rainawari
soon after a devastating fire incident in the suburb and the family had to seek
shelter in Lower Sathu area. An anecdotal story that has survived says that the
ancestor of this clan while fleeing on his horse reached a garden. He felt
thirsty but could not find any water to quench his thirst. A lady
vegetable-seller offered him a reddish in place of water. The people who were
witness to the scene nicknamed clan's ancestor as Mujoo. That is how Rainas
transformed into Mujoos. Many clans of Pandits have similar stories to tell,
some of which still remain shrouded in mystery. Before 1990 displacement Mujoo
clans had been living in Rainawari (Kalwal Mohalla), Lower Sathu
and Raghunath Mandir mohallas.
Dr. G.S. Muju's father Pt.
Jia Lal was a small official in J&K State's Electrical Department, retiring as
Head Clerk. Though only under Matric he was extremely proficient in English and
had good grasp of intricacies of grammar. Dr. Muju's grandfather, Pt. Manji Muju,
was a high official in Maharaja Pratap Singh's court. Extremely handsome, Pt.
Manji wielded good influence at the Court and lived in style.
Early years of Dr. Muju
were spent in the idyllic town of Baramulla
in north Kashmir. He had his schooling at home under the care of a governess.
Shortly before the Valley was attacked by Pathan Tribal hordes Dr. Muju's
grandfather died and the family shifted to Srinagar.
Dr. Muju studied for 9th
and 10th class at
National High School,
Srinagar and joined SP College in 1951. He passed FSc. in 1953 and went to study
at DAV College, Kanpur for his B.Sc.
Soon after passing B.Sc.
in 1956 he joined as an analytical chemist at BI Drug company. His Chief
Chemist, Mr Sachdeva motivated him to go for higher studies in the same field.
In 1959 Dr. Muju got admission in the renowned Braunchweig Technical
University and sailed to Germany
in December 1959. Dr. Muju credits his elder brother Pt. Jagar Nath Muju for
giving encouragement to pursue higher studies.
He had to encounter two
problems-language and resources to pursue higher studies. Courses at all levels
were taught in German language. Through Minister of Post Dr. Muju got job in a
German company 'Koeln-Kalk' Chemical Company. It manufactured fertilisers.
Dr Muju was taken as analytical chemist. He learnt German language well and
saved enough to finance his higher studies. He served in this company till 1962.
Dr. Muju has pleasant
memories of working at 'Koeln-Kalk'. Visiting down memory lane he recalls, "The
atmosphere was very friendly here. The staff was very helpful. I was accepted
part of the society, may be my fair complexion facilitated it. One day the
Managing Director of the Company, a German enquired in half-broken English 'why
I was getting paler by the day'. He rang up the health unit of the factory,
which recommended my admission in the Hospital. I remain grateful to them for
the care they extended to me during my sojourn in the hospital. They helped me
every way. The staff members still have connectivity with me".
Germany had recovered from
the scars of IInd World War and Nazism. Though people admired Hitler (for
building Otto Bahn and for Volkswagen), yet they never expressed it publicly.
In 1962 Dr. Muju joined
Braunschweig Technical University to pursue Haupt (Main) Diploma, a degree which
equalled MSc. The first year of the Diploma was equivalent of 11th Class. Since
Indian B.Sc. was not recognised in Germany he had to start afresh. His teachers
at the University were big names in their respective fields. They included Prof.
Hartmann (Inorganic Chemistry, Dr. Carios (Physical Chemistry), Prof. Inn Hoffen
organic chemistry etc. The latter had made his mark internationally when he
became pioneer to produce margarine (artificial butter), fortified with Vitamin
D. Till then such an entity was unknown. In the Haupt Diploma Course Dr. Muju's
subject was Sugar Technology. His Head of the Department was Prof. Schneider,
an internationally known Sugar Technologist.
D. Muju is all praise for
the education system prevalent in Germany and for the teaching staff which
taught there. He praises academic freedom and charming examination system, free
from regimentation. Selection for the teaching faculty was very, perfect and so
vigorous that no professor could get admission for his ward in the respective
university. Teachers had not only to be academically brilliant and good in
teaching but had also to be innovative. Once selected they were very powerful
and would had their way. Favouritism was never accepted.
For D. Phill higher merit
in Haupt Diploma was mandatory. Even before Dr. Muju finished his Haupt Diploma
he received a clearance letter from the
Austria to pursue D.Phil in the field of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
The University bears distinction of producing five Noble Laureates in the field
of Physics, Chemistry, Economics etc. Dr. Muju was awarded the scholarship by
the Ministry of Science and Research, Vienna, Govt. of Austria for the entire
period of his research work. He joined Franzens University in 1972, Completing
D.Phil in less than five years in 1976.
Dr. Muju's guides were
Prof. Bretschneider and Prof. W.Kloetzer. Dr. Muju's research work
was based in creating such new molecule which could have some bearing on
medicinal values. These molecules were subjected to various tests to investigate
its effectiveness at one of the world's finest Pharmaceutical Company -
These investigations when completed take more than 15 years of rigorous efforts.
Dr. Muju worked on synthesis of Sulphonamides, anticancer drugs, anti-TB drugs
Dr. Muju had been
fortunate to having worked in the R&D Laboratory of Biochemic, Kundl, Austria,
in the field of cephalosporins in general and Cephalexin in particular. This
product is next generation of Pennicillines. Biochemic was the first to
have developed and produced world's first penicillin tablets, under the
supervision of Dr. Brandl.
Dr. Muju describes Prof.
H.Bretschneider his major guide and discoverer of Madribion-the long-acting
sulfa, as a fantastic person. When he completed his doctorate Prof.
Bretschneider in a moving gesture told Dr. Muju, "Please never leave me".
In November 1976 Dr. Muju
was selected as Pool Officer in CSIR and shifted to India. Dr. Muju's
hopes of pursuing an academic career were cut short when Poona University's ICL
did not select him for Lecturer's post despite his high academic qualifications.
The Lecturer's post also carried little remuneration of Rs 500 per month. Dr.
Muju left CSIR to join as Chief Research Executive in Chemopharma (Somani
Group of Industries) on monthly salary of Rs 2500.
In 1982 Dr. Muju
established a partnership company under the name of Ribopham Laboratories
at Dombivali, Thane District, Maharashtra.
The manufacturing plant was set up in 1984 and the production started in 1985.
His immediate efforts went into R&D and production of an anti-TB Drug (Pyrazinamide)
post the establishment. He challenged himself into marketing of many product
lines to have edge, competitive both on price points and quality. Dr. Muju's
initial success saw the company introduce themselves into many other product
lines catering to market demand strategy thus making Ribopham Laboratories'
market reputation headway in getting larger volume deals from companies like
Nicholas Piramal India Ltd. (India),
Yash Pharma Ltd. (Mumbai), Paks. Trade Ltd. (Hyderabad),
Dharamsi Morarji Chemicals Ltd. (Mumbai), etc. currently Ribopham Laboratories
is engaged in the manufacturing of a range of Antioxidant products. They also
specialise in Perfumery products. Dr. Muju's concern has been involved in
producing raw material and Bulk drug for anti-diarrhoels (Tindazole,
Metronidazole) and Veterinary drugs (intermediate only) like RoXarone.
Ribopham Labs has been in
manufacturing for over two decades now and has an annual turnover of more than
Rs 1.5 crores. In a lighter vein Dr. Muju says that he went for Chemistry just
by default and had aspired to pursue a career in Medicine.
Married to Saroj Dhar who
hails from a middle class Pandit family of Gundi Ahlamar (Nai Sarak), Srinagar
Dr. GS Muju is a complete family man. Despite his heavy schedule he finds time
to attend to small problems of carpenting, plumbing etc. at home. He also loves
to cook. Mrs. Saroj Dhar, who has her Masters in Economic and additional B.
Lib., had a stint in Indian Airlines.
Shy-looking Mujus shun
publicity and are quite modest. Recently, they were in Jammu
town while on way to Srinagar, both to revive their memories and re-discover
their roots at the place of their birth and also among their community brethren.
Dr. G.S. Muju has never gone to Kashmir after 1953 while Mrs. Saroj had last
seen Kashmir in 1958.