Arvind Lal of Dr Lal PathLabs
Image: Madhu Kapparath
His over eight-decade-old diagnostic lab business has been at the forefront of India’s Covid-19 fight, testing millions of coronavirus samples, a crucial element in putting an end to the pandemic. Then, over the past year, his company, Dr Lal PathLabs has seen its market capitalisation grow by a staggering Rs 10,000 crore, that has helped Lal cement his place in the Forbes India Rich List 2021. Lal debuted at an estimated wealth of $2.55 billion and is listed at the 87th rank.
Of course, none of that would have been possible had Lal simply rested on his laurels. Dr Lal PathLabs was initially a single diagnostic lab facility in New Delhi, then known as Central Clinical Laboratory, set up by his father after his settlement in the capital, in 1948 post-partition India. But a family tragedy meant that Lal had to give up his role of teaching undergraduate medical students, pursuing a PG programme in pathology (which he later completed), and serving as a warden of the hostel, to relocate to New Delhi to build his family business.
Today, the company has over 200 clinical labs and more than 4,000 collection centers across India, offering some 5,000 pathology and radiology tests, including Covid-19 tests. Dr Lal PathLabs processes about two crore samples annually and has tested over three million samples of Covid-19 in the country.
While much of the company’s revenues continue to come from the northern and eastern parts of the country where it has already established itself as the dominant player, Lal is now also busy cementing plans to expand into the southern and western markets. “We are very strong in the North of India, Centre and East India,” Lal says. “We are now introducing newer tests, and are the largest in histopathology biopsy, and also have the second-largest kidney biopsy testing lab.”
India’s domestic diagnostic industry is estimated at $9 billion (around Rs 67,500 crore) and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10 percent over the next five years, according to research firm Edelweiss. Already one of Lal’s chief rivals, Thyrocare
, has sold itself to Pharmeasy, signalling the massive churn underway in the sector.
“Growth will be primarily driven by a change in demographics, increase in lifestyle diseases, and higher income levels across all strata of society, rise in preventive testing, deeper penetration with asset-light expansion, and spread of healthcare services and insurance,” a 2020 report from Edelweiss says.
So, what was the family tragedy that hit Lal, how did he expand the business, and what about his eternal love for the uniform and the military life? Subscribe to read our cover story
on Dr Arvind Lal.
(This story appears in the 24 December, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)