From a desk in the garage to a £65m business: a pharmaceutical success story

Dr Nik Kotecha OBE is chief executive of Loughborough-based Morningside Pharmaceuticals, a business he started almost 30 years ago to fulfill his dream of making quality, affordable medicine accessible to everyone.

As the deadline for entries for the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards approaches, he shares here his story, one that saw him named entrepreneur of the year in 2019.

Over the past three decades, he has grown Morningside into a £65 million business that employs over 95 technical people, has distributed to 120 countries worldwide since inception, and has 230 generic and branded licensed medicines in the UK and European Union.

His entrepreneurial dream began in 1991 when he and his wife set up shop with a desk and a fax machine in their home garage. Initially, Morningside was solely a 100 per cent export company, sourcing and supplying UK medicines to the developing world.

Dr Nik Kotecha
Winner’s story: Dr Nik Kotecha

In many parts of the developing world people are getting hurt because fake medicines are the only perceived treatments available. Dr Kotecha recognised this and also identified the importance of ‘Brand UK’, which is well known for the high quality, reputation for excellence and standards of medicines associated with it. The company has been built from this business model ever since.

“The challenge of getting high quality, heavily regulated medicines to the developing world mean counterfeits have become a big problem,” he said. “It’s estimated, for instance, that fake drugs contribute to 116,000 additional deaths each year from Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

After approaching a UN aid agency in 1995, during a government agency trade mission to New York, Morningside started working with the international aid sector, providing global NGOs, charities and aid organisations (which now include the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières) with high quality UK medicines for hospitals, medical centres and doctors in developing countries.

I’m passionate about working with young entrepreneurs — helping them develop the necessary skills and experience to create the success stories of tomorrow

As the world changed, Morningside’s business model also had to change. Dr Kotecha explained: “The advent of the internet threatened our USPs and this drove us to look at entering the UK market and building our own range of generic and branded medicines.”

As a result, Morningside built its own research and development capability to create cost-effective generic prescription medicines for the UK and developed markets once products came off patent. Domestically, their products are now distributed twice daily nationwide to pharmacies and hospitals and its Headline Brands save the NHS millions of pounds every year.

Three years ago, Dr Kotecha founded the Randal Charitable Foundation, whose vision is to save lives, help the socially disadvantaged and improve the quality of life for 1 million people in need in the UK and around the world. It support issues connected to health, disability, mental health, addiction, poverty, education and social disadvantage.

In 2019, he was presented with The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards Inflexion Entrepreneur of the Year award, an accolade he says was a huge honour to win, claiming that one of the biggest motives for entering was the opportunity to share his story.

“I’m passionate about working with young entrepreneurs—helping them develop the necessary skills and experience to create the success stories of tomorrow,” he said. “I hope my story will inspire other dynamic, creative and visionary leaders to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.”

What makes a great entrepreneur? 

“Find your passion,” he says, “and you will find your purpose. Once you have found your purpose, only then can you begin, develop and grow your business. My passion was — and still is — to provide affordable, accessible, high quality medicine to the developing world. The business followed.

“Entrepreneurs should be passionate about continuous improvement while embracing change. They should adopt a programme of investment and innovation, no matter the geo-political and economic challenges facing their business. Invest in infrastructure and R&D, embrace new technologies, hire people, train and develop them regularly, and encourage your teams to collaborate, to voice ideas and share them.”

Dr Nik Kotecha was awarded Inflexion Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, the most prestigious business awards in the UK celebrating businesses that excel in creativity and innovation to set new standards of excellence. If you’re headquartered in the UK, you qualify for entry and you can save £100 on your entry fee until 11 May. Apply here now.

Read about the awards here