THE venue is the Narada Gana Sabha auditorium in Chennai, where Bharatnatyam dancers do their abhinaya for unrequited love and unsatiated liaisons. The day: July 9. This isn't the setting for a parade of the prim and prude—but the annual general meeting of a little-known company called Orchid Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals. This isn't time for an innocent arangetram—but time to talk about hardcore sex.
Managing director K. Raghavendra Rao delivers the sweetener. Sholinganallur in Kancheepuram, TN, where Orchid's labs are located, is about to join the ranks of Ringaskiddy in Cork, UK, where Pfizer's labs are located, as one of the few towns in the world to make sildenafilcitrate, the active ingredient in Viagra, the male impotence drug that's providing "the chemical cutting edge to the next sexual revolution".
The company has got permission from the Drug Controller of India (DCI) to make 39 tonnes of the chemical for export. It has applied for permission to make and sell pills of a Viagra-clone at home. It is even planning a nationwide contest to name the desi version. As the AGM ends—with Orchid's stock prices up to Rs 115 from Rs 77 in March when it announced its plans—shareholders were already humming a Tamil couplet in anticipation of the big-O.
'Niagara Falls in the Land of Promiscuity, Viagra Rises in the Land of the Rising Sun'
Several hundred miles west of the Land of the Rising Sun (Tamil Nadu; the rising sun is the DMK symbol) in its laboratories in Turbe in New Bombay, a group of 10 scientists at Kopran Ltd has been keeping 18-hour days for the last two months to stay in the hunt for an Indian Viagra. Word is that the antibiotic-maker too has received permission from the DCI to make the sildenafil citrate, and that the plant is set to roll within a week. But the company...