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GSK CONSUMER Healthcare (GSK) is upping its ante in India. In what is perhaps GSK India’s most audacious move in a long time, the company is close to making key acquisitions in the healthcare and OTC spaces. Two years ago, GSK had begun parleys with Paras Pharmaceuticals to acquire some of its brands including Moov, Krack and D’cold, but talks fell through.

A top team from GSK Philadelphia is expected to visit India next week to identify likely targets and meet merchant bankers to expedite acquisition plans. While Zubair Ahmed, the new MD at the helm of GSK declined to comment on the details of the acquisition strategy, he confirmed that the company is open to all kind of options. "We have a huge appetite for acquisitions, as we want to grow fast riding on both organic and inorganic platforms," he said. Acquisitions will be the third leg of GSK’s growth strategy, the first two being new launches from its international portfolio and sub-segmenting its existing product portfolio on price and formulation.

The Indian subsidiary has lined up a slew of launches across niche categories from its global basket, which includes popular brain energy drink Lucozade, chewable high fibre lozenges Fibre Choice, Sensodyne toothpaste for sensitive teeth and quit smoking aid Ni Quitin. The company is also planning a relaunch of fruit drink, Ribena which bombed in the mid-1990s. Unveiling the company’s new blue print for growth, Ahmed told ET in his first media interaction since he took charge at GSK six weeks back: "We are simply fast-tracking on growth and the space is there to be taken." GSK’s Indian R&D arm is currently in the process of working out the potential of its international brands. "We plan to bring in these products as soon as possible and want to go mass; there are a lot of blank spaces in the health and wellness space that we intend to fill," he said.

Flagship brand Horlicks, which is strongly associated as a kids’ product, will be pushed on four platforms – Original, Horlicks for mothers, sugar-free variant Horlicks Lite and Junior Horlicks. The objective is to address all age groups and even out sales spikes typically seen during the January-March exam period and monsoons. GSK is aiming for deeper penetration for Horlicks and Boost, by introducing smaller SKUs and trials packs. "So far, we have not had a very aggressive rural presence, but we want to get there," Ahmed said. Acquired brands Viva and Maltova, both of which have smaller market shares, will address SEC-B and C markets and address regional consumer preferences.

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