At a Crossroads: The Strategic Dilemma at PENPOL
Vasudev Nair, CEO of PENPOL, a medical devices company in India, was facing a financial crisis. With debt mounting and cash flow becoming increasingly problematic, he had to make some decisions about the future of the company. Incorporated in 1987 under Nair's leadership, PENPOL began as a producer of hematology products with the introduction of its innovative blood bag product. The blood bag business was expanded with the introduction of multiple types of bags and blood bag equipment. In 1993 the company entered the urology business with the introduction of urine bags and within four years the urology line was expanded to include stone management devices, leg bags and foley catheters. Growth in the urology business was met with limited success however, and by 1998 PENPOL had exited all but the urine bag product line. The failed launches resulted in huge inventories of unsold goods and problems getting payment from stockists (distributors) that contributed to the company's mounting debt and cash problems. In addition, the Urology Division's flagship product, the urine bag, faced intensified price competition. PENPOL's Blood Bag Division was also suffering due to increased competition in the Indian market. Vasudev Nair had to stop the bleeding. He considered a few alternatives. Knowing that the company had no more access to debt financing, he considered the possibility of securing private equity or the infusion of funds from some of the co-owners of PENPOL. With this infusion of funds, could he or should he save both the Blood Bag and Urology Divisions? Should he divest or sell the Urology Division in order to bring in funds to shore up the blood bag business? Divesting the Urology Division would mean sacrificing the star product, the urine bag, which after much effort was gaining acceptance in the market. Given that a competitor had expressed interest in the company, he considered establishing a joint venture with the competitor.