Sound Prognosis

Dr. Arvind Lal joins the ten-figure club as his labs conduct thousands of Covid-19 tests each day across India.


Indian doctor Arvind Lal joins the ten-figure club thanks to his company’s Covid-19 tests.

In late March, as the coronaviru­s sent India into a nationwide lockdown, Dr. Arvind Lal, 70, sprang into action. His Dr. Lal PathLabs, one of India’s largest diagnostic chains, quickly won regulatory approval to conduct Covid-19 tests, becoming one of the first private labs able to test the country’s masses.

That’s been a boon for the publicly traded company, which is now conducting several thousand Covid tests per day across its labs in New Delhi, Kolkata and Indore. While the tests themselves do not add significan­tly to revenues, the company is benefiting from favorable sentiment toward the diagnostic­s sector. Shares are up 19% since Prime Minister Narendra Modi instituted India’s lockdown on March 24, enough to make Lal—its chairman, he owns a 57% stake in the chain—newly a billionair­e.

In addition to the tests, which the company says require nasal and throat swabs and can produce a result within 48 hours, it rolled out sample-collection vans to help speed the process, and trained staff in contaminat­ion avoidance. “We conduct regular training drills to ensure that safety protocols are maintained,” says Vandana Lal, Lal’s wife, a pathologis­t who heads its clinical research and R&D. In May, however, the Delhi government, which is monitoring Covid testing in the city, launched an inquiry into discrepanc­ies in the firm’s test reports. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the inquiry.

Last year Lal PathLabs—which operates more than 200 clinical laboratori­es and nearly 6,500 sample-pickup points across India—brought in revenue of $174 million.

Lal’s path to billionair­e status began in 1977, when he was 28. He had earned his medical degree and was taking a postgradua­te course in pathology at India’s Armed Forces Medical College in the city of Pune. After his father died suddenly, Lal returned home and took over management of the diagnostic lab and blood bank his father had founded in 1949. He expanded it through a series of acquisitio­ns and took it public in 2015.

His daughter, Archana Lal Erdmann, a geneticist, is a non-executive director at Lal PathLabs. Lal’s son, Anjaneya Lal, is a freelance wildlife photograph­er.

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