Pharma SMEs in India: a quick overview

The spread of Pharma SMEs in India:
As per a recent study by Dun and Bradstreet, largest cluster of the Pharma SMEs is located in the western region of India contributing almost 55% of the total SMEs, based mostly in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. This is followed by the Northern, Southern and Eastern regions with about 20% each located in the Northern and Southern regions and about 5% in the Eastern region of the country.

Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Delhi are the key hubs of the Pharma SMEs. About half of the SMEs are Private Limited Companies with around 25% Public Limited, 15% Partnership and 10% proprietary firms.

Key activities:

The activities of the SMEs have been reported as follows:

• 75% companies are purely manufacturing companies with own facilities

• 13% companies are engaged in manufacturing as well as trading

• 10.5% of the companies are doing R&D work (clinical tests as well as contract research) along with manufacturing

• 1.5% of the companies were focused on only research & development

Around 50% of these companies are engaged in exports to various countries around the world, including USA and Europe.

The strengths:

High level of entrepreneurial zeal and low operational costs across various pharmaceutical business processes are the key strengths of pharma SMEs in India. However, the key question is whether such cost arbitrage is sustainable in the longer term.

Key challenges:

The key challenges encountered by the SMEs are as follows:

• Regulatory conformance to more rigid product quality norms to offer better quality of medicines to the patients

• Sustained investments towards technical upgradation to maintain competitive edge related to manufacturing cost

• Sales and Marketing activities are becoming more and more expensive, in terms of cost of skilled field staff together with their other consequential and modern day marketing tools/ practices in India.

It appears survival of those SMEs who operate only in highly competitive domestic market with manufacturing and/or marketing of low price formulations will indeed be increasingly challenging. This challenge will be even more with the SMEs who do not have enough wherewithals or get the support of the government to face squarely the rapidly changing business environment/demand and falter in choosing the right business models, as applicable to each one of them.

Incentives/facilities provided by the Government of India (GoI):

However, the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers of the GoI has been taking steps to support the SMEs through various incentives/facilities, as follows:

• Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme (CLCSS) to SME pharma units, which will help them to upgrade their facilities as per the revised Schedule M

• List of products reserved for manufacturing by SMEs

• Identification of around 18 pharmaceutical SEZs, which will offer advantages like availability of developed infrastructure, market access and exports along with various tax incentives

GoI involvement in the R&D activities of Pharma SMEs:

As I indicated above, about 1.5% of the SMEs are now focused only on research & development. In ‘India Pharma Summit’ held on November 30, 2009, the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Government of India announced as follows:

• The government is planning to set up a venture fund to promote R&D in the Pharmaceutical sector, especially for the SMEs

• This will be a close ended fund with a corpus of around Rs. 2000 crore

• The initiative will have active stakeholders both from the government as well as from the industry

• The broad outline of the scheme will emerge in the next two months and the fund will be operational in about three years

Moreover, incentives by way of extending the weighted deduction at the rate of 150% of the expenses on R&D for the next five years and duty exemption for imports of specified machinery used for R&D purpose will help the sector to augment its R&D capabilities.

Areas the Pharma SMEs should look at to strengthen themselves:

Increasing opportunities in the generic pharmaceutical market both domestic and exports will fuel the growth of SMEs having robust and focused business models and plans. Besides, rapidly emerging Contract Research and Manufacturing Services (CRAMS) market also throws open a lucrative outsourcing business space for the SMEs to cash on, leveraging their current cost arbitrage in collaboration with the large local and global pharmaceutical companies.


The future of Pharma SMEs in India, in my view, is quite good, provided they can choose the right business model for growth. However, it is worth noting that the SMEs will now face much more and newer challenges related to the globalization process of the Indian economy and the markets, together with regulatory and social needs for improved quality of medicines and conformance to more stringent environmental and safety standards. Collaborative approach both with large domestic and global players will be of utmost importance and could be a win-win prescription for growth.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

India as a global pharmaceutical outsourcing hub: Some key advantages and the areas of improvement.

All over the world, pharmaceutical research and development pipelines are gradually getting dried up. Lesser and lesser blockbuster drugs are now coming up from the ‘mind to the market’. Currently the average annual turnover of over 90% of patented drugs is around US $150 million each. At the same time regulatory requirements to obtain the marketing approval are becoming more and more stringent, spiralling the R&D costs of the innovator companies very significantly.
The name of the game:

In today’s perspective of the global pharmaceutical industry, ‘competitive efficiency’ in speed of implementation of various projects and optimizing costs of operations, can be easily considered as the ‘name of the game’.
Such competitive efficiency is as much essential for a relatively quick turnaround from ‘the mind to market’ of New Chemical Entities (NCEs) or New Molecular Entities (NMEs), to reducing manufacturing costs through various outsourcing opportunities and/or innovative application of technology and spreading geographical marketing operational network.

Towards this direction, ‘Business Process Outsourcing’ in R&D, manufacturing, clinical trials etc. is now gradually emerging as one of the most critical ways to achieve this important objective. It is expected that gradually outsourcing of specialized manufacturing like, biopharmaceutical and sterile manufacturing and specialized processes like, improvements in catalyst activity, will be gaining grounds.

India is emerging as a potential outsourcing hub:

India is fast emerging as a key player in the outsourcing business of the global companies, with its high quality facilities, world class services at a very competitive cost, in various areas of pharmaceutical business operations. India is not only a vibrant democracy, it has now a good Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) system in place and offers very significant cost advantages both in contract research and contract manufacturing space, as compared to many other countries.

Many Indian pharmaceutical companies are scaling up their capacities and investing in establishing more number of world class facilities. Currently India has over 100 pharmaceutical plants approved by the US foods and drugs administration. Incidentally this number is the largest outside the USA.

The key advantages:

India with its total pharmaceutical market size of around US $ 14 billion offers both value and cost arbitrage, which are as follows:

1. Familiarity with the regulatory environment and requirements of the developed markets

2. Extensive global operations in the generics business

3. World class facilities

4. Lower employee wages

5. Large number of young workforce

6. High capacity of skilled labour (350,000 engineers/year)

7. High quality of engineers, process chemists

8. Low communication barriers due to high levels of English

9. Speed of operation

10. Cost effective IT infrastructure, facilitating all key business processes

Contract research investment strategies of the global companies in India:

Most common investment strategy in the collaborative arrangement is risk-sharing outsourcing co-development of a NCE/NME. For example, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) signed an outsourcing agreement with Advenus Therapeutics of India in November 2008 with a contract value of US $ 247 million including milestone and royalty payments in the areas of inflammation and metabolic diseases. In this contract Advinus will be responsible for development upto ‘the proof of concept’ (Phase II a) and then J&J will take over till commercialization of the molecule.

Areas of improvements:

1. Biotech contract research as a whole

2. Economies of scale in manufacturing products like, recombinant proteins, small interfering Ribonucleic Acid (siRNAs), vaccines, antibodies etc.

3. Fully integrated service offerings in contract research and contract manufacturing

4. In genomics and proteomics research

5. Pre-clinical research

In all these important areas our neighbouring country China seems to score over India


Availability of world class contract research and manufacturing facilities and the ability of the domestic pharmaceutical industry to deliver the agreed deliverables in a cost-efficient manner with desired operational speed, make India a potential contract research and manufacturing hub of the world.

India can expect to compete effectively in these areas with any other countries, including China, provided the improvement areas, as indicated above, are addressed with equal speed of action and with a missionary zeal.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Contract Research – a rapidly evolving business opportunity in India: Is the Pharmaceutical Industry making the best use of it?

A quick perspective of the ‘new-era’ pharmaceutical R&D in India:
Since 1970 up until 2005, Indian pharmaceutical industry used to be considered as the industry of ‘reverse engineering’ and that too with an underlying disparaging tone… and also as the industry of ‘copycat’ medicines’.

However, it will be absolutely unfair on my part to comment that only domestic Indian pharmaceutical companies launched ‘copycat’ versions of patented products in India and no multinational companies (MNCs) resorted to this practice, during this period.

Long before Indian Product Patent regime was put in place, in January 1, 2005, around 1998/99 Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) entered into a bilateral agreement with Novo Nordisk and Ranbaxy with Bayer of Germany to out-license two New Chemical Entities (NCEs) and a New Drug Delivery System (NDDS), respectively for further development.

Opened the new vistas of opportunities:

These research initiatives opened the new vistas of opportunities for the Indian pharmaceutical industry in terms of R&D, in the pharmaceutical science. The above new developments also brought in a sense of determination within the research oriented domestic pharmaceutical players to enter into the big ticket game of the global pharmaceutical industry called ‘product discovery research’.

The jubilation of the industry having demonstrated its initial capability of taking a leap into forthcoming new paradigm of that time, received a set back momentarily when Novo Nordisk terminated the development of both the NCEs of DRL, after a couple of years, because of scientific reasons. However, DRL continued to move on to its chosen path, undeterred by the initial set back.

Need to focus on R&D and create world class ‘Intellectual Properties’:

In a letter addressed to the shareholders of DRL in one of its recent annual reports, the founder and the chairman of the company Dr. Anji Reddy expressed his following vision:

“Excelling in the basic business operations will be necessary, but not sufficient. To maintain a long-term presence in the global pharmaceuticals markets and to grow profitably will require companies to be even more focused on R&D and creation of successful IPR’s [intellectual property rights].”

After India signed the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, Indian pharmaceutical companies were quick to make out that the ball game of doing pharmaceutical business in the new IPR regime will be quite different. Having pharmaceutical product patents will indeed be important in future, for the domestic R&D based pharmaceutical companies.

The Past versus Present R&D models in India:

Domestic research based pharmaceutical companies did realize in the early days that a radical shift in their focus from ‘process research’ to ‘product discovery research’ may not be prudent or practical either.

Some of these companies initiated step-wise approach from mid 90’s to meet the challenge of change, come year 2005. During the transition period of 10 years as given by the WTO to India from 1995 to 2005, some domestic companies wanted to make full use of their past R&D model.

The past model:

Before the product patent regime, Indian pharmaceutical companies used to manufacture and market generic equivalents of the patented drugs at a fraction of the price of the originators, with non-infringing process technology in the Indian domestic market and also for export to the other non-regulated markets. During the WTO transition period of 10 years, they increased the pace of utilization of this model and launched as many ‘copycat’ versions of the new products as possible to boost up their sales and profit.

The present model for regulated markets:

Following two strategies are followed:

1. Indian companies doing generic business in the regulated markets like the USA submit
“Abbreviated New Drug Application” (ANDA) to the drug regulator for approvals of drugs,
which will go off patent within the next few years, so that the generic products could be launched
immediately after patent expiry.

2. Many other companies follow the second avenue, simultaneously, which is though risky but very
remunerative. In this case, the generic market entry takes place by challenging the patents of the

It is believed that this model is being used by the Indian pharmaceutical companies, primarily to raise financial resources to get more engaged in their drug discovery initiatives or to generate wherewithal for collaborative or contract research initiatives.

For short term business growth and to raise fund for discovery research, their non-infringing process research initiatives have been proved to be quite useful. These R&D based Indian pharmaceutical companies; seem to understand very well that discovery of NCEs/NMEs or getting involved in this process will ultimately be ‘the name of the game’ to fuel longer term business growth of their respective organizations.

Contract Research (CR) in India:

Contract research is another business model within the overall R&D space, where a significant part of the investments come from the collaborators. CR business model currently explore the following two key options:

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for the discovery will go to the global collabolator and the
Indian CR organization will get an upfront or milestone payments.

 Along with funding support to the CR organization, IPR is shared by both the companies
depending on the terms of agreement.

There could be many other terms/clauses in such CR agreements, which are not within the scope of this discussion.

Types of Contract Research (CR):

Frost & Sullivan in one of their studies on Indian R&D opportunities indicated following three models of contract research:

1. Joint research: Here two or more collaborators will work jointly

2. Collaborative research: In this type of research, scientists of different disciplines work together on a project e.g. Ranbaxy has recently entered into a collaborative research program with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) or collaboration of Ranbaxy to develop an anti-malarial NCE Rbx 11160 with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Geneva.

3. Complete outsourcing: When an altogether different research organization is assigned a research project by another organization. Some Indian research based pharmaceutical companies have already got engaged in these types contract research activities. The market of contract research is expected to grow much faster in the near future.

India – an attractive contract research destination:

A global survey done by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) couple of years ago on the preferred centres for overseas contract research, published as follows:

• 39% preference for China

• 28% preference for India

Attractiveness as preferred contract research center was based on the following criteria:

• A place where companies can tap into existing networks of scientific and technical expertise

• Has good links to academic research facilities

• Provides an environment where innovation is supported and easy to commercialize.

Many global pharmaceutical companies believe that China scores over India on the third point, as mentioned above.

Indian pharmaceutical companies have commenced targeting contract research opportunities:

Research based Indian pharmaceutical companies companies like, Piramal Healthcare, Ranbaxy, DRL, Zydus Cadilla, Glenmark etc are now actively targeting international companies for contract research in custom synthesis, medicinal chemistry and clinical studies.

A medium-sized pharma company Shasun Chemicals and Drugs has been reported to have defined its business as an “integrated research and manufacturing solutions provider”. Similarly Divi’s Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company of similar size has collaborated with global multinational companies for both custom synthesis and contract research projects.

Some international CROs, like Quintiles have its establishments in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Mumbai with great expectations and a robust business model.

New contract research opportunities in Biopharmaceuticals:

Besides pure pharmaceutical companies, an emerging opportunity is seen within the biotech companies in India, which are mostly engaged in a contract model. Novartis has inked a three year deal with Synergene (Biocon) for various research projects primarily in the early stages of development in cardiovascular and oncology therapy areas.

Likewise, Reliance Life Sciences are involved in chemistry, biology and contract clinical research activities.

Another research process outsourcing company, Avesthagen is engaged in collaborative research in metabolics, proteomics, genomics and sequencing. The company shares the IPR with the collaborators.

Jubilant Biosys of India, which has already partnered in a drug development deal with Eli Lilly has recently entered into another research and development deal with AstraZeneca, estimated to be worth up to US$220 million. This research collaboration will be funded by AstraZeneca for five years and they will own the patent of any neuroscience molecule that will come out of this collaborative agreement.

Contract research – a lucrative business model:

A UBS Warburg study indicated that around 20% to 25% of R&D investments in the US go towards contract research. This percentage is expected to increase as the pressure to contain R&D expenses keeps mounting, especially in the US and EU.

Currently the cost of bringing an NCE/NME to market from its R&D stage is estimated to be around US$ 1.7 billion. Across the world efforts are being generated to bring down these mounting expenses towards R&D.

Many experts believe that cost of innovation in India will be almost half of what it will be in the US and EU. A report from Zinnov Management Consulting forecasts that towards outsourcing by the global pharmaceutical companies, India has the potential to earn about US$2.5 billion by 2012.


Currently, within CR space India is globally considered as a more mature venue for chemistry related drug-discovery activities than China. However, in biotech space China is ahead of India. Probably, because of this reason, companies like, Divi’s Laboratories, Avesthagen, Ranbaxy, Synergene, Jubilant Biosys, Reliance Life Science, DRL, Zydus Cadilla, Glenmark and Piramal Healthcare could enter into long-term collaborative arrangements with Multinational Companies (MNC)to discover and develop New Chemical Entities (NCEs).

As I said earlier quoting Korn/Ferry that in the CR space China’s infrastructure is better than India, primarily due to firm commitment of the Chinese government to derive maximum benefits of the globalization process in the country.

Prudent policy reforms and other measures as expected from the new UPA Government will hopefully help bridging the gap between the Chinese and Indian pharmaceutical industry in the space of overall CR business including biotechnology, as Indian R&D based pharmaceutical companies will start realizing and encashing the potential of this important business model.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Global ‘Contract Research and Manufacturing Services’ (CRAMS) – a new growth opportunity for mid-cap Indian pharmaceutical companies… Are we ready?

Intense competition within global pharmaceutical industry, patent expiries of blockbuster drugs, ballooning R&D costs together with low R&D productivity, more and more stringent regulatory standards coupled with intense cost containment measures are exerting intense pressure on the bottom lines of the global pharmaceutical companies. The situation, which is continuing for quite some time from now has triggered two important strategic business considerations:1. A rapid consolidation process through ‘mega mergers’ and ‘mega acquisitions’ while medium to smaller M&As continued mostly with an intent to bridge strategic business gaps.2. Increase in interest towards ‘Business Processes Outsourcing’ initiatives of various scales and types, which include contract manufacturing and contract research to lower cost countries with clear objectives of saving both cost and time.

Such a situation has given rise to the evolution of Contract Research and Manufacturing Services, popularly known as CRAMS, especially in countries like India and China.

India is fast emerging as one of the key outsourcing hubs for contract research and global formulations manufacturing activities by improving its manufacturing standards through global benchmarking and simultaneously honing its competitive edge.

CRAMS market – Global and Local:

In 2006 the global market for CRAMS was reported to be of US$52 billion, which is expected to grow to US$76 billion by 2010.

However, the CRAMS market in India was just around US$1.00 billion in 2006, which is expected to grow to around US$3.50 billion by 2010, with an estimated CAGR of around 38% during the period.

Contract Research Market:

In 2006, including clinical trials with data management, contract research market in India was estimated to be around US$370 million with an annual growth of around 45%. In that year out of total contract research market, clinical trials activities contributed over 50%, closely followed by pre-clinical trials with a contribution of around 30%. Custom synthesis together with chemistry and biology related R&D activities contributed balance 18% of the contract research market.

Contract Manufacturing market:

In 2007, the global market for contract manufacturing was around U.S$26 billion. The market is estimated to be of U.S$40 billion in 2011 registering a CAGR of around 12%.

Contract manufacturing market in India was reported to be of U.S$ 660 million with an annual growth of 48% in 2007. However, both India and China are expected to grow faster during this period with a CAGR of around 20% because of availability of skilled human resource and world class manufacturing facilities.

The global market for contract manufacturing is highly fragmented. The market share of top 10 companies in this field is just around 30%. As Catalent Pharma Solutions, USA is the largest contract manufacturer of the world with a turnover of U.S$1.8 billion in 2007; Piramal Healthcare is the largest contract manufacturer in India, which has registered a growth of over 30% in 2007-08. In the field of biotechnology Lonza of Switzerland is the largest contract manufacturer with a growth of over 75% in 2007.

Key Services provided by the CRAMS in India:

Contract Manufacturing Organizations:

They provide mainly:

• Manufacturing capacities to the global pharmaceutical companies
• Formulations development
• Value-added services like process development and process optimization

Contract Research Organizations:

They provide services mainly related to:

• Drug discovery
• Pre-clinical and clinical trial management

The Growth Divers for CRAMS business:

• Collaboration with global pharmaceutical companies in various areas of manufacturing, like local country-specific packaging of finished formulations from bulk packs imported from the originator, to complete manufacturing of the finished formulations, including supply of indigenously made raw material as per originators specifications.

• Outsourcing of formulations of off-patent molecules by the global companies to effectively compete with generics, as has happened between Pfizer and Aurobindo Pharma of Hyderabad, India.

• Expertise in cost-effective custom synthesis for global innovator companies of various scales of operation.

• Clear and sharp focus on CRAMS business by constantly improving manufacturing and supply chain management efficiencies. As is currently being practised by Piramal Healthcare. They have already spun off their R&D activities into a separate legal entity to unleash its commercial potential.

• Anytime readiness for audit of the approved site/s by any global regulator.

CRAMS space in India offers an emerging growth opportunity of global scale, especially to mid-cap domestic pharmaceutical companies. Many of these companies are still engaged in their old business model of the old paradigm of pre-IPR regime – manufacturing and marketing of generic brands and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API). This business model can still work. But not without its huge inherent risk of continuous heavy pressure on the bottom lines due to intense cut-throat competition.

A strategic shift in the business model by those mid cap Indian pharmaceutical companies, who have wherewithal of creating world class CRAMS facilities for their global collaborators, would, to a great extent, be able to insulate their current high risk generic brands or API manufacturing and marketing business. At the same time, it will be quite possible for them to register a decent business growth by availing the emerging opportunities of the new paradigm of post IPR regime-CRAMS.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.