In the Pharmaceutical Space: The Dragon breathes fire

Currently both China and India, the two most populous nations of the world are also the front runners of the global economy in terms of the pace of GDP growth. The economies of the two countries are greatly influenced by their respective sociopolitical environment. However, the economy of China is more robust ranking second in the world, against eleven of India. The dragon is indeed breathing fire.

A comparison of the economy of the two countries, as reported by ‘’ updated in July 2011, is as follows:

Facts India China
GDP US$1.31 trillion US$ 4.90 trillion
GDP growth 8.90% 9.60%
Per capital GDP US$1124 US$7,518
Inflation 7.48 % 5.1%
Labor Force 467 million 813.5 million
Unemployment 9.4 % 4.20 %
Fiscal Deficit 5.5% 21.5%
Foreign Direct Investment US$12.40 billion US$9.7 billion
Gold Reserves 15% 11%
Foreign Exchange Reserves US$2.41 billion US$2.65 trillion
World Prosperity Index 88th Position 58th Position
Mobile Users 842 million 687.71 million
Internet Users 123.16 million 81 million.

Global pharmaceutical ranking:

As reported by IMS, in global ranking, China was ninth largest pharmaceutical market against thirteenth of India in 2004, became  fifth largest in 2009 against thirteenth of India and is expected to be the third largest by 2014 against tenth of India, growing at a much faster pace.

2004 Rank

2009 Rank

2014 Rank

1 United States 1 United States 1 United States
2 Japan 2 Japan 2 Japan
3 France 3 Germany 3 China
4 Germany 4 France 4 Germany
5 Italy 5 China 5 France
6 United Kingdom 6 Italy 6 Brazil
7 Canada 7 Canada 7 Italy
8 Spain 8 Spain 8 Canada
9 China 9 United Kingdom 9 Spain
10 Brazil 10 Brazil 10 India
11 Mexico 11 Russia 11 Russia
12 Australia 12 Mexico 12 United Kingdom
13 South Korea 13 India 13 Venezuela
14 India 14 Australia 14 Turkey
15 Netherlands 15 Turkey 15 South Korea

Source: IMS Health MIDAS, Market Prognosis September 2010; Market size ranking in constant US$

Healthcare coverage:

In China, out of a population of 1.3 billion, 250 million are covered by health insurance, another 250 million are partially covered by insurance and balance 800 million are not covered by any insurance.

Against these statistics of China, in India total number of population who have some sort of healthcare financing coverage will be around 200 million and penetration of health insurance will be just around 3.1% of the population. India is fast losing grounds to China in this respect mainly due to better response to healthcare infrastructure and regulatory challenges by China.

Commitment to globalization:

A very high level of commitment of the Chinese Government to make China a regional global hub for pharmaceutical R&D and contract research and manufacturing (CRAM) activities within next seven to ten years is now paying rich dividends.

Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) of the Government of India (GoI) also expressed its intention to make India a R&D hub in not too distant future. Unfortunately, this cannot be achieved with just good intent of investments of couple of million US$ through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives, as announced by the DoP earlier.

A strong commitment of the GoI to hasten regulatory reform processes with visible action will be the deciding success factor. IPR regime in the pharmaceutical industry has been put in place, but an appropriate to foster innovation in the country is yet to be created.

Healthcare Infrastructure:

Korn/Ferry International has reported that China’s infrastructure in the pharmaceutical space is better than India, primarily due to firm commitment of the Chinese government to accelerate reform measures to fetch maximum benefits of globalization process in the country.

It has been reported that China has not only better healthcare infrastructure as compared to India, but they are also more open  to of foreign trade and investments to improve these further in their country.

R&D Comparison:

Talent Pool and no. of Patents granted:

According to WIPO, China has better R&D talent pool and grants more patent per year than India as follows:



R&D Talent Pool



Patents Granted (2008-09)*



*Patent Granrted in India during 2009-10:6168

Source: FE Bureau / WIPO / IPO

Scientific Publications:

India also lags behind China in the number of scientific publications as follows:

Pre 2000 (A)

Post 2000 (B)


India 3,04,737 4,98,394 1.64
China 2,30,154 19,94,706 8.67

*Multiple of Post-2000 over Pre 2000

Between pre-2000 and post-2000 era, China’s count of scientific publications rose more than eight times compared to India’s 1.6 times. (Source: Search on Scopus Sciverse (Database from Elsevier)

Based on ‘WIPO PCT’ applications, it has been reported that 5.5% of all global pharmaceutical patent applications named one inventor or more located in India as against 8.4% located in China.

Biology Research:

China is taking faster strides in the Biology Research area as follows:



  1. Only about five companies with proven skills in basic molecular biology and protein expression

2. Innovative research focused on bioinformatics and bio-chips

3. Limited biology talent pool owing to historic focus on generics1. Established skills in basic molecular biology and protein expression

2. Innovative research in stem cells, bio-chips, and gene sequencing

3. Expanding biology talent pool

(Source: BCG report, Looking Eastward)

Clinical trials:

In the area of clinical trial, though by amending  the Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act in line with ICH GCP, India has already put in place the Good Clinical Practices (GCP), China has, on the other hand, brought its GCP, GLP, and GMP standards in line with ICH guidelines.

May be because of all these reasons ‘A.T. Kearney’ in its ‘Country Attractiveness Index’ (CAI) for clinical trials has given 6.10 to China against 5.58 to India.

BCG compared India with China in the Clinical Trial space as follows:



1. Experienced CROs with full service range and output of similar quality to that of developed markets.

3. Limited FDA approved hospitals

4. Shorter trial approval times than in China

5.Uneven infrastructure and shortage of clinical research assistants

  1. Experienced CROs and growing vendor pool providing full spectrum of services
  2. High quality FDA-approved hospitals
  3. Low-cost and efficient enrollment compared to the US and Europe
  4. Trial approvals lengthy and complex

(Source: BCG report, Looking Eastward)

Despite all these, both India and China pose challenges to both global and the local pharmaceutical players in dealing with subjects of wide cultural diversity within the country besides illiteracy and poverty. Many cases of conflict between ethics and natural justice have been reported from both countries during recruiting process of the subjects for clinical trial.

Pharmaceutical outsourcing:

In terms of attractiveness for outsourcing among the emerging pharmaceutical markets of the world, India and China are outpacing others with their cutting edge offering of high quality services at lower cost together with large pool of skilled manpower.

India has the potential to be a contender of supremacy for Pharmaceutical outsourcing of all types with all the required success ingredients. However, putting these ingredients together for effective use to make it happen has indeed become a real challenge.

On the other hand China is racing ahead to effectively avail the global opportunities and in that process fast distancing itself from India, widening the competitive performance gap between the two countries. Brain drain:

Korn/Ferry International has reported that more and more Indian talent is being pulled to China to fill key roles, especially in the API sector, signaling ‘brain drain’ from India to China.

Where India is a high flier:

Chemistry Research:

India is globally considered as a more mature place for chemistry related drug-discovery activities than China. Probably, because of this reason, companies like, Aurigene, Advinus, Divis Lab and Jubilant Organosys could enter into long-term collaborative arrangements with Multinational Companies (MNC) to discover and develop New Chemical Entities (NCEs).

BCG report, ‘Looking Eastward’ compared India with China in the Chemistry Research area as follows:



  1. Large pool of vendors with full services and track record of strong capabilities

2. Generally better IP protection than in China

3. Trend toward project based alliances and emerging build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts

4. Vast pool of skilled and low cost chemists

  1. Capabilities residing mostly with government institutes; only a few small private companies with a track record
  2. Established basic chemistry skills moving to more complex offerings, but no end to end capabilities
  3. Large and growing pool of raw talent, but limited English language skills still an issue

(Source: BCG report, Looking Eastward)

Earlier reform in China: It is important to mention that healthcare reform process started much earlier in China. The Product Patent regime in India was reintroduced in January 1, 2005. Well before that time China started creating and encouraging a large number of independently funded pharmaceutical R&D institutions to create an environment of innovation within the country. Many of these institutions are now viable profit centers, creating wealth for the country.

At the same time, focusing on economies of scale, Chinese pharmaceutical players have now become globally competitive, may be a shade better than India. Clear dominance of China in the business of ‘Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API)’ among many others, will vindicate this point.

On other hand in the formulations business, India is miles ahead of China, catering to over 20 percent of global requirements for the generic pharmaceuticals. Even in ANDA and DMF filings, India is currently ahead of China. 


While comparing India with China one should also take into consideration that not only the sociopolitical structure of India and China are quite different, but the difference exists also in their commerce and industry related political decision making process.

Moreover, the average age of Chinese population is much more than Indians and continues to increase rapidly. The factor of aging population may have an adverse impact on the overall productivity of their people in the coming years constraining the economic growth of China. In contrast, the percentage of young working people in India is expected to keep increasing through 2030, offering a very critical  demographic advantage to the country in the years ahead.

Though China will continue to have aging population and India the younger ones, both countries will have to deploy greater resources to cater to the growing healthcare needs for altogether different reasons. The net gainer will indeed be the pharmaceutical industry in both the countries.

That said, just a wishful thinking of the Government of India, sans expeditious and prudent regulatory and other related policy reforms, will helplessly make India watching the gap between the pharmaceutical industry of the two countries fast widening, making the dragon keep breathing fire, unabated.

By: Tapan J 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.

Does Global financial meltdown vindicate that “Globalization is not Americanization”?

The economic might of the most powerful nation of the world, the United States of America, was humbled during the recent global financial crisis. Long term sustainability of the financial models and the policies, which the country has been practising for quite some time, raised more questions than answers. It raised serious doubt on the American model of the free market economy, which in not too distant past, the entire world, by and large, used to consider as the right foot steps to follow for economic progress of any nation.

‘State of the Union address 2010’ of President Obama:

Today while managing the newer type of economic crisis with the ‘pump priming’ strategy, bolstered with direct state interventions of various kind, the nightmare that has started haunting the US President is the possible emergence of China and India as the powerful economic super powers of the world, leaving the mighty US far behind. In fact, in his ‘State of the Union address 2010’, the US president shared this fear with his nation.

A new equation in the process of globalization:

Has this crisis ushered in the dawn of a new era with a new equation in globalization process? Has it not proved that regulated and calibrated reform measures by the financial institutions, like what is happening in India, are much less fragile than US model of open market free for all capitalism?

The European Union (EU) in general which Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK once clarified during the Iraq war, is not the ‘poodle’ of the US, has proved itself to be exactly so, even during this economic crisis. The financial catastrophe of the US creation has vindicated to the global community beyond doubt that it is not the western world in general and the US in particular which will hold the key of progress of the global economy in the years to come by.

The balance of the global economy is now tilting to the East:

The balance of the global economic power is now tilting from the West to the East… and that too, not very slowly. As someone said very aptly, “Globalization is not Americanization”. The global community seems to have realized this truth, by now.

The new emerging economic world order:

Emerging economies of the world came as a savior to address this global crisis. G20 and not the G8 countries, became more relevant in the new world order.

The Outlook of 2010 is no brighter and does not stimulate the business confidence with increasing debt and unemployment levels in both the US and the EU.

The new emerging economic world order will witness more financial regulations and stricter state interventions in future. Even in a country like the USA, which used to believe in free market economy, one now witnesses significant state interventions and protectionists’ mindset while dealing with existing business process outsourcing initiatives, especially to countries like India.

India is less impacted:

Compared to the developed world in the West, India has been relatively less impacted by the financial meltdown initiated in 2008, mainly because of the following reasons:

1. Domestic demand is the key factor for the growth story of India

2. Reliance on foreign currency savings is low

3. Robust regulatory measures on investments abroad by the Indian nationals

4. Regulatory control on speculative financial transactions

5. Robust financial policy measures to ensure financial stability of the nation

In this context, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission said:

“The global financial turmoil will not have any significant impact on the country’s financial system as India is not exposed to the new and innovative financial instruments that triggered the meltdown. We have not been as exposed to these new and innovative instruments, which have been the source of financial distress internationally… So the direct impact on the Indian financial system is not going to be significant at all.

Is American model of ‘free market economy’ a sustainable economic pathway?

This particular global financial crisis has raised the important question whether the American model of ‘free market economy’, which considers the market as the sole determinant of financial progress, is a sustainable economic pathway or not.

The elite G8 group of countries was not very concerned about the needs of the rest of the world:

The G8 group of countries comprising of seven of the world’s leading elite group of industrialized nations, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US, Canada and Russia, many believe, just represent the interest of the industrialized nations and not quite concerned with the needs of the rest of the world. Fast growing developing economies like India and China and Latin American and African countries do not have any representation in this elite world. It is not just a sheer coincidence that most of the G8 countries, if not all, have been badly impacted by the global economic downturn.

The G20 group of countries came as a savior:

In April 2009 the leaders of the G20 group of countries, which include India, in their London meet came to the rescue and pledged to bring the world economy out of recession. The pledges were as follows:

1. Help countries fight the economic crisis with U.S $1.1 trillion deal

2. Provide stimulus measures of a total of U.S $5 trillion to boost their own economies

3. Reach an agreement on shifting IMF voting power to under-represented countries.

4. Regulate hedge funds

5. Curb Tax havens

6. Bring restrictions on banking bonuses

Most of these pledges, except perhaps point 4, have since then either fully or partly been met. The global financial crisis has now been partly contained. However, the G8 group of countries is still struggling to fully grapple with this economic downturn.


Despite all these, the overall economic growth of India is still quite encouraging with commensurate significant growth across almost all industries. At the very beginning of 2010, the government has started actively considering to prune its fiscal stimulus package extended to the industry, in a calibrated way.

India is marching ahead towards globalization process, albeit differently, realizing perhaps that “Globalization is not Americanization”.

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.