The Indian Pharma industry presently finds itself unique in creating jobs, developing vaccines, and firmly reiterating its status as the ‘pharmacy of the world’. With over 3,000 pharma companies and over 10,000 manufacturing facilities, India produces over 60% of vaccines and 20% of generic drugs globally.
A combination of cost-effective manufacturing, highly skilled labour and favourable policies have helped India become the favoured destination for pharmaceuticals manufacturing. India also holds the distinction of being the only country to have the highest number of US-FDA compliant plants outside the U.S.
These factors give India an edge when it comes to addressing the pharma needs during the pandemic. However, while we have the manufacturing capabilities, there are a few other factors we need to address to be indeed able to reach the industry’s potential.
Covid-19 has caused several disruptions in the pharma sector and has uncovered critical issues that are to be addressed immediately. The industry, which can trace its origins back to 120 years in India, has failed to adopt some of the in-vogue processes in recent times.
Disruptions caused by Covid-19
While Pharma companies have been working round-the-clock to meet the demands of various medications, the pandemic has exposed and imposed an imperative need to improve and optimise several processes. Many companies had to digitalise several processes rapidly, given the urgent requirement to scale up manufacturing capabilities, optimise the supply chain and ensure the rejection rate remains low.
Digitalisation also raised other challenges regarding the required skillsets to manage operations effectively and secure connectivity and networks. The industry has been the victim of several cyberattacks. A recent report by IBM stated that Pharma and Biotech companies faced more breaches than any other industry. According to media reports, in 2020, as the race to make the first vaccine for Covid-19 heated up, several companies were attacked.
These trends highlighted a pressing need for the sector to revamp its traditional practices and engage a workforce capable of addressing these challenges. However, the current volatility in the market has made companies cautious in investing in new talent or upskilling.
Trends in 2021
The current focus is on ensuring that the sector has the required, high-quality, skilled workforce to optimise manufacturing. And considering the current pace of development and R&D, the industry needs talent across pharmaceuticals and IT and cybersecurity.
A report by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) indicates that the pharma sector requires a higher level of skillets since it involves R&D, processes in formulation and development, knowledge of regulatory requirements and new processes.
The sector has been nearly a 30% rise in year-on-year hiring since January 2021. The challenge for most companies, however, is to find the right skill sets and fast. Other than the traditional skill sets, the pharma industry will also recruit from IT, AI, Cybersecurity and allied sectors.
With increased automation, current employees will also need to be upskilled and trained in the use of these new technologies.
Managed Services and Contract Staffing can help address this challenge. Engaging contract or temporary staffing will allow the industry to ramp up its workforce rapidly without needing to take up the additional task of adequately training the staff. It also allows companies the flexibility to temporarily increase their workforce and optimise business planning.
Contract staffing will also alleviate expenses and create scope for the industry to have the talent pool with needed skill sets.
Ahmedali N, Mentor, Cornucopia – V5 Global, A Unit of FirstMeridian Business Services.
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