Business Today

On the world stage

Indian pharma is on a new high, but it must keep ahead of the G-7 and emerging economies.

Kamal K. Sharma        Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

President Barack Obama's recent trip to India was his longest to any foreign country since the beginning of his term - and why not? The "New India" is a riveting and inspiring story, with the pharmaceutical industry providing a story within a story. Pharma is one sector that not only withstood the recent recession, but also clocked handsome growth and expanded abroad as the world steered itself out of the crisis. In the last five years, India's pharma industry has emerged as one of the world's best manufacturers of generic formulations.

Various industry reports rank India's pharmaceutical market as the tenth-largest by value. What is more pertinent and often goes unnoticed is that the Indian pharma industry has emerged as the thirdlargest manufacturer by volume. The industry is expected to grow at close to 16 per cent on an average, up to 2015.

Indian drug companies are exploring newer markets, and consolidating themselves in the advanced ones such as the United States and Japan. They are also becoming hotbeds of drug research and drug delivery systems. Lupin has emerged as the fifthlargest generic player in the US and is among the top 10 generic players in Japan - the only Asian generic player to achieve those credentials.

Lupin was founded in 1968, born from one man's vision and foresight. The healthcare system was in its infancy and quality was rare to find. Appalling standards of sanitation and pandemic malnutrition set the stage for a high mortality rate, especially among women and children. Diseases and epidemics were rampant.

Indian pharmaceutical companies started by focusing on these epidemics and also on anti-infectives. Over the next two decades, Lupin emerged as one of the world's largest suppliers of anti-tuberculosis and antiinfective drugs, and a leader in APIs or active pharmaceutical ingredients.

On the policy front also, things were radically different. Pricing of drugs was largely state-controlled. With no meaningful budget allocations for health care, the sector had no incentive to grow. By the 1990s, India had 70,000 pharmaceutical firms, mostly small and regional ones. In this fragmented market, the organised sector had just about 300 companies, including multinationals. Lupin made its presence felt even during these tough times by participating in the priority programmes of the government such as tuberculosis eradication, and the mother and child health-care programmes.

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