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Key Focus for Top Pharmaceutical Professionals - 'Delivery'
Supriya Dikshit, Executive Vice President, DHR International A lot has been talked about innovative technologies, pricing strategies, regulatory affairs, clinical research, etc about the pharmaceutical industry. But equally important is the manpower who alone is responsible for all these operations. This article deals with the kind of talent available and required in India for successful performance of pharmaceutical industry.

The Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical Industry scenario is very buoyant in India. Domestic generic companies are doing well and so are the MNCs. India has a trend of Infectious diseases and to compliment that there is a growth in lifestyle diseases. Also, the growth in population, life expectancy, etc are making India a very important pharmaceutical market. Due to drug price control in India, the top 10 domestic generic companies are selling their products in the international markets and doing extremely well.

This money in-turn is being invested back into more research, which is good for the country. The MNCs focusing in India are looking at a differential pricing for India for their patented drugs supported by a robust marketing strategy. Some of these lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular, etc are not curable but one needs to manage them. The devices & diagnostics space in India is also growing by the sheer growth in number of hospitals and having better healthcare policies.

Current Pool
The current talent in leadership is very strong in India. Some of the talent in the domestic companies is a homegrown talent, and seen the complete lifecycle change in the Indian Pharmaceutical scenario in India. The industry what it looks like today was definitely not the same a decade back and the huge growth has thrown up equally great opportunities as well as challenges for the professionals in this space. The talent, who has survived this wave, is the one who believed in 'who moved my cheese' and reinvented themselves continuously to stay relevant and competitive. It has also seen some expatriate Indians who have returned to take leadership roles in India.

Talent Requirement
Today, the leadership talent is definitely in short supply. On the commercial side, the companies are looking at a general management background with great people skills. The market growth and dynamism also warrants for some amount of innovation, which is high on the list. To deliver in the Indian market, there has to be some amount of market understanding as this is a fast changing dynamic market with complexities.

On the R&D side, India has seen some change in the last decade. The companies, which were in reengineering of drugs and have had strong R&D capabilities, have moved to Innovation. The talent, which was abundant in Process Chemistry, started moving to Analytical. Deriving discovery molecules through Phytochemistry is also a trend. The companies, which did not have capabilities, have moved to manufacturing intermediates and have grown to become exclusive Export-oriented Units (EOUs) for big pharmas globally. These changing trends make the companies seek talent who has an experience in this field respectively.

Technical Expertise and Qualities
Pharmaceutical industry is very different compared to the other industries. The pace at which this industry works, the retail channel, the distribution model is comparable to the FMCG industry, but the selling skills are very technical. The Drug price control makes this industry very competitive and the margins at times for generic companies are very low.

On the commercial side, managing the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and working out innovative ways of selling the drugs/ devices is a unique competency, which one cannot find in any other industry. Of course one could draw synergies from talent in the Pharma, Devices and diagnostics space. In this space, the regulatory know how plays an important aspect, as this industry is highly regulated.

The technical competencies in R&D, Regulatory, Quality, Medical & Clinical affairs are typical requirements where you definitely need the domain expertise.

Recruitment Challenges
Leadership talent across sectors is in short supply and so is talent with global experience. As more and more Indian companies grow rapidly both organically and inorganically, the demand for leadership talent is far outstripping supply from within the organisation. Also, as organisations expand their footprint in different parts of the globe, they require talent with understanding of the local markets. The same is the case for MNCs expanding into India where the talent focus for MNCs is skills with matrix reporting, high influencing skills and talent who has worked in cross geographic environment.

India is also fast emerging as the R&D centre with companies increasingly looking at it for their innovation and product development. Especially for a specialist role, one needs to go out and seek talent with global experience, which may not be always available. Additionally, this demand supply gap seems to be evident across verticals within the pharmaceutical space leading to more and more cross- sector migration. The companies are looking at hiring talent from a diversity perspective into generic roles like Human Resource (HR), Finance, Legal, etc across industries. As far as possible, it would be important to try to keep the R&D, QA, Medical Affairs, Clinical and Regulatory talent from the industry itself.

Outflow of Talent
In fact, it is important to have Indian talent go overseas and work in a different culture. India is very dynamic at this stage and the homegrown talent would not be in a position to have that kind of versatility which someone overseas can have. Working across geographies, understanding cultural sensitivities, complexities, etc horns ones general management skills and leadership skills to great extent. Hence, there should be a healthy out flow of talent overseas. The MNCs in India are using this as a retention tool for high potential talent to send them on a secondment to other countries.

This is not restricted to only a function but is across Sales & Marketing, HR, Finance, Legal etc. The Indian companies with international operations are also exporting their high potential talent overseas and then plan to repatriate them back after a few years.

Role of Academia
Academics are extremely important, especially when the industry is very technical. There is a need to continuously revisit the curriculum and revise the same to keep it abreast of the technological and scientific changes in the industry. This will help both the industry and the new recruits as their learning curve will be shorter and they will be able to come up to speed and start contributing faster.

A lot of companies are already taking the initiative and tying up with schools to develop industry specific and relevant curriculum. There is scope to do more.

Future Growth Prospects
Well, for the next decade or so, at least till 2025, a very high growth economic scenario is predicted for India. And the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences industry is going to ride the wave. The industry might be shifted from the doctor focus to the patient (consumer) and more and more self delivery medications are foreseen in the industry. The key focus for the top professionals in this industry is 'Delivery'!!!!!