Over the last decade, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has burgeoned to the extent of being conferred the stature of becoming the pharmacy of the world. We are witnessing a massive wave of change again with Covid-19. India has been praised for its ability to manufacture generics at scale. However, for Indian pharma to rise up in the global pharma order, focussing on certain aspects are vital. And this includes building a conducive environment for spurring domestic manufacturing and exports as well as encouraging innovation through an increased research and development (R&D) push. And while industry players have already been looking at ways and means of enhancing their value proposition, the pandemic accelerated it through the challenges that it brought along.
The resultant reimagination drive in pharma that was set into motion in 2020 will continue into 2021 and the years to come. This reimagination is not just as an imperative from a resilience and recovery point of view but it is also a means to thrive in the new world. However, this cannot be done in isolation. We are witnessing massive collaborative efforts—and this involves the government, industry, and regulatory authorities—take shape more prominently. In short, it has been an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Some of the core aspects of this reimagination that are redefining Indian pharma include:
Purpose driven: Organisations are driven by a core purpose and guiding values. Pharma companies will have to look at how they can enhance their role in the healthcare ecosystem. They would have to add value across the entire patient journey from awareness and diagnosis to treatment and adherence.
Recalibration of operating models: Businesses must be able to predict both internal and external risks and build adaptable operating models that can help them navigate through various crises. For our industry, the pandemic-driven issues came first in the form of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) shortages due to the lockdown in China. This was followed by the operational limitations owing to the India-wide lockdown. These challenges were unprecedented and sounded the alarm for industry players to make their businesses disruption-proof. It has brought about a renewed focus on boosting domestic manufacturing towards making operations and supply chains resilient. It has also led to companies building agile and flexible operating models that can adapt to sudden disruptions, which is necessary for our industry given our responsibility to provide uninterrupted supply of medicines.
Accelerating digital transformation: Digitisation has been a driver of change across all industries. However, companies must be mindful and adopt digital tools that add real value to what they do, and not just to catch on to a trend. In pharma, digitisation has not only played a crucial role in bringing about operational efficiencies and managing supplies but has also enabled more meaningful and convenient engagements with stakeholders. For instance, today pharma companies are able to reach a much wider base of doctors and patients beyond cities alone through the use of virtual engagement platforms. From a value-add point of view, we see digital as a tool that will empower each and every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem to actively participate along the care continuum.
Nurturing valuable collaborations: The world has realised the importance of collaborations now more than ever before. Pooling together of knowledge and skill sets helps fast-track progress and resolves issues in the most optimal manner. This pandemic is a great example of how the power of the collective has worked towards combating this crisis. Governments, public and private institutions, and individuals came together and pooled in their strengths to bolster the response to Covid-19. The pharma industry, in particular, came together in solidarity by forging global partnerships to make drugs accessible, some lending their innovations and others their manufacturing capacities and distribution networks.
Spotlighting the focus on people: Employees are the backbone of an organisation. With the evolving landscape, companies will need to evolve their people agenda to attune it to the new world. Safeguarding people’s well-being needs to be prioritised. Talent should be equipped with requisite skills to effectively function in the new normal. And strategic hires in areas that are gaining prominence may also be considered.
Reimagination cannot be a shift in business strategy alone but a mindset at all levels. To keep up, companies have moved fast in this regard. We are learning every day, reimagining engagement, preserving our culture and connections.
I believe that companies that look at reimagination through a new lens will build long-term strategic advantage and thrive in the post-Covid-19 world.
Views are personal. The author is executive vice chairperson, Cipla Ltd. She was also ranked 6 on Fortune India's Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Business list for the year 2020.
(The column originally appeared in Fortune India's April 2021 issue).