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Should Pharma Sector Need To Innovate More For Better Growth Prospects? India's pharmaceuticals export in FY20 stood at $16.3 billion. By 2025, the sector is projected to grow to $100 billion, as per India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), Nov 2020 report.

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India holds a significant position in the global pharmaceuticals sector. Being a leading supplier of generic drugs in the world, the country's pharmaceutical sector provides more than 50% of global demand for several vaccines, 40% of general demand in the US, and 25% of all medicine in the UK.

The country's pharmaceuticals export in FY20 stood at $16.3 billion. By 2025, the sector is projected to grow to $100 billion, as per India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), Nov 2020 report.

However, the year 2020 was taken aback by the unprecedented situation thrust down by the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in lockdowns. Amid lockdowns, the online pharmacies and their services surfaced among one of the major beneficiaries of the pandemic-lead lockdown in India. People preferred to purchase medicines online to avoid the risk of contagion. Established pharmacy chains like Apollo Pharmacy had ventured into e-pharmacy earlier on, while there are other pre-existing companies like SastaSundar, Netmeds, Medlife, and new startups like 1mg and PharmEasy are operating well in this sector.

Pandemic And Online Startups In This Segment

The domestic online e-pharmacy market is still in its early stages and promises significant growth potential. "Today, India is adapting to e-commerce rapidly with mobile-first consumer behaviour and improving digital payments infrastructure and online pharmacies, which have started to gain momentum and have tremendous growth potential," Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader, e-commerce and consumer internet, EY India said in a media report.

He added, "The e-pharmacy market is expected to grow at a significant pace in the next four years on the back of renewed focus of the government and households on healthcare spending and faster adoption of the Internet among users."

As some of India's largest conglomerates and multinational e-commerce firms have explored their way in this sector, where many mergers are taking place among existing players as well. "This space and category is as large and important as any other category to build a large consumer business. This is one of the reasons for large players to be on the lookout and figure out synergies with the existing players," PharmEasy co-founder Dharmil Sheth said.

In fact, in August 2020, Reliance Industries bought a majority stake in Netmeds while Amazon launched its e-pharmacy business in India. The Tata Group is closely working to acquire an almost 50% stake in 1mg, online pharmacy startup.

Growth Elements For Indian E-Pharma

The pandemic accelerated the e-pharma business in India; however, many other factors were already preparing the grounds for the growth of this sector. Increasing internet penetration in India is expected to boost the Indian e-commerce sector. Surveys reported an increase in e-commerce transactions by 71.3% between April and September 2020.

"The demand for delivery of medicines has clocked 10-15% spike in the city," B L Mittal, founder and executive chairman of SastaSundar, a Kolkata-based e-pharmacy company said. Pandemic accelerated the change in consumer preferences who were already inclined towards e-commerce services.

"Covid-19 has led to a permanent shift in consumer behaviour as there has been an increased acceptance for health and immunity products. Preventive care is now the hallmark of consumer behaviour. We are constantly working on innovative products aimed at health and wellness," Mittal added.

Similarly, Prashant Tandon, founder and CEO of 1MG, a digital consumer healthcare platform, said, "The sector has seen several shifts that had moved at a very slow pace for decades. Within three months, we saw things that had taken years to move."

Moreover, the government schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) are encouraging growth in the sector by expanding the scope for the pharma market. Also, a major development took place with the government's announcement of the National Digital Health Mission in 2020.

Being Prepared For The Future

The shortage of PPE kits was a phenomenon in the H191 pandemic in 2009. But the same was felt even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It did exist in the last year as well in all countries across the world and that is when they all realized the dependence on China for face masks, PPE kits, etc.

Many countries including India began emphasizing self-reliance and millions of PPE kits were produced within the country.

Home Grown Testing Kits Made In India

Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) approved the procurement of some testing kits. Mylab Discovery, HUWEL Lifesciences, Krishgen Biosystems and BlackBio Biotech (KILPEST) were some of the Indian biotech companies which indigenously produced testing kits. And they were put for use for testing in all testing centres in India.

While some states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh still procured kits from a South Korean manufacturer, the rest depended upon indigenously manufactured kits.

There are over 250 large pharmaceutical companies in the Indian pharma sector. These companies are considered market leaders and they hold 70% of the entire market share.

Preparing For The Uncertainties In The Future

Experts have indicated in the recent past that something worse than the H191 virus could hit the world unanimously. Yes, they were right, and it did happen in 2020. But the same set of experts are also suggesting that this is just the beginning, the worst is yet to come. This means a virus with far more complexities killing huge populations worldwide could occur sooner or later. Henceforth, being prepared for the same is highly essential. As vaccination could begin shortly in the coming days, what happens after the pandemic as well is to be observed.

Key Factors to Leverage the Future of the Industry

Prevention & Early Detection: The vaccine offers immunity to fight a virus affecting your wellbeing. But as we all are aware now, developing a vaccine occurs only after a virus outbreak. If early detection were made possible, a pandemic outbreak and lockdown restrictions could have been thwarted.

Customization: With the advent of data, personalization is the key to growth. Pharma companies worldwide are now leveraging the power of data and insights to understand how a virus affects a specific set of individuals at a different level.

Curative Therapies: Similarly, as with prevention, medicines that fix sickness could lessen or kill the interest of some physician endorsed prescriptions. Creating, showcasing, and evaluating these therapeutic medicines could require the biopharma area to embrace new capacities.

Digital Therapeutics: Progressively viable and versatile nonpharmaceutical (advanced) mediations—remembering those engaged for conduct alteration—may likewise lessen or dispense with interest for drugs. Some advanced therapeutics are assisting patients with adopting a more holistic strategy for dealing with their sickness, incorporating consolidating drug therapies with nondrug therapies.

Precision Intervention: Increasingly modern clinical innovation, for example, exact clinical mediation empowered by mechanical technology, nanotechnology, or tissue designing—could diminish the requirement for drug intercession.

In the coming years, the dynamics of the market is expected to change dramatically. Biopharma companies will keep on growing better approaches to treat and fix a wide scope of sicknesses. Be that as it may, significant wellbeing bits of knowledge, driven by fundamentally interoperable information and Artificial Intelligence (AI), can assist clinicians and shoppers recognize viruses spread a whole lot sooner than we do today.

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