‘All we need is a pragmatic and positive attitude’
An industry veteran Subharthee Dey, former Vice-President, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association and WHOLETIME DIRECTOR, DEY’S MEDICAL STORES (MFG.) LTD. shared with Express Pharma about the present trends of the pharmaceutical industry in West Bengal and how he has been instrumental in bringing about a turnaround in the 50-years old pharma major.
Please share with us your observations on the pharmaceutical industry in West Bengal.
It is well known that Bengal’s trait with the pharmaceutical industry could be traced back to the early 20th century when the visionary scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy set up Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. Till the later part of the last century, Bengal held on to the leader’s position but due to factors beyond control, we lost our place in the national arena and our western counterparts seized the opportunity.
But things have changed in the recent past, efforts are on to revive the pharmaceutical sector in the state. There is scope for growth and development in the near future. Today, 150-odd companies have complied to the revised Schedule M norms and making all out efforts to make their presence felt in the global pharma map.
So, what are the problems ailing the pharma industry in the state?
We were perhaps more pre-occupied in preserving what little we have done and basking in the glory of our founding fathers rather than reworking our strategies to fight the onslaught posed by the post-WTO regime or by the MNCs. The scenario has changed rapidly in the last one decade and has become much more competitive than what it was in the early 50s. The players operating from the state have realised these and have chalked out strategies taking into consideration these aspects. We are hopeful that things will change in the coming decade.
What role should the state government play in revitalizing this sector in the state?
The state government has a very important role to play in this direction. The industry not only needs direction but also guidance from the state government.
Tell us about Dey’s Medical, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. How it
Dey’s Medical commenced commercial production of Pharmaceutical formulations in January 1958. We have just completed fifty years of glorious existence. In the last five decades the company has been serving the country and pursuing its goal to become a company with a high growth in its present segments of business.
To celebrate the Golden Jubilee year in the true sense of the term, the management of the Company took some far-reaching initiatives. This we thought will be a fitting tribute to our founding fathers in the 50th year.
Firstly, we completed the modernisation and refurbishment exercise of our existing pharma manufacturing facility in Kolkata. The facility manufacturing different dosage forms of drugs like capsules, tablets, oral liquid, drops, etc has been completely mechanised. Today our manufacturing facilities conform to the latest quality certification norms.
During the process of revamping it was felt that our manufacturing facility was over-staffed, so we effectively re-deployed our human resources through a process of dialogue. The workers’ union, representatives of the employees was very cooperative throughout this whole exercise.
We replicated the same model in revamping our sales and marketing team. It was felt that our marketing team was falling behind our competitors due to the age-factor, so we reorganized the set up. Through this we brought down the average age to 34, which was above 50 years. The Company also hired trained and skilled manpower to strengthen its sales & marketing team. Comprehensive training sessions were conducted for our marketing personnel.
Even the human resources at the retail medical shop of the Group were re-deployed to make it more competitive and customer-oriented.
These initiatives have started showing results. The Company’s net profit grew in the last two fiscal years and the Q1 results of 2008-09 have been very encouraging. We believe that we will be able to carry forward our growth momentum in the current financial year.
On the product development front, we have introduced new molecules and OTC products, which have been widely accepted by the consumers and the medical fraternity.
Elaborate on your R&D efforts?
In the last few years, we have strengthened our in-house R&D activities. The fully equipped R & D Department is engaged in continuous development work on new formulation developments and improving process technology. It has also started developmental work on Veterinary formulation and Herbal/ Ayurvedic formulations.
The Company has also tied up with Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), a CSIR unit for development & standardization of Ayurvedic formulations.
Publications of the R & D work done on specific formulations either solely by the company’s scientists or in collaboration with others are regularly published in Journals of repute.
What pill do you prescribe for the growth of this sector in the state?
In West Bengal majority of the pharma companies are dependent on the government institutional business. It should not be the case. The pitfalls of the governmental business thwart the development and growth of the unit.
Institutional business/or purchase for the healthcare system under the government schemes is only one specific area of business and no unit can sustain on it alone. Moreover, competition in this market segment is also increasing with newer entrants. Another area which is ignored by most of the pharma entrepreneurs is the speciality drugs sector which has a vast scope for growth. The pharma companies in the state should not be complacent and should continue in their endeavor to extend their horizons.
Besides, there is no dearth of funds or trained manpower. All we need is a pragmatic and positive attitude as industrialists, entrepreneurs and scientists so that we can achieve significantly in the coming decade.