The Next Big Destination

The Next Big Destination

Come next month and the much-awaited International Biotech Park (IBP) in Pune—the Silicon Valley of western India—will be ready for operations. Prasanta Biswal, Chief Executive Officer, IBP reveals to Divya Nair, what makes this business park unique.

It was in 2003 that the Government of Maharashtra made public its dreams of making Maharashtra the biotech capital of the country. This was followed by an official inauguration to mark the announcement of the International Biotech Park at Hinjewadi. The announcement evoked an instant and upbeat response from the industry, only to be followed by a long trail of silence.

The time is however ripe to put an end to all speculations about the project. “The International Biotech Park (IBP) is ready to become operational by the end of next month,” announces Prasanta Biswal, Chief Executive Officer, IBP. He also adds that it was only in the last year that The Chatterjee Group Urban Infrastructure Holdings (TCGUIH) clinched the partnership with Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), making it a public-private venture.

MIDC holds 12 percent of the equity capital, of a total investment of Rs 215 crore in the project, with TCGUIH the remaining 88 percent. The 110-acre park at Hinjewadi, five minutes from the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and 20 minutes from the Pune University is being developed, promoted and marketed by TCGUIH. “Although the Maharashtra State Government is a partner in the project, an independent Board of Directors for IBP has been nominated, which will have autonomy on the management of the park,” says Biswal.

He elaborates, “The park is our contribution to capacity building and promoting innovation and entrepr-eneurship in the biotech sector. It will fulfil the latent demand for specialised research infrastructure and develop niche expertise in providing value-addition in the life sciences segment. To facilitate this, IBP will create an entire ecosystem of partnerships, mentors, research facilities, technology transfers and incubators.”

The Unique Selling Points

“The positioning of the park within the Mumbai-Pune corridor will add strategic advantage to the project,” claims Biswal. Mumbai is the financial nerve of the country, and at the other end is Pune—the knowledge centre with numerous institutions related to biotechnology.

The park is our contribution to capacity building and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotech sector. It will fulfil the latent demand for specialised research infrastructure and develop niche expertise in providing value-addition in the life sciences segment.

Prasanta Biswal,
Chief Executive Officer, International Biotech Park

The compelling advantages offered by the State of Maharashtra include the rich bio-diversity and natural resources, vibrant life sciences industry base, large pool of skilled manpower, research base of established academic and research institutes, availability of adequate infrastructure and most importantly the industry friendly state biotechnology policies. “Maharashtra is also the leading market in the pharma industry accounting for 40 percent of pharma output in the country.”

The biotech market in India is also on the boom. “The National Biotechnology Development Strategy Draft states that it has been growing at around 40 percent in the past two years, and is expected to reach five billion mark by 2010. The time is therefore right to explore all forms of opportunities in the biotechnology segment—IBP being one of them.”

“The other USP of the project is its world-class infrastructure,” asserts Biswal. The IBP will provide services such as a common effluent treatment plant, water treatment plant and a core-shared facility. The last will be common to companies within the park and will constitute bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics labs, discovery labs—chemistry and bio labs, pre-clinical, clinical and analytical labs—and a research centre.

The catalyst

“A core-shared experience will prove beneficial especially for start-up companies” opines Biswal. “Any company that is part of IBP and does not have much capital will not have to spend on infrastructure or equipment, but can instead avail of this facility, which will be available at reasonable costs ” he explains. The other services that will form a part of IBP are its business facilitation centres, additional service centres like the health club, cafeteria, entertainment complex and so on, service apartments and the built-to-suit units (a made-to-order unit for the tenant). “ The business facilitation centre will help companies to get necessary approvals and clearances to aid marketing and financial tie-ups. Approximately 15 percent of the land, as laid out in the master plan by the Maharashtra government will also be allotted to residential complexes,” he explains.

There is also provision for a comprehensive range of knowledge-enhancement services. Success for any knowledge-based industry depends on skilled manpower. The IBP will ensure availability of the same through a technical training and biotech research institute that will offer in-depth practical exposure in pharmaceutical sciences. “A conducive environment will also be created for companies within the IBP to collaborate with scientists or students from academic institutes to work on common projects. The idea is to create an enabling business environment for people to travel the difficult path from the mind to the market.”

The absolute configuration of the park primarily comprises of the ‘Genesis Square’ (a multi-tenant campus for bioscience labs), ‘Chrysalis Enclave’ (a built-to-suit facility for research labs with customised laboratory and office modules) and the ‘Bio Resource Centre’ (for shared facilities, incubation labs and business assistance services). “Genesis Square is ready for occupation. 14-15 clients have bought space in the park within one year of our operation and we are negotiating with others,” reveals Biswal.

Apart from the infrastructure, IBP boasts of roads connecting each plot and intersection, quality power through a 220 KV dedicated substation, storm water drainage and data and voice lines through optical fibre networks. The area has been declared a no-pollution, no power cut zone, and the companies operating within the park will be able to enjoy financial incentives on power tariffs, exemption on registration, electricity and stamp duty in addition to twice the admissible FSI, knowledge processing zone status and other incentives.

A Park with a difference

It is interesting to note that the Maharashtra government has listed evaluation parameters for companies to be included as part of the IBP.

“This is because different states may have different parameters and the primary emphasis of the IBP at Pune will be on biopharma and medical biotechnology,” explains Biswal. “Real estate developers with experience of handling similar projects in biotechnology have therefore been given preference.”

The companies are also evaluated for factors such as financial strength, project implementation and marketing strengths apart from brand equity, biotech sector knowledge, architectural capability, reputation and track record. “There will also be appraisal of management structure of the bidders to ensure a team of competent professionals for the development of the park,” adds Biswal.

The companies that have fulfilled the requirements and occupied space at IBP are Emcure, (already existing and operational), Shreya Life Sciences and Chembiotech. Adventium will be part of the Chrysalis Enclave. “The TCG group will also promote a BioServices company to provide support services,” states Biswal.

Final hurdle

“We have received an encouraging response to the project,” says Biswal. “The only concern that the industry has expressed is regarding the funding,” he reveals. The biotech segment, unlike the other sectors, has a long gestation period, and therefore needs more venture capital funds. “We are therefore networking with the Maharashtra Government to try and make easy funding structures available to the companies.

Although the Maharashtra Government has announced a biotechnology fund and the central government has proposed supporting incubation facilities in India with a 30 percent grant, we still have a long way to go for biotechnology in India to soar,” he concludes.