West Bengal : Opportunities Galore

West Bengal : Opportunities Galore

Dr. Sajal Roy Choudhury

Pharmaceutical sector is a most diverse, knowledge-driven, technology intensive growth area, where fast track advancements can surely generate significant resources. Despite competitions and regulatory issues looming large, current scenario remains more or less intact.

The genesis of Indian pharmaceutical industry is always traced to West Bengal. Bengal has a rich heritage in pharmaceutical industry. The starting point was in 1901 when the foundation stone of the first modern pharma manufacturing plant – Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works Limited was laid in Calcutta through the pioneering efforts of the noted teacher and scientist Acharya P. C. Roy. Sir U. N. Bramhachary discovered Urea Stibamine for treatment of Kalazar, which is still being manufactured by a number of companies in this state, and is being exported to several countries. Dr. Hemen Ghosh contributed a lot for commercial production of Penicillin. Dr. Gyan Chandra Ghosh, a noted scientist initiated development of Durgapur Chemicals Limited, a carbonization based basic chemical plant at Durgapur for the first time in India. In the year of 1948 total national production of Drugs and Pharmaceuticals was Rs. 12 Crores, out of which Bengal’s contribution was to the tune of Rs. 10 Crores, i.e more than 80 % was contributed by West Bengal.

Kolkata was considered, at one point of time, for production of cost effective and quality drugs. Pharma companies of Kolkata shared more than 80 per cent of the national drug production in 1940, which has gradually been reduced to less than eight per cent in 2004.

The State Directorate of Drugs Control is always there round the clock to extend a helping hand to the pharmaceutical producers in meeting global standards in stages. The West Bengal government is planning to announce a comprehensive Drug Policy for the state. Recent years have seen increased academia-industry initiatives. Academic institutions like the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology of Jadavpur University and Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) have done commendable job in this direction.

Advantage of West Bengal Pharma Industry

Due to successful implementation of Land reforms, rural economy has developed resulting in substantial increment of purchasing power.

  • There exists a huge demand – supply gap.

  • The Pharmaceutical market is expanding to the rest 25% population, who are presently not using modern medicines.

During last few years due to the proactive approach of the Govt. and certain changes in the industrial sector in this state, some positive changes are being noted in the growth of pharmaceutical industry in West Bengal.

West Bengal does extend several bulk drugs and formulation products standing on available technology strength. However, product mix of any pharmaceutical unit should adequately be spread across therapeutic segments for growth and to provide a protection net that needs to concentrate currently on individual concerns in West Bengal.

The Indian pharmaceutical sector in general is highly fragmented, both in terms of the number of manufacturers and in number and variety of products. A vast majority of pharmaceutical firms of West Bengal are small in global terms having annual revenues of less than $5 million & are engaged in some type of contract manufacturing.

Current Industrial Scenario – West Bengal

During the last few years West Bengal Govt. has taken a no. of positive steps to boost the industry which are:

  • West Bengal Government has adopted a New Industrial Policy.

  • Already declared a Biotech Policy

  • West Bengal Govt. is going to announce a industry-friendly Drug Policy shortly

In view of a significant market access location, a strong knowledge based manpower support, very good transport, communication and manpower supply position added with proactive and favorable government support, West Bengal currently is a springboard for pharmaceutical industry developments. Hence, with its enormous advantages, including a large well-educated and skilled workforce, low operational costs, huge domestic market including easy access to the markets of South East Asia, Kolkata has the potential to become the region’s hub for pharmaceutical discovery, research, manufacturing and healthcare services & to make this happen, an imperative factor is the regulatory environment -West Bengal government’s strong commitments towards pro-industry policies.

West Bengal is also in access route to very densely populated regions of globe through China, South East Asia and Myanmar. Significant opportunity lies here to take a specialized market leadership.

Infrastructural Benefits

Infrastructure is an important factor for development of any industry including pharma industry. Recently, a number of projects have been initiated for this purpose and some of them are in the pipeline which are:

  • Recently announced modernization initiative of Kolkata Air Port – at par with international standards has already been started with a goal to complete by 2010.

  • Construction of a new Bridge on Hooghly River at Dakshineswar is under progress.

  • Several new townships at Rajarhat, Sonarpur, Howrah are under process.

  • Development of Roads, Highways and connectivity with Super Express Ways (Golden Quadrilateral).

  • A new terminal station is under construction at Chitpur to ease railway traffic at Howrah & Sealdah

  • A River Port at Kulpi (dedicated for container) with adjacent SEZ is expected to come up within a short time.

HR Facilities

Trained and skilled manpower plays an important role in development of any industry, and during the last few years, a no. of institutions have come up to cater to the demands of the industry. In short, they are mentioned below:

  • Six Degree and Six Diploma Pharmacy Institutions came up during the last seven years. (previously we had one degree & three diploma Institutes)

  • Huge pool of Scientists – 9 Universities & CSIR Labs. -Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Indian Association for cultivation of Science (IACS), Bose Institute, BARC etc.

  • Two separate Universities came up recently, which are, West Bengal University of Technology & West Bengal University of Health Sciences.

  • IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Kolkata helps in providing technical and management skill inputs to the pharmaceutical industry.

Development of Ancillary & Downstream Industries

Ancillary industries play an important role in the development of any pharmaceutical industry, which is growing in this state. Some of them are:

  • A Hard Gelatin Capsule shell factory started production at Dankuni.

  • A Gamma Irradiation Plant is already operating from Dankuni.

  • An Electron beam-X-ray Based Sterilizing Unit is operating for the last few years.

    Now the manufacturers of surgical goods like, transfusion set may get their product sterilized in this state instead of going to Mumbai or Delhi. So the manufacturing cost can be reduced and become more competitive in the market.

  • 158 allopathic medicine manufacturing units are catering to the need of West Bengal, besides a few who are exporting their products.

Opportunities in Biotech Industry

The Government of West Bengal has announced its Biotech Policy and it includes a number of incentives for the development of this industry, which are:

  • State Capital Investment subsidy on fixed capital Investment

  • Interest subsidy

  • Waiver of Electricity duty: 5 years

  • Employment generation Subsidy on ESI & EPF (50%) for big & medium industries

  • Reimbursement of Stamp Duty & Registration Fee: 50 %

  • Subsidy for conversion to use of Piped gas, etc.

A Biotechnological Park will come up over 200 acres in the vicinity of Kolkata. Already a number of biotech companies have expressed their interest in this project.

Contract research and manufacturing services (CRAMS) market in India as well as in West Bengal is growing at a significant rate of about 20 per cent. In 2005 Indian CRAMS market was estimated at $532 million with contract manufacturing accounting for almost 84% of the total. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) being firmly in place investments in developments and innovations are poised to grow and West Bengal is only to gain significantly from that.

Few Indian companies that have a focus on the bio-informatics market like TCS are active in West Bengal. TCS is offering services for understanding all aspects of the use of bioinformatics in drug discovery, comparative genomics, protein structure, integrated database design.

The driving factors, however, remained as availability of skilled manpower and phytochemical raw materials and access to different global regions through east.

The attitude of the Government towards industry is focal & the Regulatory authorities have taken up the issues of encouraging & boosting this industry to re – claim the glorious past & to reach the pinnacle of performance with persistent eager for development & cost effective production. This coupled with the state Government’s eagerness to reduce duties in pharmaceutical products specially in the Free Trade Zones etc will render the pharmaceutical manufacturers of this state a wholesome advantage.

Researches in the field of Bio – technology has opened up new vistas in assuring use of safe drugs.

The Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications & I.T. Govt. of India, also endorses Health Care products as one of the thrust areas under “State Wise Industry Opportunities”, heading in West Bengal.

For more information please visit the URL: http://business.gov.in/starting_business/states.php. Many a scheme is available under The West Bengal Incentive Scheme, 2000 also.

Success Story in Pharma Sector

Back up industries for Pharma Sector: Pharma sector needs back up of Chemical & Petrochemical industries to grow. A number of such units in large scale have come up during the last one decades, which are:

  • Haldia Petrochemicals is operating from mid nineties giving opportunities for setting up down stream projects on Polymers & Chemicals. A no. of proposals have already been submitted by various companies to set up downstream plants based on chemical intermediates such as butadiene, benzene and cyclopentane from HPL.

  • Mitsubishi is operating the biggest chemical plant at Haldia- their only plant In India.

  • Two big CROs are operating successfully from Kolkata.

All the above together depicts an encouraging picture for this industry. Global standardization in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products has ensured safe & proper utilization of drugs. The regulatory authorities are trying heart & soul to make things ready so that common man has all access to their requirements & industry favourable atmosphere is now looming large to attract investment in West Bengal.


  • ” Dr. Subhas C. Mondal, Inspector of Drugs, Directorate of Drugs Control, West Bengal for his article: “RESURGENCE OF PHARMA INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL: THE FUTURE STORY”.

  • ” Prof. Arup Mukherjee, Ex – HOD, Department of Chemical Technology, Calcutta University for his article, “PHARMA INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL: THE ROAD AHEAD” published in EXPRESS PHARMA.

(The Author is Director, Directorate of Drugs Control, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal)