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NICE Weighs In.

If you haven't noticed, we like interviews. It's an effective way to convey information, because you get to hear the answers from the expert, unfettered. It's doubly exciting then, when the expert-on-trial mentions something independent and confirmatory.

Kalipso Chalkidou, Director of NICE International (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) in the UK, talks about the importance of understanding the sway of public and government payers as stakeholders.

Our favourite part though, is near the end. When she recommends we take time to involve everyone and understand the issues at play. But have a look for yourself:

What do you say?

Posted by Jeff


Exclusive Interview: Dr. Vivek Varma on Sales and Success in Contract Manufacturing

This feature is permanently archived in our library, available here. For more exclusive interviews, added regularly to the blog please check back, or browse the library.

Dr. Vivek Varma, Joint Director of Indian-based Premier Medical Corporation, which manufactures rapid response diagnostic kits, is responsible for increasing sales by 300% in the last Indian fiscal year. Read on to learn how:

Jeff Waite: It's great to finally have you here, Dr. Varma. In all of our conversations, you have presented yourself with the utmost modesty. And yet in the last year you’ve increased sales turnover by more than 300%. Can you comment on the role modesty and grace play in your ongoing success?

Dr. Varma: I am just the face of the team who managed this increased turnover. It would not be appropriate to take credit for their efforts in this achievement. My only role has been to ensure that they are kept motivated at all times. I recognize the supposedly small, but very effective, suggestions given by all the members of the team (including those at the shop floor level) and give due credit to them.

Jeff Waite: Another thing that we’ve seen you do throughout a variety of past roles, is continue to improve incrementally. Each year you seem to be able to increase sales and productivity by a significant percentage. Is there a specific attitude or mindset you focus on to keep moving forward?

Dr. Varma: As mentioned earlier, I do not hesitate in acknowledging in public the originator of any idea. This helps me get more out of them. Insecurity and lack of self-confidence at higher levels are the major factors that keeps the productivity low.

Jeff Waite: Increasingly, team work and group collaboration are becoming the norm. In all of your roles so far, you have had a lot of success when it comes to working effectively and leading diverse teams, especially sales people. You’ve obviously and intelligently made it a priority, why is this so important to you?

Dr. Varma: As I have had the opportunity to work my way upwards towards higher responsibilities, it has helped me hone my attitude towards the sales team members. I always interact with each member of the Sales team at the individual level and have always looked at improving his / her career by giving suggestions. This has had an significant effect in their approach towards me and helped create a personal rapport. I always believed that “They are not working for me, but I am working to help them achieve their goals”

Jeff Waite: Given your broad experience setting up contract research and manufacturing facilities and organizations, is there a particular accomplishment or project on which you’ve worked that you are the most proud of, and why?

Dr. Varma: In my present company, we had a major challenge in improving the productivity of the packaging department. We were in the process of installing a machine that would improve the productivity dramatically. Initially, there was a lot of opposition from the shopfloor about the performance of the machine. In fact, people refused to work on the machine and at times deliberately misused the same. Once, there was a tremendous pressure on the team and they were unable to cope up with the timelines. At that point, I got the team together and explained to them about the benefits of the machine and how it would help them achieve the deadlines effortlessly. Though they took it up reluctantly, I stood with them and constantly motivated them to use the machine. After a few days, they realized that the machine was indeed helping them achieve deadlines easily. This realization made them more enthusiastic about the machine. In fact, when we were planning to add another machine, the team came up with very interesting recommendations that the productivity went up even further.

This is one accomplishment that I am very proud of. One of the major reasons is the fact that I could manage to convince them to use the machine for improving productivity. The team actually comprises of uneducated, but extremely intelligent people.The icing was the enthusiastic recommendations that we received for the subsequent machines.

Jeff Waite: A lot of our audience are students. Today, students in faculties from biomedical engineering, to commerce and economics, have more options than ever before. The most successful long-term commitments require a degree of passion, or vested enthusiasm to keep us going. What aspect of your work gets you the most excited? How are you planning to incorporate this going forward?

Dr. Varma: Yes. The options are more now than before. But, the students are generally unaware of them due to the limited exposure that they have during their studies. They are usually frustrated during the initial years of their career. This causes a lot of job changes as they are in the process of understanding their passion for a particular career. The most successful long-term commitments are achieved after about 3 years in a particular direction and the perceived achievements therein. Recognition of their contributions in the growth of the company adds to their long-term commitment. Thus, engaging them in situations that would enable me to understand their passion keeps me very excited. I have been using this strategy quite successfully over the years and am yet to find a better option.

Jeff Waite: The world is obviously becoming a smaller and more connected place. Given your vast international experience, can you briefly explain why global cooperation and collaboration is now more important than ever?

Dr. Varma: As the world is getting connected due to fast changing technologies, the ability to work in teams has just become globalised. I believe in working towards using strengths and complementing weaknesses. In order to use such a strategy, it is imperative that companies collaborate so that the entire team benefits on the outcome.

Jeff Waite: We have done some very comprehensive primary research over the last few months, reaching out to international stakeholders looking to learn more about India. Increasingly, people are interested in contract manufacturing, but worried about finding a good partner. Can you please explain a few of the things companies looking to partner with contract manufacturing providers in India should consider when they are trying to establish a good fit?

Dr. Varma: Contract manufacturing companies in India are being setup by highly educated individuals with a passion to deliver the best product. In order to achieve quality, quality labour is also essential. Usually, companies look towards India for contract manufacturing only to reduce costs as it is implied that the labour is relatively cheap.

While looking at partners for contract manufacturing in India, the key points that could be considered are:

Management Team passion

Quality processes and consciousness

Ability to contribute towards reducing costs

Flexibility in operations

Operational location

[Editor's Note: We will be following-up on these specific aspects in more detail, with related experts].

Jeff Waite: Like a lot of people, our listeners are concerned with finding the best information or knowledge. Nowadays more than ever, the problem seems to be sorting through the absolutely massive haystack to find a proverbial needle. How do you prefer to stay up to date on important evolving issues?

Dr. Varma: Reading up on trends and looking at opportunities to use the Technology effectively and efficiently in the area of operations. The best way is to first focus on a particular area that needs improvement and then look for Technology that can help you achieve the same.

Jeff Waite: It was an absolute pleasure to have spoken with you today, Dr. Varma. Thanks.


Merck Moves In

It is always encouraging to see the big players making aggressive moves into a market. The announcement then, that Merck KgaA is setting up an Indian technology centre to provide contract development services for a large range of applications, is exactly what we like to hear. That it's part of an ongoing initiative is even more exciting.

Some of Merck's other innovative initiatives, such as the one below, present very interesting soft opportunities that will also benefit rising executives in emerging markets. And not just in job-specific technical roles. Access to the seasoned experiences of others is something that we predicate our own business on (see: interviews with experts) and another hidden benefit of globalization.

Posted by Jeff

UPDATE: Brought to our attention by our good friend, @andrealmarch is this fantastic Globe and Mail article: Ten tips for success in India


Clinical Trial Site Selection

It's interesting to see talk about the shifting preference of clinical trial sites. While India has compelling advantages, other opportunities are evidently making themselves apparent. An understanding of the driving issues behind this development is incredibly helpful, and described effectively in the linked article.

The idea is of particular interest to us and our survey respondents. Our primary research has shown time and again that pharma executives have limited resources and will be stringent in deploying them, such that only the most advantageous new markets benefit.

Further developments of this nascent trend are something that we will keep a close ear to the ground for...


Trade Traction.

45% of India's USD 22 billiion pharmaceutical industry obtains revenue from exporting generic drugs. Understandably then, it's exciting to see progress in India's trade spat with the EU over generic drugs.

With so much on the line, it makes sense why resolution is important. And an admission of guilt by the EU at this month's Brussels Summit is a concrete and promising step forward.


New Year, Old Story.

It's not a new problem. Rather, a tired old refrain. It's no surprise then, that the  EMA predicts only the most modest of increases when it comes to number of new drug applications.  So another year goes by, and big pharma fails to boost it's R&D productivity. The cost to submit new drugs continues to increase, meanwhile.

Our own primary research identified this as an obvious concern. But we also found there is lots that pharma is doing to  boost revenues, outside of developing, manufacturing, and distributing new drugs. India and other emerging markets present an incredibly exciting opportunity to leverage existing products and increase brand awareness in high-growth areas. Partnerships and in-licensing agreements allow for increased reach. But problems about effective partner selection and management remain.

What's more, as the cost of doing business continues to rise, leading organizations will adapt and find flexible solutions to lower the cost of sale, our survey respondents concurred. Clinical trial outsourcing, contract manufacturing, and business process outsourcing are all being utilized by top industry contenders to keep padded, to the utmost extent.

Additional commentary is available here.

Posted by Jeff


Emerging Partnerships Fueled by Robust Growth

We mentioned it yesterday, and in our conversations with on the ground experts, it's unanimous. While the Indian market has some maturing to do in the course of the next 10 years, it is a great place to start building a base today. And is very effectively positioned to leverage other emerging markets and BRIC countries. Don't take our word for it though: Dr Reddy's inks pact with Russian firm R-Pharm.

'"The agreement allows us to bring innovative medicines to the Russian people with active collaboration of a local pharmaceutical company-R Pharm ," Dr Reddy's MD and COO Satish Reddy said.'

And it's no wonder that Indian players are looking to make intelligent acquisitions with their cash filled coffers. The Indian pharmaceutical market continues to grow at a robust rate. And although external respondents identified currency inflation as a concern - nascent government intervention notwithstanding -  this article clearly states that inflation is medicine is much less than other essential goods and services.

Time to brew another cup or two of coffee, before getting back with more news, as it breaks.

Posted by Jeff


Money Talks.

Another day full of excitement, for those of us interested in fast-growing, emerging pharmaceutical markets. To get to the thick of the action, it's always best to follow the money...

And Gujarat seems to be where it's headed! Not satisfied with the whopping $500 million invested during 2009, M. Sahu, Gujarat's principal secretary for industries declared this year's summit would draw in at least $1 billion based on the interest so far. Over 20,000 delegates are expected to attend this veritable hotbed of investment activity.

In our follow-up phone interview with Alok Kumar, (to be posted tomorrow) we talked about how India can be used as a hub to reach other emerging markets. The recent endorsement of India from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is thus rather encouraging.

Posted by Jeff


Seasonal Summaries

If you were to ask us, one of the most under-rated aspects of the holidays are the magnitude of top-ten lists. The highlights of unbelievable moments that have occurred, the year prior. This is along the same theme, and worth checking out! A big tip of the hat to

PwC has consistently produced easily accessible top quality reports on emerging pharmaceutical markets, in particular. So their recently released list of  "Top Health Industry Issues of 2011" has us very excited.

Posted by Jeff


Monday Morning

We are moving pretty quickly this morning, although another cup of extra hot coffee might be called for, shortly. But before we do, check out these headlines...

Respondents have always been clear that while the domestic Indian market needs to continue to grow and mature, especially with regards to infrastructure, it is a great place from which to access other emerging markets. Ranbaxy proves this hypothesis in South Africa with a successful bid to supply $133 million wort of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

We have been very curious about the recent and ongoing M&A activity in India. Emami lost it's bid last week for Paras Pharmaceutical, but it's coffers are still stuffed with cash and analysts are bullish on the idea that they will snap up something else, perhaps in the consumer goods or food sectors.

Although Novartis dedicated one sentence to BRIC markets in it's annual long term strategic outlook, the money says a lot more. Novartis commits to a full scale pharmaceutical facility in Russia as part of a $500 million investment.

Enjoy this week and the ensuing holiday!

Posted by Jeff

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