S.V. Veerramani, the new president of the Indian Drugs Manufacturers Association (IDMA) speaks about the various issues in the pharmaceutical industry in the country and the problems being faced by the manufacturers, especially those in the SME sector. He says that the all India body of the drugs manufacturers in India is curiously viewing the issues in the Indian pharmaceutical sector and taking up them with the government and the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) for getting resolved. Putting hundred percent confidence in the Narendra Modi government, he hopes that IDMA’s endeavours to strengthen the Indian pharmaceutical industry will bring positive results. In an interview with Peethaambaran Kunnathoor, he speaks of the government policies, regulatory issues, common problems in the industry and the strategic steps IDMA is taking to strengthen the pharma SME sector. Excerpts:
Sir, you are now the President of the IDMA which comprises mostly the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the pharma sector. So, you are rightly responsible to heed to the issues in the pharma MSME sector and get them resolved for the growth of the industry. What do you think the government should do to settle the problems faced by the MSME manufacturers in the country ?
The Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association represents Small, Medium and Large enterprises. Of-course, there are a large number of SME members in IDMA.
IDMA has been working for the welfare of SMEs over the years. We would like our SMEs to tap the business opportunities available in government purchases, contract manufacturing, regional marketing and exports. They need training and technology upgradation of their plants. We have been appealing to the government to announce technology upgradation schemes for pharma SMEs so that many of them can not only tap the opportunities in contract manufacturing, but also emerge as exporters.
How does the Narendra Modi government at the centre support pharma industry and what are the major developmental schemes going to be implemented by it? Do you think the pharma industry will prosper under Modi regime? Any positive indication of that ?
The slogan of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Narendra Modi “Make in India” rhymes well for the Indian pharmaceutical industry, which is aspiring to make pharmaceuticals in India for more than 200 countries in the world. If the government slogan of improving ease of doing business in India is materialised, it will help the pharmaceutical industry immensely.
According to you what are the major common problems being raised by the small scale pharma industrial units in the country? What role does your organisation play for their solution ?
The major common problems raised by the pharma SMEs are in the areas of new regulations and amendments. IDMA is very conscious about the impact of these on the SME sector and constantly representing to the government, in the SMEs point of view. For example, in the case of requirement of ‘barcoding’ for exports, we have requested the government not to enlarge the same to primary packaging and mono-cartons, which can cause financial burden to the SMEs.
The SMEs want more and more interest subsidy schemes for loans sanctioned by nationalized banks and cash subsidy on investment. Besides, they want price preference for the local companies by state governments. As an umbrella organisation what steps does IDMA take to satisfy their demands with central and state governments ?
Government purchase is an area where SMEs can get a good share. IDMA has been constantly writing to all the tendering authorities in India not to stipulate turnover clause or WHO-GMP clause for participation in government tenders. They can test every supply for quality compliance before taking into their stocks. But, a turnover clause, in the order of 25 to 50 crores can deny opportunities for many aspiring SMEs.
Similarly, Schedule M compliance is adequate for supplies in India and insistence of WHO-GMP which is meant for exports, should not be stipulated for supplies in India.
With respect to IDMA’s request for Technology Upgradation Fund for SMEs, we have sought for interest subsidy and wanted not to insist on collateral security for loans.
During one of my interactions with industry captains in Tamil Nadu, they said a single-window system for clearances of all governmental registrations and approvals would help the entrepreneurs very much. How can these get implemented by each state government ?
From industry's point of view, it will be a good concept to have a single window system of clearance, since they need not have to run to different departments for getting approvals. If the state and central government can have single window cell for major industries like pharmaceutical industry, it will do a lot of good in improving ease of doing business.
According to industry doyens in Tamil Nadu, the SME units cannot compete with those operating in the Excise Free Zones in Baddi and Uttarakhand. Associations of pharma SMEs in several states are now asking for EFZ areas for their crisis survival. What growth prospect do you see in founding EFZ or SEZ areas for pharma sector? Has your organisation made any request with the state governments to set up such zones ? If so, details please…………..
The excise benefits given to the industries in Baddi and Uttarakhand are coming to a close and we understand that government is not keen to provide excise benefits to any new zone. But, the special economic zones can provide interest subsidies, power subsidies, Common Effluent Treatment Plant, Common Testing Facilities, etc. It will also be easy for them to have a single window clearance.
We understand that Telangana and AP Governments are coming out with special packages for pharma industrial zones. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra may also follow suit. IDMA will be sensitizing their members on the facilities as and when they are offered.
IDMA is now in a progressing stage. How many State Boards does your organisation have in the country at present ? What is your plan to increase the number ?
Besides our Secretariat in Mumbai, IDMA has seven State Boards; in Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu & Puducherry, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh (Indore) and Telangana. We are planning to have 3 more State Boards; in Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh, to bring the total number of branches to 10. Similarly, we are planning to increase our membership from the current 810 to above 1000.
What sort of programs do you plan to partner with other pharma industry organisations to take the industry forward, and how far you are satisfied in achieving the confidence of others ?
IDMA encompasses all sections of pharmaceutical industry like Small, Medium and Large enterprises both in formulations and bulk drug sectors. IDMA, with the standing of 54 years in India, is like an umbrella organisation to all the pharma industry associations and representing the interests of all sectors. Hence, IDMA enjoys the confidence of all other associations.
It is learnt that there are associations of big pharma players who are not cooperating with IDMA, but working separately or independently. How do you see the situation when you want to strengthen the industry sector? Do you get support or cooperation from any other pharma organisation?
It is not true that IDMA is not getting cooperation from associations of big pharma players. In fact, many of them are members of IDMA, although some of them may be members of other associations. They have confidence in IDMA and whenever there are common issues, they seek the support of IDMA and we are willing to support them, when they are in the interest of the national pharmaceutical industry.
For employment generation for pharmacy graduates, a demand is raised now by the graduates and post graduates in pharmacy. They are demanding that the industry should absorb only people with pharmacy background for all the vacancies in the industry, except clerical level. Do you think that their demand is genuine and legitimate? If so, what IDMA would suggest for it? Do you have any project for employment generation for pharmacy graduates ?
Certainly, the pharmacy graduates need to be given their legitimate positions in Industry. IDMA is the only organisation which recognises university toppers (in the field of pharmacy) all over India in their Annual Day Celebrations. Several of them who have received the Awards from IDMA are now holding premier positions in the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Recently, we have also formed a special committee for “Industry-Institute Interactions” in order to explore the possibilities for working with academic institutions.
The ISM manufacturing companies in Tamil Nadu are also members of IDMA state unit. They are facing serious problems with regard to regulatory matters. Their complaint is that the state ISM Commissionerate is not industry-friendly and not supporting them in any manner. For the last several years, the ISM units are not getting licences for proprietary drugs and their complaints are not heard of by the concerned authorities. The entire industry is in trouble now. Can IDMA do anything to save the industry from crisis ?
IDMA Tamil Nadu State Board is working with the local associations in order to resolve the problems of ISM manufacturing companies in the state. IDMA Tamil Nadu is also having a separate committee on ISM to look after the various issues involving ISM. If they require the support of the all India body (IDMA), we will extend the same.
Apart from being the president of IDMA, you are the Founder and Managing Director of Fourrts India Laboratories, Chennai. There are more than 400 SME units operating in Tamil Nadu, and a few major players like you. Do you have any idea or concept to escalate the Tamil Nadu Pharma Industry to the level of those in Gujarat and Maharashtra?
Tamil Nadu pharmaceutical industry has many quality manufacturers who are well appreciated all over India. Many of them are also exporting to several countries. Tamil Nadu pharma industry has the potential to rise to the level of other premier states in India.
On the 03rd & 04th of July 2015, we are organizing a Trade Show, ‘ Pharmac South 2015’, which will showcase the capabilities of Tamil Nadu and South India manufacturers. IDMA Tamil Nadu has also made an appeal to the Tamil Nadu government to establish pharma parks to raise the level of Tamil Nadu pharmaceutical industry.
There was a plan among the industry in Tamil Nadu to set up a pharma cluster somewhere near Chennai with the help of state government. But now it seems that the idea has been dropped for ever. Will IDMA be able to revive the idea in order to materialize their dream ?
IDMA Tamil Nadu has made a fresh appeal to the Tamil Nadu government and the Department of Pharmaceuticals, government of India to consider a ‘Bulk Drug Park’ near Gummidipoondi and a ‘Formulation Park’ near Chengalpet. Our request is being considered favourably by the government.
It is known that the Department of Pharmaceuticals, government of India, is moving towards promoting Indian bulk drugs industry, as a special program this year. Will this attempt help reduce the prices of medicines in the domestic market, and how does IDMA view the move of DoP ?
The move of the Department of Pharmaceuticals and the government of India to promote Indian bulk drug industry will be very valuable in reducing dependence on China for supply of bulk drugs. On a long term basis, this will reduce the monopolistic situation created by supplies from China to greater self-reliance of India. If this happens, it can reduce the prices of medicines in the domestic market.
In the union territory of Puducherry, there is no strong association for manufacturers, and they are all operating without proper guidance from any association, according to information from several sources………. As you are aware, there were complaints against some manufacturing units in the recent past for violation of drugs act and DPCO. CBI enquiry was also conducted in certain cases. How do you observe the situation there now? Do you think the industry people will correct the mistakes, if any ?
The industry scenario in Puducherry is improving very well, thanks to the initiatives taken by IDMA Tamil Nadu & Puducherry State Board. Over the last one year, IDMA TNPSB has been conducting several seminars on GMP, Quality Assurance and Self Audits for the pharmaceutical manufacturers in Puducherry. Recently, IDMA has been able to organise a meeting involving Department of Pharmaceuticals and government of Puducherry to remove all bottlenecks and help the pharmaceutical industry of the UT.