The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the third largest in terms of volume globally. India has significantly contributed to shaping the healthcare outcomes of patients around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a paradigm shift in the sector. The pandemic fast-tracked digital transformation and nurtured adaptability and learning agility. Today, the pharma landscape is continuously evolving – changing regulations, and geo-political and technological development. To stay competitive in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, there is a fundamental need for upskilling and reskilling.
The pharmaceutical industry is a knowledge-driven sector that demands highly skilled professionals. India has an edge due to its ever-increasing pool of talented scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs along with its demographic advantage. However, it will be critical to invest in building an ecosystem for skilling to stay globally competitive and adapt to changing times. The key thrust areas will be:
- Research and innovation: The innovation space accounts for two-thirds of the global market. As the Indian pharma industry aims to move up the value chain, there is a need for skilled talent to develop novel therapies and medicines to meet the unmet needs of patient care. This requires professionals adept in life sciences skills who are well-versed in research methodologies and who can leverage new technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), data analytics.
- Regulatory: The Indian pharma sector has established itself as a “Pharmacy for the world” for providing quality-assured medicines to patients around the globe. To maintain its position and keep pace with the changing landscape, quality control professionals must be equipped to ensure that products meet international standards such as International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use/Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (ICH/PIC(s). Quality is non-negotiable in the pharmaceutical industry and hence a culture of “quality” across the company, right from senior to mid-level management to shop floor employees, is fundamental
- Digital Technology: As companies adopt new-age digital technologies, there is an increasing need for professionals who can transcribe data into insights, as well as develop and implement technology solutions across the value chain. Leveraging digital technologies to improve productivity, efficiency and innovation will be critical for the companies. e.g. Virtual Reality (VR) Simulation for delivering training programmes; Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC) organised a VR module for high capex manufacturing roles like machine operator and manufacturing chemist
- Competitiveness: With an increase in competition globally, there is a need to innovate across the functions, such as sales, marketing and supply chain management and to adopt newer agendas such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG), green technology, and training employees in cross-functional skills. There is a need for upskilling/reskilling in these areas. Investing in these initiatives will help organisations gain a competitive edge
- Education: The pharmacology curriculum of Indian institutions must be updated frequently to keep up with the evolving landscape and make the students future-ready. In collaboration with the industry, LSSSDC and the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) have developed skilling modules for the B. Pharm curriculum. Recently, PCI announced that it would be making changes to pharmacy education through course upgradation, online courses for students in remote locations, and helping teachers focus on curriculum.
The government has taken many steps towards skilling. The ministry of skill development & entrepreneurship is collaborating with the World Bank for the Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) scheme focussed on developing talent. LSSSDC aims to upskill around 7,500 workers in small and medium enterprises across India. Furthermore, they conduct “Training of Trainers (ToT)” and ‘Project Amrit’ programmes. The recent Union Budget 2023 aims to provide stimulus towards innovation with the announcement of the promotion of a research and innovation programme in pharmaceuticals with a focus on skilling and education in health care.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is a knowledge-driven sector with research and innovation being core to the growth. As the industry evolves in terms of people, processes and technology, upskilling and reskilling will be fundamental in the Indian pharma sector to stay competitive and move up the value chain. Talent will be key for the Indian pharma industry to achieve Vision 2030, which aims to grow to $120 -130 bn by 2030 from the current $50 bn in 2022. Investment in skill and knowledge development of the workforce will be essential.
This article is authored by Sudarshan Jain, chairman and Ranjit Madan, CEO, life sciences sector, Skill Development Council.