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Digitisation, collaboration will help pharma companies succeed in the “next normal”: Experts

Moneycontrol and CNBC-TV18 held the Pharma Industry Conclave, powered by SAP recently where industry stalwarts spoke at length about how the sector can progress in the ‘new normal’.

April 23, 2021 / 07:28 PM IST

The Indian pharmaceutical industry underwent a paradigm shift in the year 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector adopted several practices to jump back on its feet, cater to relentless demands and enable its workforce to function with speed and scale through various technological tools.

The pharma industry resolved several challenges through effective digitalisation and is evolving by learning from key instances from the last year. Thus, to deep dive into how the sector pharma navigated through tough situations and what more needs to be done, Moneycontrol and CNBC-TV18 held the Pharma Industry Conclave, powered by SAP recently where industry stalwarts spoke at length about how the sector can progress in the ‘new normal’.

The conclave saw a keynote address from SG Belapure, Senior Technical Advisor, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) and an engaging panel discussion where experts from top companies discussed ‘Imperatives for Digital Success in the Next Normal’.

Launching the virtual conclave, Rajesh Kuppuswamy, Health Sciences Industry Advisor, SAP, said, “This is something that we decided keeping the industry and advancement in mind, how to best exchange ideas, knowledge with the sole purpose of advancing the industry much farther from where it is today. We will get contribution from industry leaders, consulting partners and SAP will act as the technology leader in providing insights on where technology can actually take the industry.

The industry experts explored ideas that will lead to growth of Indian pharma and life sciences industry across the world and ensure fit-for-purpose solutions.

“One of the important challenges faced during COVID-19 was demand variability, which was changing from time-to-time. The second important challenge was supply chain disruption, which were at various levels at international, national, state, and town borders. We had to ensure the employees can cross the boundaries and go to their workplace, trucks have to move. The major challenge was also with raw, packaging and ancillary materials because they were not declared as the important industry for this purpose,” said Belapure in his keynote address, adding “third casualty of COVID-19 was inter-departmental transparency and coordination because most of the people were working from home, which resulted in delayed decision making also.”

Following the keynote address, experts S. Ramesh, Executive Director, Global CFO & Head-Corporate Affairs, Lupin Limited; Kedar Upadhye, Global Chief Financial Officer, Cipla; Prasad Deshpande, Senior Vice President & Global Head – Supply Chain Management, Biocon; S. Subramanian, CFO, Aurobindo Pharma Ltd; Sreenivas Rao, Global Head of Supply Chain, Sun Pharma; Joydeep Ghosh, Senior Partner, Deloitte; and Sudakshina Ghosh, Industry Business Architect Team Lead, Industry and Customer Advisory Practice, SAP India sat down for the virtual panel discussion and elucidated on their experiences and the way forward.

Here are the excerpts:

S. Ramesh, Executive Director, Global CFO & Head-Corporate Affairs, Lupin Limited

“There were several factors that were disruptive to the industry. Firstly at the factory place itself, we didn’t have too many manpower, supplies and raw material, especially packaging even though this was classified as an essential industry. We had issues in imports from China. While we all have heard about scenario and multiple disruption planning. The fact that we were able to react with alacrity, agility, and respond and keep our supply chain going, they very fact that we were able to keep and supply to various countries, we kept our customers ahead of us and we were able to be on top of the supply chain itself, which worked very well for the industry.”

Kedar Upadhye, Global Chief Financial Officer, Cipla

“All the integral components of running an enterprise in these times, with respect to cash, inventory planning, collections, working capital, connecting with channel partners and customers, all these were planned methodically. It is not that we had an experience of dealing with this event but we all came together, mapped steps and all the processes were galvanised in a manner in which needs of customers, channel partners were delivered and most importantly employees, ensuring IT infrastructure, cyber-security, various applications in which everyone was able to connect with each other, went well. This can be a case-study as to how agile transformation in the quickest time is possible,” said Upadhaye.

Prasad Deshpande, Senior Vice President & Global Head – Supply Chain Management, Biocon

“Consulting industry has been very helpful in providing us the insights and the data on how to do scenario planning. I invite consulting partners to be there as we will be more data driven, more into what-if scenarios, and where all the engines like the SAP engine, technology, consulting partners have wealth of information and insights across the globe and that will help us to chart the way forward.”

S. Subramanian, CFO, Aurobindo Pharma Ltd

“Going forward, digitalisation is going to help the industry in a big way. In the last one year what we’ve learnt is, apart from physical interaction with doctors, etc., we were able to use multiple tools online, did consultancy, etc and digital developments will drive the value for the pharma companies mainly in four areas- first is the ability to deliver more personalised patient care, engage more fully with physicians and patients, and third we’ve been able to use data to drive superior insights and decision making and last is transforming business process.”

Sreenivas Rao, Global Head of Supply Chain, Sun Pharma

“There is one foreseen event which is around the corner, which is the wave two (COVID-19). I strongly believe that we are in much better prepared than what we were because it is not a black swan, it is a repetition of what happened last year. Digitisation, collaboration and all of these things are key elements and important which will actually make us be well-prepared for the next black swan event. As supply chain, we would love to do everything ‘just in time’. The black swan event has taught us ‘just-in-case’, we need to be prepared for those just-in-case events.”

While the past year has been riddled with challenges and exposed companies to many vulnerabilities, technology has been a driving force in not only adapting to the transformative changes, but thriving in them. Innovators like SAP have been at the forefront in building resilient, technology-led solutions to support companies in ensuring business continuity with minimal disruption. By integrating technology throughout their value chain, companies can truly help turn India into a global life sciences hub.

Joydeep Ghosh, Senior Partner, Deloitte

“Everybody has suffered and gone through difficult moments. But, we have found out that we are capable of doing many more things than we ever imagined before. Secondly, what we found our weaknesses like API, the government is also incentivising that… those are genuine strategic weaknesses we’ve been able to identify, unearth, address and I am sure with due action on the same lines, the companies and the government together will be able to mitigate that.

Watch the full discussion here
first published: Apr 23, 2021 03:35 pm
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