Covid-19 crisis prompts India to look for global partners in healthcare

As India shifts its focus to the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it is actively reaching out to several countries, including Japan, seeking to attract investments in manufacturing and joint venture projects, according to officials and industry executives.

India sees an investment potential ofRs 70,000 crore in the medical devices industry alone over the next five years.

The government is targeting 1,200 technical collaborations between Japanese companies and Indian investors for over 42,000 crore, 200 joint ventures with overseas investors forRs 14,000 crore, and another 14,000-crore investment from about 50 multinational companies.

This was discussed during a webinar organised by the Indian Embassy in Tokyo, along with the Department of Pharmaceuticals, and it had over 150 participants from both countries. P D Vaghela, secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals , who was also present in the webinar, said Japanese companies were interested in investing in the API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) space, and could also explore joint ventures in the medical devices segment.

Speaking to Business Standard, Sudarshan Jain, secretary-general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), said companies like Eisai Pharmaceuticals had been operating in the country since the early 2000s and their experience had been good.

“India can be a low-cost manufacturing base for Japan. We have skilled manpower and at lower costs. India is one of the largest suppliers of generic medicines to the US; it can do the same for Japan,” Jain said.

He said partnerships or investments could be in different kinds of projects. One is where a Japanese company sets up a manufacturing base here for exporting to other countries, or it can export to Japan. Secondly, they can also invest in Indian companies that make drugs. Moreover, with India’s renewed focus on growing its API production, there are a lot of investment opportunities for Japanese majors. Eisai, for example, makes APIs. “The Indian government is now offering production-linked incentives for large API production units and this can be an area of collaboration,” Jain said.

The DoP secretary has asked the Japanese industry to get in touch with the pharma bureau, set up to guide potential investors. Last month, the medical devices industry here had requested the Indian ambassador to invite the Japanese to shift factories from China to India, informed Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator of the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD).

Pharma majors like Sun Pharma, Wockhardt, and Panacea Biotech were present in the webinar.

Growing market

Rs 38,800 crore Worth of medical devices India imported in FY19
Rs 12,700 crore Medical devices exported in the same year
Rs 1.05 trillion Market size of Indian medical devices at retail level
85% India’s import dependency for medical devices
Rs 1.4 trillion Domestic pharma market’s turnover in FY20 – Business Standard

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