Express Pharma

‘COVID-19 gives an opportunity to rethink pharma logistics and supply chain’

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Nearly 70 per cent of the country’s pharma exports are carried out through the GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo. And during COVID-19, it has remained operational 24X7 for import as well as for export purposes. SGK Kishore, CEO, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), talks about the company’s commitment to work with the government to steer through these difficult times and continue the supply of essential commodities through their cargo operations. In an interaction with Usha Sharma, he also indicated that pharma companies need to enhance their supply chain and make their logistics systems more efficient to deal with such medical emergency situations

How badly has the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the Indian cargo industry? What has been its impact on GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry globally, including the Indian cargo industry. While passenger flights have come to a halt; with Government support and direction, essential services of cargo is keeping the trade alive. As an important player in India’s air cargo sector, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo remains fully committed to working with the government to steer through these volatile times and contribute to the process of realising India’s full potential in air cargo trade.

Since the government has exempted essential services from the nationwide lockdown, what all services are operational from the GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo? And how it is adding value or making a difference in moving emergency supplies in the pandemic situation due to COVID-19?

In such crucial times, when the world is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic; and India is under a nationwide lockdown; GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo is keeping the vital link of essential supplies fully alive and operational. We are working round the clock in close coordination with the freighters, customs, ground handlers, forwarders, customs house agents (CHAs), regulators, state police, cargo trade associations, importers and exporters, transportation companies among others to keep rolling the critical chain of essential supplies viz. medicines, vaccines, medical equipment, pharma raw material, defence goods, bank-related etc., are operating seamlessly. Our Cargo Terminal has been open 24X7 to facilitate both exports and imports. With around 200 dedicated and motivated personnel working in each shift, we are ensuring all these essential supplies are handled as per cargo protocol and cleared on time.

Nearly 70 per cent of the country’s pharma exports happen through the GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo. Have you had to follow any additional guidelines for import and export to countries due to COVID-19?

The movement of pharma across countries have always been subject to the guidelines of both the exporting and importing countries. We don’t see any new guidelines impacting this trade. However, on account of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, exports of few essential pharma related materials are being closely monitored by the authorities to ensure that adequate domestic supplies are being maintained.

Due to the government’s restrictions on pharma exports of certain medicines from India, pharma companies are unable to ship their consignments. How is it obstructing the movement of goods at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo? And what assistance are you offering/or planning to provide to pharma companies?

The import and export activities at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo are fully compliant with government regulations governing the same. We continue to work with all our stakeholders to ensure that the movement and handling of all permitted consignments are as smooth and efficient as possible even under the current environment of lockdown.

How many freighters/ special cargo charters are handling the medical emergency situation in the country and which all countries are connected for the import and export of pharma medicines?

We are getting several freighters every week bringing in the essential supplies and also carrying export cargo. In terms of connectivity, the Middle East and Europe are the prominent destinations. In addition, there are several domestic flights, which are transporting medicines and essential equipment as cargo across the country.

Which pharma companies are using your service currently?

Some of the key pharma companies which are using the cargo services include – Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Aurobindo Pharma, Mylan Laboratories, Hetero Drugs, Divis Laboratories, MSN Pharma, Pfizer, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Natco Pharma, among others.

How are you ensuring prevention of any transmission of coronavirus at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo? And, how have you managed your workforce while adhering to the government’s guidelines?

To ensure the safety of its personnel, the airport is leaving no stone unturned to keep the volume and labour-intensive areas of cargo fully sanitised, round-the-clock. Some of the measures taken by the airport are as below:

· 100 per cent screening by infra-red thermal guns at the entries for all incoming staff at cargo premises

· Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) viz. gown, gloves and cap and masks for cargo handling personnel

· Dedicated doctors to oversee any medical concerns

· Continuous health monitoring of all employees

· Regular fumigation of the cargo terminal

· Frequent cleaning of work stations and equipment which have frequent human touchpoints

· Enforcing social distancing among the personnel

Please predict the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian economy, and also highlight its effect on the pharma sector.

While the pandemic may have a temporarily debilitating impact on the Indian economy at par with the global situation; it also gives an opportunity for the pharma sector to break the silos and barriers and rethink as well as restrategise its logistics and supply chain of medical supplies during such crisis scenarios. As a supply chain network, there is a lot of learning given the way we have had to manoeuvre business in such emergency situations to cater to the demand. We are hopeful of recovery over the next few months considering that air cargo movements are critical to maintaining the essential supply lines of the economy.

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