Shaunak J Dave, Asian Market Director, Optel Vision in an interaction with Viveka Roychowdhury, talks about Optel Vision’s focus for the Indian pharma market
What has been Optel Vision’s experience in the Indian pharmaceutical sector? Are companies up to date with global norms and trends?
Since last 27 years, Optel Vision has been serving the global pharmaceutical industry with its vision inspection systems and global track and trace solutions for pharma packaging lines. The core business objective is to enhance patient safety, to increase product, packaging line and supply chain integrity and to combat against global counterfeit. Optel Vision had limited number of installations in Asia – Pacific region erstwhile (prior to 2011). For our Founder Group President, Louis Roy, India had always been an attractive market to explore.
India, being a global manufacturing hub for generics (contributing 20 per cent of global generics business) along with a big number of US FDA/ MHRA approved plants, double digit industry growth and a large pool of skilled engineers, is our key preferred market in the Asia Pacific region. We believe that the Indian pharma market has a huge potential, which is largely volume-driven, focused on cost competitiveness and backed by ‘make it happen’ attitude of highly skilled people.
Being a North American company, coming to India was a big challenge. The key challenge was to change the perception of Indian customers in terms of affordability, acceptability and meeting India-specific requirements (which are truly global, as India exports to more than 200 countries). Optel Vision adopted an India-specific business model and created a service network in more than 13 cities which is backed by highly skilled, customer-centric support team. This was the reason for our exponential growth in India.
How are Indian pharma companies coping with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) deadline of November 27, 2017?
What we have observed that global multinational companies who have their plants in India, are fully aware and well structured to meet the DSCSA requirement. One of the reason being that their global serialisation team has been working on this project for the last 10 years. They have enough experience and knowledge about track and trace regulations. They have a separate team to manage this compliance across their global plants. So, obviously, those plants have been working to comply the same for many years now. The big Indian multinational companies started working on track and trace a few years ago to meet the export regulations. They have implemented the solutions and are now well aware about the challenges in deployment. They have also realised that the apparently easy looking project is highly complex and it takes a long time for successful deployment. The approach has also changed from product to solution. It will not be an easy task to meet the November 2017 deadline as their customers are also asking for aggregation data (which is not a requirement of the 2017 deadline).
How is Optel Vision partnering with pharma companies in India to meet these deadlines?
Since 2012, Optel Vision has been working with Indian pharma companies to assist them in meeting global compliances including Turkey, India, China, Brazil, Korea, DSCSA and EU FMD. Our business model is consultative, educative and offers a total solution. I must admit that we had some challenges in changing the mindset of Indian industry about track and trace. It is imperative to recognise that serialisation and aggregation is much more than just simply printing barcodes. If you do not deploy the right solution with the right approach at the right time, meeting the compliance will be a tough task. Selection of inappropriate aggregation solution may significantly reduce packaging line efficiency. Initially, Optel Vision had started working with global MNCs in India but later on, a number of Indian companies selected Optel Vision as their solution partner because they realised that they need a long-term stable partner who knows the global scenario, has the capability to meet present and future regulations, understands uniqueness of packaging lines and Indian-specific challenges and can build highly reliable and customised solutions backed by a dedicated programme management team.
Being a cost-competitive global generics hub, Indian manufacturers were initially reluctant to invest highly in packaging lines unless they see the impact on productivity and process quality. Serialisation is deemed as non-value added activity, just to meet compliance only. Companies should not underestimate the compliance risks and evaluate vendor on TCO (total cost of ownership) rather than initial capital investment.
What is the progress on Optel Vision’s operations in India?
I am glad to share that we are now the number one company (valuewise, quality and brand perception) in pharma vision and track and trace segment in India, in just five years. Though this is just a mile stone, not the destination. In line with our corporate mission (Growth, Profit and People), we want to expand our reach to medium and small companies by offering an affordable solution, without compromising on the quality. We are in business, so basic expectation is to have profitable operations. However, everyone at Optel Vision works for a larger mission – to enhance patient safety and to combat against global counterfeit.
We are inaugurating our fourth manufacturing site in the world, in India, having 42,000 sq feet facility under the kind patronage of Laxmikant Yashwant Parsekar, Chief Minister, Goa.
How big a team does Optel Vision have in India? What are the plans to expand this headcount?
As of now, we have a team of approximately 45 members in the country and we feel confident that India operations will be a significant contributor to Optel group diversification and sustainable global expansion plans.