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We are transforming business processes for the next phase of growth

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After a stint lasting almost 25 years at Pepsico, Kanish Malik, President  Operations, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, joined Glenmark Pharma in August 2015. He talks about the demands and challenges of his role, corporate plans, other business mechanisms

Before you joined Glenmark Pharma, you had a long innings with PepsiCo. What was your role during your tenure with PepsiCo?

Kanish Malik

I joined PepsiCo in 1989 as a part of the start-up team. Over the years, I had multiple assignments and roles within India and international business of PepsiCo, with the most recent being Vice-President Operations for Power of One (Po1), India Region. Prior to this, I was leading technical operations for North and South Asia business based out of Bangkok, Thailand.

What made you switch from FMCG to the pharma sector? Do you find any similarities between the sectors?

PepsiCo is a great company to work for, where there is never a dull moment and my stint of almost 25 years at PepsiCo was an exciting journey. Having done multiple leadership assignments across India and Asia Pacific Region, there was an urge to do something different while still staying connected to mass consumers. Pharma is another sector where one gets an opportunity to make a difference to the life of people through reliable and quality products and where product safety is paramount. The process rigour that goes behind development and manufacturing of products is non-negotiable.

While every sector has its own nuances, there are subtle similarities between the two sectors. Both are regulated in their own ways by regulatory agencies and, specifically for generics businesses, which are getting commoditised, the lines are blurring on service expectations. Additionally, back-end investments are tied to product development and rigour behind process controls and quality standards is very similar even though some elements may be far more stringent for the pharma sector.

You joined Glenmark in August 2015.  How has the journey been so far?

It has been a very exciting journey so far as we are transforming the business and its processes for the next phase of growth. With Glenn’s vision to move the business from ‘generics only’ to a balanced portfolio, including innovation drugs, adds a very different and exciting dimension to this journey.

In Glenmark, you are overseeing the operations of 17 manufacturing facilities spread across four continents along with the global supply chain. Explain the challenges of this diverse role.

Finding a time slot to get the entire team, across multiple time zones, on the same call is the most challenging part of the job!

On a serious note, given the diversity of cultures, languages etc. one of the challenges of the role is to ensure that communication across teams is simple and sharp with no possibility of misinterpretation. Our markets are very diverse and at different levels of evolution. Hence, as a global function servicing these markets, it is extremely important to fully understand their needs and challenges. Fundamentally, regulations across all geographies to a great extent are similar i.e focussed on patient safety, which our internal processes are totally aligned to deliver. However, each market we service has its own specific need for documentation and lead time. Therefore, our back end supply function needs to be extremely nimble-footed, not only to plan for the future but also to be flexible to respond to changes in regulations or market requirements, if any.

What are the factors obstructing growth of the Indian pharma industry? What are your recommendations to deal with them?

Firstly, from pricing pressures driven by acute competition to enhanced expectations on patient safety – every pharma manufacturer is being tested, not only for the depth of technical understanding of their products but also for quality of infrastructure and robustness of process to ensure that they consistently deliver safe and affordable products to the consumer. Manufacturers are expected to have full control of the supply chain, all the way from sourcing of material to the end-consumer, so that these standards may be adequately implemented. In the interest of patient safety, governing bodies have been adopting clear expectations for risk assessment and quality standards that are process-orientated, rather than just result-orientated. Therefore, solutions that utilise pure mechanisations or simple automations need a second look. Moreover, the challenges of running a complex, 24×7 process have redefined the meaning of ‘self-governance.’

Secondly, service expectation lines are blurring between pharma and other consumer industries, calling for value engineering and supply chain optimisation to enable faster response times. Any slip in meeting these expectations of supply reliability, cost efficiency and regulatory compliance will be detrimental to the industry.

How do you plan to encourage innovations in generics?

In the generics space, business sustainability heavily depends on the ability to provide affordable solutions. Building affordability in a process calls for innovation, demanding continuous focus on productivity and efficiency to stay on the top. It takes a keen eye to find opportunities in the existing processes and a discipline to walk them and deliver quality medicines with affordability built in.

By definition, a generic has to be a copy of an innovation with proof of equivalence. However, any incremental innovation that helps compliance by the patient and makes his/ her life easier is also an area that we continuously look at. As an example, it can be a novel way to drug delivery. Or, it may be making devices ergonomic to add to patient’s convenience etc. Few examples where we have been able to innovate – Digihaler, a device that indicates number of doses left, enabling patients to plan better, pocket nebuliser — a small version of nebuliser which is easy to carry, and many more.

What are your plans for the Indian market and how do you plan to execute it?

Our primary objective has always been to strengthen our base in generics and create a roadmap for the company’s evolution from a generics organisation to a fully integrated, globally commercialised, pharma company with innovative products. Glenmark has focussed on a long-term growth strategy while meeting the short-term growth objectives. As part of  our strategy we have balanced our investment in various R&D projects (innovative and speciality) which have a very long gestation period.

Apart from large investments, innovation demands, focus, persistence, and conviction as the business is fraught with many failures before a tiny drop of success is tasted, but it is the future we must build. At the same time, given the intense competition in generics space, it needs equal share of our focus.

Apart from regular generic business, we have seven novel drugs and three specialty drugs in our research and development pipeline. And with our end-to-end capabilities from R&D to full-scale manufacturing (both in small molecules and novel biologics), we command a strong position in IP leadership and global footprint for rapid market penetration. These intellectual assets are already producing results for us and we expect to launch speciality business in the US with our first FDA NDA approval in respiratory within three to five years.

And on the domestic side, we are one of the fastest growing companies in India pharma market. Particularly in the last few years, we have had strong growth across derma, respiratory and cardio metabolic segments.

Also, recently, we launched four key products in India. We introduced Nourkrin Women under an exclusive licensing agreement with Pharma Medico. Nourkrin Woman is a globally renowned, clinically – proven proteoglycan replacement formula that normalises hair growth cycle in women. Second, Apremilast – the breakthrough oral drug for the management of Psoriasis. Apremilast is a phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitor indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe Psoriasis and it is the first advanced oral systemic treatment for Psoriasis in India. Third, Kwitz, a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) that helps reduce craving to smoke over three months. And, biosimilar of Adalimumab, launched under the brand name ADALY, indicated for the treatment of plaque psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

We presently have eight brands in the top 300 brands in the India pharma market and through innovation, we continue to strengthen our market share. As per IMS, between the period, MAT (Moving Annual Total) December 2016 to MAT December 2017, the cardiac segment market share increased to 4.22 per cent from 3.96 per cent; the respiratory segment market share rose from 4.68 per cent to 4.38per cent; and in the derma segment we have been able to maintain our leadership.

We will continue to focus on these segments and have plans to launch a number of products.

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