Express Pharma

KTR inaugurates Novartis Knowledge City

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The Novartis Knowledge City in Hyderabad is clearly not just a testament to the value proposition offered by the Hyderabad NGSC. It is also a reminder that pharma companies are now willing to go that extra mile to attract and retain the right talent. By Viveka Roychowdhury

Mid December saw the formal inauguration of the Novartis Knowledge City in Hyderabad, a move to consolidate operations from two existing offices in the city’s Mindspace business complex. Spread over nine floors, the new office with an area of 800,000 sq ft houses approximately 3500 associates of the India arm of Novartis Business Services (NBS), a global initiative started in 2014 to drive collaboration, efficiency and productivity gains across Novartis by providing centralised services.

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Novartis Hyderabad is currently the largest of the five Novartis Global Service Centers (NGSCs) of the Novartis Group, the others being at Mexico City, Dublin, Prague, Kuala Lumpur, all of which were set up after Hyderabad. It provides high quality services ranging from information technology, financial reporting and accounting, human resources services, data management, biostatistics, medical communications and scientific support services among others.

Reportedly the largest such facility by a pharma MNC in India, the new location was inaugurated by KT Rama Rao, Minister of Information Technology, Telangana who pointed out that Novartis was the latest in a line up of global corporations which had announced fresh investments into Hyderabad and Telangana. For instance, he mentioned that Google CEO Sundar Pichai had committed to build an over two million sq feet campus in the city which would be Google’s biggest campus outside of the US. Pitching for more investments, he invited Novartis India to shift their manufacturing base to Telengana’s upcoming Pharma City.

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Speaking at the inauguration, Ranjit Shahani, Managing Director, Novartis India, recalled that he started this operation in Mumbai with 17 people way back in 2001. As the outfit grew beyond the capacity of the Mumbai head office, the search for a suitable city led to a long list of 23 cities, which was finally narrowed down to four. Hyderabad finally won over the other contenders (Gurgaon, Chennai and Pune) on parameters ranging from existing infrastructure, availability of a talent pool relevant to the business and space for future growth. “This is not a BPO,” he asserted, “but is much higher up on the totem pole.”

Emmanuel Puginier, Head, Product Lifecycle Services, NBS said that the Hyderabad NGSC has been a success story, and the past years have been an affirmation that Hyderabad was the right choice as it offered them a knowledge base of young smart talent, many of whom had chosen to “grow together” with the organisation over the past many years.

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Naveen Gullapalli who heads the Hyderabad NGSC said, “The project was completed in two and a half years with several leading organisations coming together to deliver this state-of-the-art work environment.”

Home away from home

The Novartis Knowledge City in Hyderabad is clearly not just a testament to the value proposition offered by the Hyderabad NGSC. It is also a reminder that pharma companies are now willing to go that extra mile to attract and retain the right talent. When it comes to creating futuristic work places, the IT industry has led the pack, setting impossibly high benchmarks. For example, the Internet had many articles dedicated to lists of employee perks at Google. Sample this for starters: Googlers can bring their pets to work, besides enjoying gourmet meals and snacks, as well as chefs ready to whip up customised health foods.

The Novartis Knowledge City in Hyderabad does not have a ‘bring your pet to work’ policy (as yet!) but does have quite a few bragging points. With open spaces with ample collaboration zones as well as silent zones (the latter is ideal for actioning 200 emails in one hour, testifies one employee), training and meeting rooms, innovation zones, interview centre, executive centre, the centre also has multi cuisine cafeterias, a crèche, meditation room, medical centre and a health club to help employees with their work-life integration.The facility has also applied for LEED certification as a green facility.

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In fact, would employees feel too comfy to leave for home?! Employees from the Mumbai head office who attended the inauguration were envious of the sheer space and amenities (the cocoon chair in the meditation zone was singled out in particular for wistful looks!) and even commented that maybe staff should actually pay to work here!

The accent on work place ambiance cannot be brushed aside in an industry perpetually hungry for talent. According to Shahani, about 50 per cent of Novartis India’s head count is based at the Novartis Knowledge City and though the company claims that its attrition rate is lower than industry standards, it’s clearly not taking any chances.

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(The author attended the inauguration as a Novartis India invitee)

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