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Poor logistics and supply chain management (SCM) has been identified as one of the major stumbling blocks in the underperformance of the Jan Aushadhi scheme. The scheme started in November 2008 with the nobel intent of providing low-cost quality generic medicines through a chain of specially set up outlets. However, more than five years later, of the planned 626 stores, only 170 were actually opened and of these, only 98 are actually functional. A major complaint was intermittent supply of medicines.

Pharma companies today cannot afford to ignore logistics and SCM as a strategic differentiator. The impending implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime has already seen logistics players gearing up. Global majors like DHL Global Forwarding, are introducing world class technology like DHL Thermonet, a new temperature controlled air freight product tailored to the life sciences and healthcare sector. Safexpress has recently inaugurated two new logistics parks in Dhule and Jammu. Lisaline Lifescience Technologies which was one of the earliest introducers of Vaccine Vial Monitors (VVM) in India, when VVMs became part of the nation wide polio eradication programme, has plans to introduce new datalogger technologies in the India market.

The sector has also attracted logistics players from different industries, like the five-decade-old BVC Group, which started as customs agents for gems and jewellery and today offers international freight management and customs brokerage services for pharma majors as well as tier II and tier III companies.

As profit margins become slimmer, sea transport could well be a more economical alternative to air for shipments which are not on a tight delivery schedule. Here’s where shipping majors like Maersk Line, which has been in India since 1921, offer a viable option.

It will be interesting to track the trends in pharma logistics over the next few years as suppliers and clients come together to form strategic partnerships.

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