Express Pharma

Pharma supply chain: From fragile to agile

Sharmishtha Niyogi, Supply Chain Director at Merck, sheds light on the pivotal role of advanced technologies, strategic innovation, and resilient strategies in building, agile and resilient supply chains

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The Indian pharma industry is on a solid growth trajectory, surging from $40 billion in 2021 to an estimated $130 billion in 2030, with a steady double-digit CAGR for the next 10 years. In addition to meeting strong domestic demand, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is well poised as a robust contributor to the growing global market. It meets 50 per cent of the global demand for various vaccines, 40 per cent of the generic demand in the US, and 25 per cent of all medicine in the UK. In fact, India is the largest contributor to UNESCO with over a 50-60 per cent share.

Leading pharma players in India have long recognised the significance of superior supply chain and operational efficiency in accomplishing the growth vision and holding a strong position in the domestic and global markets. Post-Covid, in the past couple of years, pharma supply chains have developed into being more agile, transparent, and resilient, utilising advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. This has brought on-demand delivery models to life through a direct-to-patient strategy and B2B eCommerce platforms, ensuring timely dispatch and order fulfillment accuracy, real-time monitoring of trading partners, and integration of the delivery network, to name a few.

They are continuing to invest heavily in the automation of manufacturing and packaging, improving productivity, operational cost efficiency, and labeling accuracy, proactively mitigating potential risks. The focus has shifted from manual and transactional processes to automation and strategic innovation. End-to-end data traceability has become an absolute non-negotiable part of the pharma supply chain strategy, essentially analysing data from across the supply chain through artificial intelligence and big data to meet the rising market demand and be resilient to potential disruptions in demand.

Readiness to grow exponentially comes with the strong necessity to tide through the challenges faced by the industry, in terms of pricing pressures, stricter regulations, steep competition, and climate concerns. Localisation of pharma supply chains and scaling up production through close-to-market manufacturing hubs are proving to be pivotal in accelerating competitive advantage. While we will witness the Indian pharma industry forge through the growth trajectory and reach new heights in the next decade, we will also witness how advanced supply chain and cutting-edge operations will prove to be the single, undisputed differentiator and competitive advantage for the emerging leaders.

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