Express Pharma

We plan to continue expanding our footprints in India, including producing quality excipients and introducing new products

Dr Vijay Ahire, Head, Pharma Business Unit at JRS Pharma, India, speaks on his company's growth trajectory, major milestones, plans for this decade, business plans for India market and more, in an exclusive interaction with Express Pharma

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What were the major milestones that steered Rettenmaier India i.e. JRS Pharma India into the company it is today?

JRS Pharma India is a wholly owned subsidiary of JRS Pharma, GMBH & Co.KG. Rettenmaier India Private Limited was incorporated in 2009, under the leadership of Rohit Raut (Managing Director), to drive its pharma excipients business in India.

Founded in 1878, the JRS Group has over 143 plus years of experience in the excipients domain. With seven R&D centres, 50 plus production facilities, 32 sales offices, a strong technical support team and an award-winning customer service team, we offer our customers the most cost-effective and quick time-to-market solutions. JRS Pharma has the broadest array of excipients in the marketplace, with a wide portfolio of high functionality quality excipients designed for the global pharma and nutritional industry. Our technical expertise imparts excellent support to our customers and addresses their needs and formulation challenges.

With the addition of a new production facility – Plant IV at JRS-GMW in Gujarat, India, we are market leaders to produce high-quality microcrystalline cellulose in India. Plant IV at JRS-GMW, Gujarat is a completely automated, state-of-the-art facility, which has been modelled on the international manufacturing plants of JRS Group. We also produce super-disintegrants VIVASOL and EXPLOTAB at JRS-GMW Gujarat Plant II. All the production facilities are EXCiPACT certified and have all the regulatory certifications in place to support global regulatory filings. We have our sales and marketing office in Thane and a 120,000 plus sq. ft. warehouse strategically located near Thane.

What is the vision for JRS for this decade?

As stated above, we have production facilities, a sales and marketing office, and a warehouse in India. JRS India pharma’s business is well supported by the customer care executives and logistics team. We have regional sales and technical teams, that are strategically located near the major pharma hubs of India, to cater to the needs of all major pharma industries. We plan to continue expanding our footprints in India, including producing quality excipients and introducing new products. We are also looking at expansion of our current production capacities and facilities. Our Make in India – for India and for the world approach will help us grow significantly.

What is the unique selling proposition of the company over its competitors?

We are the ideal partner in India for excipients for both domestic and export formulations. We believe in making quality excipients in India, for the world market. We, at JRS Pharma, understand the value of research and development activities and extend our constant support to the customer with our technical advice and suggestions regarding the choice of the right JRS excipient for the right application, for the timely development of the end product. Our managers are constantly involved in technical discussions with the formulators. We help formulators with excipient samples for their formulation trials. We are known for our quick response to sample requests and quick delivery of samples. In addition, we have introduced many innovative products to the pharmaceutical industry over the years. We have successfully scaled up our innovations to the commercial scale with consistency, and without compromising on quality. We believe that our emphasis on developing a technical bonding with formulators and our problem-solving approach, rather than product selling approach, makes the JRS Pharma Team unique. We consider ourselves partners in the R&D activities of the pharma industry. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic time was a testing time for everyone.

What was your experience during the pandemic? How did JRS Pharma manage this challenging phase?

Excipients are an important and crucial part of the pharma industry. Although excipients may be called ‘inactive ingredients’, they play an active and important role in transforming active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), often in powder or liquid forms, into stable, palatable, bio-available, and easy to administer pharmaceutically acceptable dosage forms. Without these inactive ingredients, we will be unable to render the API effective, efficacious, and stable. It is the excipients that make the API capable of being mass produced, such that they reach millions of users and help humanity in treating ailments and diseases.

During the pandemic, the healthcare industry worked relentlessly to find solutions for the symptomatic treatment of COVID-19- associated disease conditions including working on the development of vaccines, reinvention of old drugs for new indications, increasing the production of essential drugs, or inventing new drugs. For enabling research and development and commercial production of essential drugs the need for both the APIs and excipients to covert those APIs into the dosage forms increased. The excipient fraternity worked relentlessly to make sure that the materials were available to the pharmaceutical industry such that they could run the manufacturing operations continuously and serve the country during pandemic times. The excipient industry was recognised as an essential service along with other healthcare partners. JRS Pharma was very much a part of this fraternity. Our supply chain team and warehouse team worked 24×7 to make sure that the excipients were dispatched on time. We, at JRS Pharma, maintained sufficient stock of imported excipients to avoid the zero stock situations.

Our ‘Made in India’ approach also helped us to cater to the domestic requirements of quality excipients such as EMCOCEL, VIVASOL and EXPLOTAB. We received lots of appreciation and accolades from our partners for our timely investment and rollout of Made in India products. We were awarded by many pharma majors as a ‘trusted partner’ during the pandemic phase.

What has been JRS’s experience in the Indian market so far? Where does India and emerging markets feature in JRS Pharma’s plans?

As you know, India is considered as ‘Pharmacy of the World’. Indian pharma industries focus not only on R&D and generic product development but also on innovation. Their focus on mass production and exports all over the world makes them one of the most vibrant and fastest growing industries. Globally, India ranks third in terms of pharma production by volume and 14th by value. The Indian pharma sector supplies over 50 per cent of the global demand for vaccines, 40 per cent of the generic demand for the US and 25 per cent of all medicines for the UK. There are more than 3,000 drug companies and ~10,500 manufacturing units in India. Indian pharma market (IPM) is expected to grow 3x in the next decade. The India market is a major focus for JRS Pharma, as we offer a wide range of excipients for the pharma industries. Our Make in India – for India and for the world approach will help us in making a significant contribution to the growth story of the Indian pharma industry. We are focused and optimistic, and are working diligently to increase our market share in the India excipient business.

What are the current challenges faced by the excipient industry in general and JRS Pharma in particular?

The whole world is facing a challenging situation since 2020, first with the COVID-19 pandemic and now with the geographical conflict between Ukraine and Russia. We experienced tensions in the world order due to three factors – change, plurality and scarcity. All these factors, combined, give rise to a lot of challenges, including challenges in shipping materials from plants and making them available in the necessary quantities and at the right price to the user in time. The drifting of a single ship lead to the blockage of the entire Suez Canal and the whole sea shipping route went for a toss. The repercussions of this blockade lasted for months which made people realise the importance of supply chain management. The current war in the EU and the war-like situation in SEA, are making matters worse. The increasing cost of raw materials used in the production of excipients, and increasing energy costs are leading to an increased conversion cost. Increasing packaging material costs including PE, HDPE, LDPE and even wooden pallets is posing to be a problem. Although the materials may be ready, the unpredictability in truck availability for transport from the plant to the port, irregularities in the availability of containers, train connections, and even truck drivers have drastically increased the shipping cost.

How are you managing this dynamic situation?

All excipient manufacturers are treading on a tight rope walk today, where we are continuously trying to keep a fine balance by managing timely material availability at increased costs, or by absorbing the maximum possible cost increase, or by working at minimum margins, or passing on the increased costs to the end user when there is no further scope of adjustments.

At JRS Pharma, we are trying our best to maintain this balance to serve the industry. Our Make in India – for India and for the world approach is helping us in maintaining the supplies of local products. The Government of India’s production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes and sound local partnerships to produce quality products are also assisting us. We are proactively maintaining inventory by importing material. As lead times are high and unpredictable, this requires meticulous planning. The situation today is very dynamic and evolving fast. Everyone is trying to look into the crystal ball to predict the future but currently, the crystal ball itself is cloudy and mucky.

The pharma industry should understand that the excipient industry is a key partner in helping them to sail through difficult times. The excipient industry is also facing challenges in terms of cost of RM, KSM, packaging material, shipping cost, freight cost and many other factors that are beyond our control.

As we are celebrating the 75th year of independence with AZADI KA AMRIT MAHOSTAV in 2022, IPM came a long way from being dependent on imports of excipients and medicines to becoming the Pharmacy of the World. The excipient industry also worked with the pharma industry to achieve this milestone. We are constantly supporting our partners and we are looking forward to having the full support of the industry to get through these unprecedented times by working together as a team.

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