Explore the Pharma Landscape: From Obstacles to Innovation

Explore the Pharma Landscape: From Obstacles to Innovation

Atul Suri, Senior VP & SBU Head, Alembic Pharmaceuticals LTD, 0

Atul Suri, with over three decades of experience, is a Military Veteran and a versatile professional who has excelled in Leadership & Organizational Development, Talent Management, and Corporate Communications. He transitioned to a leadership role in Sales & Marketing in the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry eight years ago. He holds two Masters Degrees in Strategic Studies and Management Studies, including a postgraduate certification in Human Resource Management from XLRI.

In an interaction with Bimlesh Prasad, Correspondent at CEOInsights, Atul shared his views on pharmaceutical industry trends, leadership principles, sustainability challenges, digital technology adoption, and the industry's future role in healthcare innovation and accessibility. Below are the interview excerpts-

Today, pharmaceutical manufacturing is a global industry at the nexus of science, innovation, and technology. It is vital for public health, pioneering cutting-edge treatments. This sector spans discovery, production, and quality control, aiming for superior healthcare. Success demands significant investments in research, tech, and regulations, ensuring worldwide access to safe, effective medications.

Enlighten us about the major trends in the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
The Pharmaceutical industry is an ever-evolving field influenced by a variety of factors, including technological advancements, regulatory changes, market demands, and global health challenges. With patients remaining at core, the industry is often influenced by patient outcome irrespective of the organization’s size. So, any trends that emerge in the industry are related to patient outcomes in a direct or indirect manner. Let us understand today’s patient. I have coined a five ‘Cs’ approach.

I. Consciousness: Today’s patient is far more conscious than ever to look good and feel good. So, establishing a successful pharma setting entails a complete know-how of patient’s behavior and needs.

II. Control: Today's patients are more informed and look forward to taking full control of their health. They want to take responsibility and total control for their health. This is why the industry must have some platforms and invest in the same, wherein patients can take total control of their health in a personalized manner.

III. Convergence: This is a significant trend that has been gaining momentum in pharma in recent years. Convergence refers to the merging or integration of various technologies, disciplines, and approaches within the pharmaceutical sector to improve drug discovery, development, and patient care.

IV. Chronic Focus: Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders pose significant challenges to healthcare systems globally due to their prevalence and the need for continuous treatment and monitoring. Therefore, the branded generic space in the Pharma industry is going to display a huge amount of chronic focus on addressing chronic diseases more effectively, improve patient outcomes, and enhance the quality of life for individuals living with these conditions.

V. Capital: Capital plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry, as it does in any other sector. It enables companies to conduct research, develop new drugs, meet regulatory requirements, manufacture products, market them, and remain competitive in a highly regulated and rapidly evolving field. Access to capital is often a critical factor in a pharmaceutical company's ability to bring innovative treatments to market and sustain its operations.

What is your belief in employing leadership principles and strategies from the military to the corporate world?
Leadership principles, used in both military and corporate realms, underscore the universality of effective leadership. To define leadership succinctly, consider the Triple A approach: 'assuming absolute accountability'.

a) Accountability: In the military, leadership and accountability begin early, with young individuals taking charge of platoons, responsible for their every action. Similarly, corporations should entrust young executives with responsibilities, fostering accountability and enabling them to drive meaningful change.

b) Bifocal Approach: Borrowing from the defense sector, the corporate world can benefit from a bifocal approach. Leaders must manage day-to-day operations while maintaining a vigilant overview of all details. This enables them to respond promptly and efficiently when needed.

c) Professional Dissent: In corporate environments, there's a dearth of professional dissent, often yielding ‘yes-men’. Encouraging individuals to express their
thoughts professionally and promoting critical thinking ensures the organizations growth and cost-effective achievement of common goals.

While parallels exist between military and corporate leadership, it's crucial to acknowledge their distinct challenges and legal considerations when adapting military principles to civilian contexts. Ethical conduct should always guide leadership decisions.

Depict some of the key challenges in pharma industry around sustainability.
Post pandemic the pharmaceutical supply chains, a most important player of the drug supply chain become subjected to many risks which has unnecessarily interrupted the quantity and quality of supply of medicine and their delivery to the accurate place and customers at the expected time. Let’s discover some significant challenges in this area in terms of sustainability-

a) High Resource Consumption: The pharmaceutical manufacturing process requires significant amounts of water, energy, and raw materials. Reducing resource consumption is a challenge, especially when considering the industry's increasing demand for production.

b) Waste Generation: Pharmaceutical manufacturing generates substantial amounts of waste, including hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Proper disposal and minimizing waste generation pose sustainability challenges.

c) Carbon Emissions: The pharmaceutical industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through energy consumption and transportation. Reducing carbon emissions is a pressing issue in the context of climate change.

d) Supply Chain Complexity: Pharmaceutical supply chains are complex, often spanning the globe. Ensuring sustainability throughout the supply chain, including responsible sourcing of raw materials, can be challenging.

e) Regulatory Compliance: Meeting evolving sustainability regulations and standards can be a challenge for pharmaceutical companies. Keeping up with changing environmental and ethical standards is essential.

With continued commitment to innovation, accessibility, and responsible practices, the future holds great promise for the pharmaceutical sector.

How is the pharmaceutical industry leveraging digital technologies and what steps are being taken to enhance supply chain resilience?
When compared with BFSI, the pharma industry’ is taking smaller steps towards digitalization. However, the industry is now increasingly leveraging digital technologies in various aspects of its operations, from research and development to manufacturing and supply chain management, these advancements have become even more critical in recent years, as the industry faces challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for enhanced supply chain resilience.
Steps towards enhancing supply chain resilience:

i. Inventory Optimization: Advanced analytics help in optimizing inventory levels to ensure essential medicines are readily available during disruptions.

ii. Diversification of Suppliers: Companies are diversifying their supplier base to reduce dependency on a single source and mitigate risks associated with disruptions.

iii. Data Sharing and Visibility: Collaborative platforms and technologies are used to share real-time data with suppliers and logistics partners, improving visibility into the supply chain.

iv. Digital Twins: Some pharmaceutical companies are implementing digital twins of their supply chains, allowing them to simulate and optimize operations in a virtual environment.

v. Resilient Sourcing Strategies: Organizations are sourcing critical raw materials and components locally or regionally to reduce exposure to global supply chain disruptions.

vi. Regulatory Flexibility: Regulatory agencies are exploring flexible approaches to streamline approvals and ensure the timely availability of medicines during emergencies.

The Future
Somewhere between numerous hurdles and equal accomplishments the pharmaceutical industry is standing at the forefront of healthcare innovation, playing a pivotal role in improving and extending the quality of human life. It is rapidly reshaping the industry and opening up new possibilities for more effective and tailored treatments. With continued commitment to innovation, accessibility, and responsible practices, the future holds great promise for the pharmaceutical sector as it strives to meet the evolving healthcare needs of a rapidly changing world.