Experts Talk

Hiral Chheda, Director, ICPA Health Products Ltd. (ICPA)

The Indian Pharma industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few years and registered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.3 per cent between 2016 and 2020. With an increasing demand for quality healthcare and medicine, the industry has been constantly evolving to meet the growing needs of the population. One of the key factors in this evolution has been the development of a skilled and capable workforce. However, despite the progress made, there are still challenges to be addressed when it comes to improving the quality of manpower in the industry.

Employing approximately 2.7 million people in 2020, the industry is one of the top employers of scientific and technical talent in India, with a large number of professionals holding advanced degrees in fields such as pharmaceuticals, chemistry and biochemistry. However, the industry is highly competitive with many players vying for market share and this has led to a focus on cost-cutting measures, which can sometimes come at the expense of workforce development. In order to ensure that the industry continues to grow and thrive, it is crucial to prioritize the development of a skilled and capable workforce.

A survey conducted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 2020 found that over 50 per cent of Pharma companies identified talent acquisition and retention as a key challenge. In 2020, the average attrition rate in the industry was around 15.9 per cent. This was lower than the previous year's rate of 16.9 per cent, which was attributed to factors such as cost optimization, slowdown in hiring and increased focus on employee retention. The highest attrition rates were observed in the sales and marketing function, followed by research and development, and operations. Additionally, mid-level employees were found to be the most vulnerable to attrition.

There are several strategies that can be implemented to address the shortfall as well as improve the quality of manpower employed. The foremost is investing in training and development programs for employees. This can include both technical training, such as learning about new manufacturing processes and regulatory requirements, as well as soft skills training, such as communication and teamwork.

In addition to training programs, it is also important to foster a culture of continuous learning and development within the industry. This can be achieved through initiatives including mentorship programs and encouraging employees to pursue additional education and certifications. There is also a need for up-skilling and reskilling of the existing workforce to meet the changing demands of the industry. According to a recent report, up to 65 per cent of the Indian Pharma workforce will require reskilling by 2025 to remain relevant in the changing industry landscape.

Another important strategy is to attract and retain top talent within the industry. This can be done through a variety of initiatives, including offering competitive compensation and benefits packages, providing opportunities for career growth and advancement and creating a positive work environment that values employee well-being. Also, there is a need to introduce a strong regulatory framework to govern the industry to ensure that it operates in a safe and ethical manner and which, in turn can help attract and retain high-quality talent. Improving the quality of manpower in the Pharma industry is crucial for its continued growth and success. Incremental steps taken in the right direction can ensure that the industry remains at the forefront of innovation and continues to meet the growing healthcare needs of the population.

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