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Nandita Vijayasimha, Bengaluru February 21 , 2024
WalkWater Talent Advisors foresees a huge demand and supply gap for leadership talent in the India’s active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) industry as the manufacturing function has seen a high talent churn, ageing leadership and increased compensation.
As a global hub for API manufacturing, India’s market size in 2022 was US$ 12.59 billion which is expected to touch US$ 18.76 billion by 2028. Over 500 different APIs are manufactured here. The API industry continues to see robust action in the leadership hiring space, stated WalkWater in its latest survey titled ‘India’s API industry manufacturing leadership talent’.
Noting the growing antagonism between the West and China which drove global pharma to source from countries other than China, the WalkWater report highlighted India’s emergence as the alternate source of bulk drugs. In 2020, with the onset of the Covid pandemic, the Union government approved Rs. 6,940 crore for a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to spur domestic manufacturing of key starting materials (KSMs)/drug intermediaries (DIs), and APIs.
Rahul Shah, co-founder & director, WalkWater Talent Advisors, said that this is a first-of-its-kind survey from WalkWater. India is the third largest API producer shows the immense potential of this sector. While demand for senior leadership talent continues to grow, their availability is increasingly becoming less which is an issue.
The reason for our study of this sector was because of its strong market and we have been engaged in acquiring talent for this industry. There is consistency in growth, considerable investments, consolidation of operations and government investments that is fueling the promise of development. Also from the point of view of its market size and talent acquisition, led us to take a deeper dive into the sector. We already had access to talent data to view Indian API industry in a broader dimension. Moreover its attrition is 40 percent which means four out of the senior leadership talent have opted for change in the last three years and this is a significant number, Shah told Pharmabiz.
With these key findings our next step would be to look at talent management in a holistic manner. We would also work to address the lack of diversity in talent across leadership levels in the manufacturing functions which is one of the startling findings of our study across 51 different companies. Industry leaders and key opinion persons can use this report as a key starting point for discussion to have a more inclusive approach to talent growth, added Shah.
India’s 3 API emerging geographic talent clusters are Andhra Pradesh + Telangana, followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat which account for over 82% of the available leadership talent in manufacturing.
Even as pharmacy qualification is mandated, the WalkWater report indicates that going by the technical nature of the manufacturing roles in API, 95% of the leadership talent pool are chemical engineers and chemistry graduates with 41% of this talent pool being full time masters/doctorates. Here Prakash HS, vice president, pharma & lifesciences, WalkWater Talent Advisors, noted that pharmacy qualification is very much relevant. But specifically API is completely chemistry-driven sector. There is need for considerable knowledge and expertise in chemistry for API operations. Therefore graduates in chemistry are hired at an entry level and elevated to mid- and leadership roles eventually.
More often M Pharm in pharmaceutical chemistry specialisations choose formulation manufacture. This makes API segment a clear and distinct area of operations, he added.
There is considerable encouragement for API manufacture from the government too. We are seeing both greenfield and brownfield expansion which creates needs for additional workforce, added Prakash.

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