Overview of the Biotech Industry in India
Biotechnology, along with Information Technology, has been dubbed as the sunrise sector of the Indian economy. Defined as the ‘deliberate and controlled handling of living cells or cell components with the aim to manufacture useful products', Biotechnology marries the disciplines of physics, chemistry, and mathematics.
Advances in the biotech sector have revolutionised the traditional industries of fermentation and food processing. It has also resulted in the emergence of a new technology for the industrial production of antibiotics, hormones, enzymes, and waste material processing, among other products.
The biotech industry in India can be divided into five broad categories - Biopharma, Agri-biotech, Bioinformatics, Bioindustrial and Bioservices – with each focusing on a specific area.
Biopharma involves the manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, while Agri-biotech deals with hybrid seeds and transgenic crops, biopesticides and biofertilizers. The field of bioinformatics deals with creation and maintenance of extensive electronic databases on various biological systems. The bioservices market entails clinical trial, contract research and manufacturing activities, while the bioindustrial industry predominantly consists of enzyme manufacturing and marketing companies. These enzymes are used in industries such as detergents, textiles, food, leather, paper and pharmaceuticals.
The end products of the biotech industry find two types of buyers. The first set of buyers includes private hospitals, government and the patients who use the products for diagnostic and treatment purposes. Industries such as pharma companies, which use biotech products as raw materials to come up with new products, form the second set of buyers.
There are more than 350 biotech companies in India employing over 20,000 scientists. The industry is concentrated in the six major cities of Delhi, Mumbai-Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad-Vadodara. The leading biotech companies in India are Biocon, Serum Institute of India, (in the biopharma space); Mahyco Monsanto, Rasi seeds (in the agri-biotech field); Strand Genomics, GVK Biosciences (in the bioinformatics arena); Syngene and Quintiles (in the field of bioservices); and Biocon, and Novozyme (in the bioindustrial space).
Three Indian companies - Serum Institute, Panacea and Biocon have surpassed the Rs. 500 crore turnover mark, and are racing towards the Rs.1000 crore mark.Evolution and growth
Biocon was the first biotech company to be established in India (in 1978). Since then, the industry has shown a steady growth. Having recognized the need to encourage biotechnology, the government of Andhra Pradesh decided to set up biotech parks and offer incentives to biotech companies. The year 2000 marked the development of biotech parks in India with the first such park - ICICI Knowledge Park - coming up in Hyderabad followed by another one (S P Biotech Park) located close by.
Buoyed by the success of these parks, other state governments too followed suit. Presently, there are seven state-supported biotechnology parks across the country, while another 30 are in the pipeline. Encouraged by such industry-friendly measures, the biotechnology segment recorded a steady CAGR of 30 percent between the FY 2002-2007.The fiscal 2007-08 saw a growth of 20 percent with revenues touching 2.56 billion dollars as against 2.1 billion dollars in FY 2006-07. Of the total revenues, the share from exports accounts for over 55 percent.Friendly measures
The announcement of the National Biotechnology Development Strategy last year is expected to further provide a thrust to the growing biotech industry in India. The policy, which was finalized after a two-year nationwide consultation process that involved all the major stakeholders, called for setting up of a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA). The Authority promises to cut down on delays relating to the release of biotech products in the Indian market.
The Indian biotechnology industry is expected to touch revenues of Rs. 30000 crores by the FY 2015-16. It currently holds a two percent share of the global market.Future trends
A vast pool of young, English-speaking technical personnel; strong chemistry foundation; good understanding of regulatory processes; and the definite cost arbitrage advantage will see several biotech MNCs making a beeline for India. New York-headquartered Pall Life Sciences, for instance, has already set up a Center of Excellence in Bangalore.
The entry of foreign biotech companies will in turn fuel the growth of domestic companies. As per industry estimates, by 2010, there will be more than 400 biotech companies in the country with close to 100 biotech products in the market. The total scientists employed in this sector are expected to cross 50,000 in the next couple of years.
Yet another trend would be of mergers and acquisitions, globalization and alliances. The Indian companies have been bullish in expanding their footprint outside the country. The snapping up of a majority stake (70 percent) by Biocon in the German pharma player AxiCorp to get a foothold in the European market is a case in point.
With respect to technology trends, the nanotechnology (working with matter on an ultra-small scale) market is seen to be the next big opportunity in India. To give a boost to this area, the Indian government has earmarked Rs.1500 crores and one would see increasing investment being made by companies in this field.
Stem Cell Therapy is yet another area that could witness huge investments in the future. About 15-20 million people are expected to avail stem cell therapy in India annually. Companies such as the Manipal Group and Virtuous Innovation have already made investments to develop nanotech drugs, related technologies and other products.Job options
Biotechnology has come to be one of the fastest growing sectors as far as employment goes. Biotechnologists can find a job of a research scientist in a government entity, such as a university or a research institute. Alternatively, they can work in specialised biotech firms, such as pharma companies, agriculture and aquaculture companies and food manufacturers in the capacity of quality control officer, science writer, bioinformist, research scientist or production-in-charge.
Some of the major companies that employ biotechnologists in India include Indo-American Hybrid seeds, National Chemical Laboratories, Hindustan Lever Ltd, and National Botanical Institute.
Depending on the company, the starting salary could range from Rs.1.44 lakhs-3.0 lakhs per annum.