Outsourcing of research to India is not a new phenomenon. In fact, India, with its oft-praised, technically proficient, low-cost talent pool has today come to be known as a high quality research and development powerhouse in the engineering, technology (IT and telecom) and life sciences spaces. But the latter has really come into prominence in recent times.
Contract research encompasses fields such as pharmaceutical research, bio-informatics, data management, site management organization and pre-clinical toxicology. The outlook for this sector is extremely positive with companies expected to pour a lot more money into getting product research development (and even manufacturing) done in Indian labs, by Indian analysts supported by Indian Infrastructure.
Global corporations have increased their spending on R&D, setting cash registers ringing in the $5.7 billion Indian Pharmaceutical sector. Clinical trials remain the main focus area, but research in new drug discovery also constitutes a sizeable chunk of the outsourced work.
However, from the point of view of a Pharmaceutical / biotech firm, research is a painstaking task. It is also a rather expensive process. R&D takes up a lot of time and needs constant monitoring. It makes more sense for organizations to hand over this aspect of the business to experts who are well equipped with the necessary knowledge.
Knowledge, infrastructure and technology and more importantly, who can deliver on time. The key driver for a pharmaceutical company to choose a research destination is speed, but obviously not at the cost of quality.
From a pharmaceutical companyâ€™s point of view, the most expensive bit is the part which needs to be repeated. Therefore, for India to become a preferred destination for research it will have to prove that its quality standards are equal to or better than the West. India does offer all the other benefits of highly skilled and motivated scientists, availability of patients, and above all, savings in cost. However, these do not have much value without the GCP trained staff and ability to generate quality data.
But there is a new sense of buoyant optimism in the air as the industry grows. Indian contract research and manufacturing firms have been entering tie-ups with international players to boost confidence in local capabilities. Indian CRO (contract research organizations) will also grow at 30-50% for the next 10 years. In the face of such riches coming this way, several small and mid-sized CRO have been benefiting from the outsourcing trend.
Challenge for CRO is to keep the momentum going. Sources feel that a lot of investment needs to be put into training of the team, infrastructure and systems of the CRO. It is also felt that the CRO should focus on certain strengths and become masters at it rather than claiming to do everything. Quality of work should be the focus rather than cost, size and the range of offerings for sustained growth. If this is achieved, growth will be virtually unstoppable in contract research.
But with Indian companies confident that they will be able to put together the skills and resources to meet tomorrowâ€™s demand, manpower needs will be a thing of the past. The need of the hour is for Indian companies and the government to work together and utilize the potential that this extremely lucrative industry offers.