Pharma Recruitment Trends 2018

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The recruitment industry are witnessing a rise in demand for pharma professionals from R&D, Regulatory, Quality and OTC backgrounds

If there is one sector in India hallmarked by its volatile nature, we could safely say it is pharma. Hardly a day goes by when the pharma industry commands attention — for price caps on products, USFDA approvals (and denials of the same in some cases), fate of the generic industry, etc… At the same time, there is definite cause to cheer from the same industry, particularly for those seeking to make a career here. A recent LinkedIn report suggested that in keeping with GoI Vision 2020 that seeks to help the country become a leader in end-to-end discovery and innovation, pharma companies are opening their doors to people from R&D backgrounds as well as regulatory with their focus firmly on research and innovation. A similar growth is being anticipated in the biosimilars vertical.

Now, add to this happy mix the predictions announced during a Pharma Summit organised at IIHMR University in Jaipur last year where experts from the industry as well as educationists predicted that the sector had the potential to create 58,000 additional job opportunities by the year 2025, and the silver lining is plain for all to see. Already, we in the recruitment industry are witnessing a rise in demand for professionals from R&D, Regulatory, Quality and OTC backgrounds. Primarily, recent recruitment trends in the pharma industry include:

Pharma-OTC gets a leg up with FMCG hiring

A definite trend in the pharma sector is the increased concentration of OTC portfolios. As companies in the sector strengthen their OTC arm, high performers in the field of sales, marketing and especially new product development and R&D are being sought by MNCs as well as Indian companies. We see increased stress on companies seeking talent in the above mentioned fields, where earlier the demand was largely for sales and marketing talent.

Companies are keen to add R&D to their portfolios because of the obvious cost benefits associated and of course with the current rules governing the pharma market with an added stress on price control. Pharma companies are giving us requirements like Marketing, Medico Marketing, Quality (Training, Internal Audit, Data Integrity, QC, etc), Engineering, EHS, Business Technology, Manufacturing (Production, Operations and Tech services and Project) in the last one year.

Also, marketing concepts of OTC are more in line with FMCG than pharma which is prescription-based and is mostly governed by key opinion leaders (KOLs). Hence, FMCG candidates are most sought after by OTC companies due to their Marketing concepts and expertise. In fact, even the high performers from FMCG background in sales and marketing are very interested in opportunities in the Pharma OTC sector.

India’s biosimilars edge

Even as the biosimilar space grows and evolves in the US, it is comparatively well-established in India. According to the Generics and Biosimilars Initiative (GaBI), the first “similar biologic” was approved and marketed in India in 2000 — some 15 years before the U.S. approved its first biosimilar. India also has a much more mature biosimilar manufacturing ecosystem and regulatory environment than most other parts of the world. As such, the country can provide valuable lessons about what it takes to establish a thriving biosimilar market in terms of accessibility, competition, regulatory strategy, and other facets.

Biosimilar drugs are identical copy of highly complex biologic drugs that claim to have the same efficacy as that off the innovator’s version. Already, we can see a surge in recruitments in the biosimilar space, with companies like Biocon, Mylan, DRl, Pfizer, Lupin, Aurobindo, etc are hiring more in Manufacturing, Process Improvement and R&D aspects of Biosimilars.

CRO gives pharma recruitments a boost

The impetus on biosimilars has had a positive effect on CRO hirings as well. In a previous write-up for this publication, I had emphasized how with the stress on Make In India is helping the CRO industry due to a positive regulatory environment, an easy-to-navigate approval process and of course more and more clinical trials taking place in India. Naturally, this development has positively impacted recruitments in the field. There is a heightened demand of Bio-tech experts and those with in-depth R&D skills, especially in fields of complex molecules like cardio-diabetic, oncology and respiratory.

An interesting outcome while talking to hiring managers is that professionals with in-depth knowledge from R&D and regulatory backgrounds are being preferred, as are those who possess the ability to visualize and work on future needs of the field. Perhaps in keeping with this stress on knowledge and experience, we are seeing more and more senior vintage RAQA professionals moving into consulting professions.

More women needed

Increasingly, industry experts are calling out to balance the remarkable gender gap that exists in the pharma industry. During the Pharma summit last year it was mentioned that employability of women existed currently at 28.28 percent in the pharma sector against a projected target of 38.67 percent. This gap has to be breached at a priority.