The pharma industry is looking to emerging markets for growth

Agarwal Packers and Movers Ltd (APML), a globally recognised logistics company, recently ventured into the pharma logistics segment. Ramesh Agarwal, Chairman, Agarwal Packers and Movers, in an interaction with Sachin Jagdale, reveals more about his company’s growth strategies and future prospects

APML is a well known name for shifting household goods. What prompted you to get into pharma logistics?

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Ramesh Agarwal

In almost three decades, APML has emerged as India’s largest mover of household goods. It has been recognised by Limca Book of Records for four consecutive years, from 2012-2015.

Transport is one sector where no changes in work pattern have been observed. Same old methods have been followed for ages, but with changing lifestyle and technology, we have to keep pace with other sectors. APML has always been ready to accept changes and our R&D team has been highly innovative in estimating the needs of its clients. We, as a logistics partner, ensure that the processes and technologies being implemented adhere to quality assurance standards.

What kind of research did you conduct before venturing into the pharma segment?

A study conducted by BITS –Pilani found out that according to logistics industry standards, approximately three to four per cent of the vehicles breakdown during transit. As a result, goods need to be transhipped in another vehicle. Also, there have been instances where due to pressure of time-bound deliveries, transporters carried pharma or FMCG products, in vehicles which might have been previously used to transport urea or any other hazardous chemicals.

Health hazards may arise when an unaware customer, without the knowledge of how the products have been transhipped, consume these products. The study confirmed that due to the above reasons, products lose their effectiveness.

Hence, zero transhipment during transit ensured that if food, pharma products and FMCG being transported are untouched and unseen then quality assurance yardsticks abided by companies remain intact. Hence, we thought of making ‘Trucking Cube.’

How much do you plan to invest in ‘Trucking Cubes’?

In ‘Trucking Cubes’, we will invest Rs 100 crores in a phased manner in the next three years.

How will you use ‘Trucking Cubes’ in pharma logistics?

At ‘Trucking Cube,’ we have implemented a multi-layered, high-visibility system that combines state-of-the-art cubes with accredited, highly-trained cargo personnel in major cities across India. Our cubes are fitted with Air Circulation System (ACS) which maintains the air temperature in the cubes.

Pharma products have specific temperature requirements. Even the handlers of these products require special training. How have you overcome these challenges?

As mentioned above, all the procedures have been designed to provide shipper confidence in end-to-end shipping process for pharma products. A testament to the success of this multi-layered, high-visibility approach is that customers who started the journey with us as a pilot programme have continued to use ‘Trucking Cube’ for their temperature-controlled shipments.

Have you received any specific inputs from pharma operators?

Both domestic and global pharma companies follow stringent regulations and hygiene while manufacturing and packaging medicines at their respective units, yet sometimes we come across cases where medicines transhipped are not being effective.

“Potency/ virulence/ viability goes down if and when bio – pharma goods are subjected to temperature excursion and ‘Trucking Cube’ will help to resolve supply chain issues. It will go a long way in a country like India, which has different climate and weather conditions,” said Arumugam Muruganandam, Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer, Affigenix, a Bengaluru-based lifesciences company.

Will you be taking care of reverse logistics as well?

At present, we have no plans to do reverse logistics. We will think of it two years from now.

Where do you see your pharma logistics business in the next five years?

Developed countries are considered mature in terms of pharma logistics. For growth, the pharma industry is looking to emerging markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East etc. As these emerging nations have become more affluent, demand is increasing for modern medical treatments and healthcare products. Lifesciences companies who were previously reliant on the developed countries are moving into unfamiliar territories and cultures, and discovering the accompanying supply chain challenges.

The shift in pharma growth, away from the established drivers towards high–potential ‘pharma emerging’ markets, offer tremendous opportunities for pharma manufacturers who face pressures in more mature markets.

In a developing country like ours, I think it will be a challenge due to unstable regulatory environment and less developed logistics infrastructure, but if we are able to innovate and read the necessities beforehand then it can be a smooth ride.

sachin.jagdale@expressindia.com

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