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HR issues could trip pharmaceutical sector in India


Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) recently conducted national conclave on ‘Human Resource Management in Pharmaceutical Industry: Challenges and Future Directions’ in Mumbai. The Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), the umbrella body representing mostly MNC pharma companies, actively supported this initiative to analyses the importance of human resources (HR) in a start-up, budding or a well-established pharma company.

Talent acquisition, employee retention and management are some of the important topics which experts at the conclave discussed in the context of what more can be done to improve the organisation. These days employee retention is a big challenge because job-hopping is a common trend, which employees adopt for quick growth in terms of money and designation.

S D Gupta, Director, IIHMR said, “By introducing courses such as Hospital and Pharma Management, IIHMR strives to resolve this issue of talent crunch by producing well-qualified students capable of making a real difference in the field of pharma, by preparing them for the corporate roles.

Aditi Kare Panandikar, Managing Director, Indoco Remedies said, “Indian pharma companies have a great future. At home we have a market growing at 15 per cent, while internationally our companies have an opportunity to supply to the world. As Indian companies ramp-up to get their share of this growth, availability and retention of skilled manpower will remain the single largest factor which will determine our success in the years to come.”

Ajit Dangi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Danssen Consulting highlighted, “In spite of having over thousand pharmacy colleges in the country and over twice the number in management, recruitment for pharma companies continues to be a challenging task. It is estimated that less than one third of the graduates coming out of such institutes are `employment ready ` and have to be retrained.”

Dangi further stressed on the gender equality factor in the pharma sector and said that today there are a number of women graduates in science and management. HR Policies therefore have to make conscious efforts to promote gender equality within the organization. Unfortunately, barring few exceptions that too in promoter owned companies, one finds very few ladies in the board room of pharma companies. We have to learn from sectors like banking, FMCG (and off course politics ) etc. which have produced some outstanding lady CEOs.”

It has been predicted that by the year 2015, the Indian pharma industry would be the third largest all over the world with an output of $20 billion. R&D is the core function of pharma companies and requires high-skilled employees to deliver that. With the dawn of the product patent era in India from January 1, 2005, focus now shifts on ‘Research and Development’ for the pharma companies to survive in the global market. We can no longer rely on generic drugs and innovation is the need of the hour in the pharma industry. India falls short of highly qualified individuals suited to perform these functions.

An organization growth is dependent on the strength of its employees. The first step in developing a strong employee base in an organization starts with identifying and recruiting the correct human resources. An organization must have an eye to pick the right candidates from the market, sift out the less-than-optimum candidates, based on qualification, technical and soft skills. These criteria will greatly reduce the time gap between screening and appointment. However, it does not end there. The ongoing goals for human resources are talent development, employee retention and conflict management. These form the core of human resource development.

Gupta further said, “Human resources must not be selected using ‘one approach fits all companies’ formula. An ideal mix of technical and managerial skills specific for each role makes for a good candidate able to do justice to his role in an organization. And our course of pharma management prepares the students just for that.”

The role of IIHMR is not confined to provision of education. “We work at state as well as national level. We strive to build attitude towards accepting evidenced-based and not hunch-based policies. We at IIHMR also organize workshops on policy formulation,” added Gupta.

The attrition rate in the pharma industry is 20 per cent as per Gupta. This can be reduced by providing a positive atmosphere to its employees in terms of supportive culture, training programmes, a policy in place for conflict management and adequate ‘rewards and recognition’ programme is crucial to employee retention, which in turn, contributes to the company’s growth. As per reports, this year’s salary hike will be the highest for the Indian pharma industry, with a projection of 13.3 per cent hike. With this in mind, it becomes the responsibility of an organization of creating proper slabs for salary hikes for its deserving human resources.

Talking about his vision for India for the year 2020, Gupta says, “Only 35 per cent of India’s population can avail of the benefits of healthcare. Our goal for year 2020 is making good quality medicines available to the Indian public at low cost. And this is only possible for when there is highly talented manpower capable of drug R&D. And providing an education capable of producing such students is the first step in doing so and the goal of IIHMR too.”

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