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Opinion How Switzerland can benefit from a growing Indian pharma sector

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(Keystone / Rafiq Maqbool)

The life sciences industry is of enormous importance for the economies of both India and Switzerland. That said, there are certain differences in their strategies. 

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India is a price competitive market. It hosts global players like Dr. Reddy’s, Aurobindo, Biocon or Sun Pharma whose strength is in complex generics and biosimilars. Swiss multinational companies like Novartis, Roche and others focus on research and development of new medicines instead.    

There also some similarities. For example, the approach to foreign direct investment promotion is very similar in India and in Switzerland. Both countries run outreach activities through their network of embassies and consulates on a national level. The cantons and states, respectively, support these national activities and reach out to international companies in a more targeted way.   

Anke Hollnagel is Director Asia of the Basel Area.Swiss Investment Council.

(Stefan Schmidlin Fotografie)

Both countries also have their own pharma hotspots. The Genome Valley in the city of Hyderabad in Southern India has established itself as a centre for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in the country. The focus is on the areas of agri-biotech, clinical research management (CRM), biopharma, vaccine manufacturing, regulations and testing, and other related areas.   

In Basel, pharma giants Roche and Novartis have made a home for themselves. There are also more than 700 life sciences companies, including many promising startups and more than 1,000 research groups in the Basel region. The area is a thriving place for innovative companies and startups and it has maintained its place as Switzerland’s top life sciences cluster.   

How did this happen? It all started with the textile and dye industry more than a  hundred years ago. Out of that the chemical industry evolved, followed by the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and now, the Basel area is building a hub for the future of healthcare with a digital health and personalised healthcare cluster.   

It is an exciting time for pharma companies in India as well. The life science industry is witnessing a major transformation owing to demographic, regulatory and technological changes. With a record 140 million households expected to enter the middle-class segment in the next decade, consumption of healthcare services is set to increase. Complex generics and biosimilars will be the key growth drivers. In addition, digitalisation of the industry has in turn changed the health landscape. Established Indian players like Dr. Reddy’s, which has a strong presence in Basel, have witnessed double-digit growth for several years in a row.   

This transformation in India is also visible in Switzerland in the form of the interest the Basel area is receiving from Indian companies. There are numerous Indian companies in the areas of IoT (internet of things), AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning who are exploring Basel to sell their services to the healthcare and life sciences industry. So, even though there has not been a significant change in the number of Indian companies doing business in the Basel area, the profile of the companies is changing and this is expected to pick up in the coming years as the Indian market matures.   

This is why Basel is focusing on India in 2019 and 2020. We will be present at BioAsiaexternal link (Asia’s largest life sciences fair. Switzerland is the country partner this year ) in Hyderabad this year (February 17-19, 2020) with the aim of promoting the region as a business location for Indian pharma companies.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. 

Opinion series

swissinfo.ch publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.

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