“Indian biotech sector is yet to unleash its true potential”

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From a lesser known company to an established player, the BioHouse Solutions has slowly transformed itself to come off as not just a technology and bio-chemicals distributor but a manufacturer too. In an exclusive interaction with BioVoice, Mr Rupinder Singh, Chief Executive Officer, BioHouse gave details about the company’s progress and plans besides an overview of the industry’s growth in last one decade. Read the excerpts below:


BV_icon_final How do you look at the Indian biotech and biosupplier industry scenario in last one decade?

My understanding about the whole biotech story in last one decade is that we started with great promises but were unable to retain the steam. While the recent statistics on industry point out towards 7-9 percent CAGR growth which may be a feel good factor but we need to be asking whether that is enough?

We have achieved few milestones but we could have done much better. I feel that we as a nation with huge human resources, have not done worthwhile in this sector. There are many areas such as nutraceuticals, agriculture where biotech has huge role to play. I feel the Indian biotech it yet to unleash its true enormous potential.

Government and industry both must be increasingly participatory in their roles. Our personal survey is that 70 percent of biotech wealth in India is held by few top companies.  It should percolate down. The mid-sized companies and new startups must expand. That needs a sustained policy encouragement.

The 90 percent of the revenue goes out of the country. If that would have remained here, we could have done more research. If you walk down the corridors of government institutes, IITs or a big hospital like Medanta Medicity corridors, all the research related or diagnostic products are made available through imports. We don’t have capability to make high end instruments but we could have tried to improve. The question is: Are we doing something on that count?

BV_icon_final So, what you make out of Make India? Isn’t this a step towards indigenous manufacturing?

The government is focusing on translational research but funding strains are surely an issue. There is a $100 billion industry opportunity but equally enormous are the challenges that stare at us.

The funding has been strained and thus business got shrunk too. The industry has been sluggish on new innovations since last 2 years.

If we reduce quality research in India, our dependability on MNCs will continue and we will remain where we are. While the availability of money has to be more but at the same time, the accountability too needs to be there to ensure good research, better diagnostics, new healthcare avenues.

“Biotech industry is a capital-intensive industry. The government must increase the funding the way it was done for IT. While IT grew leaps and bounds, BT remained low profile.”

BV_icon_final What were your expectations from the budget 2017?

First of all, there is a big requirement for the change in thought process. The policymakers must understand that 1.25 billion people have lot of requirements out of this sector. If we are not putting our act together now, we will remain lagging behind.  Grant of funds and utilization need to be kept at equal importance.

There should be custom duty exemptions for molecular biology reagents and other chemicals required for research. The SEZs where biotech startups are given facilities must be given a boost.

Biotech industry is a capital-intensive industry. The government must increase the funding the way it was done for IT. While IT grew leaps and bounds, BT remained low profile. That should change. Budget of course has a huge role to play.

BV_icon_finalYou said the BT has been held back. Why do you think so?

It again lies in the thought process. The same must percolate down from leaders. We need people who understand the importance of biotech industry in India. We need the programmes that are participatory, joint ventures with Indian companies are important for knowledge sharing.

To give you an example, the people in customs don’t understand what are peptones, yeast extracts, molecular biology reagents. There is lot of bureaucracy and they can’t differentiate between normal goods and one for research, consumables or food items. Government needs to look into this as we as an industry pay heavy price and feel discouraged.

“The people in customs don’t understand what are peptones, yeast extracts, molecular biology reagents. Government needs to look into this as we as an industry pay heavy price and feel discouraged.”

BV_icon_finalIs the lack of an association among bio-suppliers, a major factor for not being able to put your point across?

This has been a factor. The industry is divided into two kinds of biosuppliers: Indian distributors and top multinationals. They work in competition with each other, in tandem or together.  Unfortunately, the intellectual ability of biosuppliers still remains untapped as an industry.

BV_icon_final How has been the BioHouse Solutions doing as a company?

We started six and half years as a bootstrap company with almost nothing to the level of two million dollars now. Our focus has been on top line, distribution with limited margins. Last two years have seen the transformation into more bottom line driven approach. We want to be the exporters too rather than being just distributor. We work as pan India partners for BioRad, Thermofisher Life Sciences (Cytometry). We have created a new group called Cytomix that will deal with the cell analysis.  BioSure is our brand which has peptone manufacturing and selling in India. We understood this technology as we were already aligned with partners from Europe. We were giving them inputs and realized why not utilize this knowledge for Indian market.

BV_icon_final How is the market competition and have you boosted your presence to tackle it?

Competition is intense if you work as a distributor but when you are a manufacturer with unique set of products, things are different. We have offices in Gurgaon, Delhi, Chandigarh and Hyderabad.  We also have technical teams at Mumbai and Kolkata.

We are moving from research oriented clients to industry due to funding strains that affect their buying power. The patient driven funding areas such as diagnostics are witnessing a lot of attention from our side. We have a balanced portfolio.

BV_icon_finalWhat is the growth percentage for biosupplier sector expected in upcoming fiscal year?

The 10 percent growth is expected. I see the good scope in Make in India provided the relevant people get encouragement to manufacture.  I feel that we need to utilize the Indian brains sitting outside India. If their ideas are being used by MNCs there to sell us the stuff, why can’t we do that here?

BV_icon_final Have you observed any change in the client behavior since last few years? Are they more demanding?

The expectations have indeed changed over the period of time. While the clientele is more receptive but action on ground is not matching enough. The scientists have been patient but had to look for greener pastures due to lack of options.

While the new bio-clusters have been announced, we need to get it off the ground. The top companies putting their units in such places must not be prioritized.