After becoming an IT bellwether, India is now shifting its focus to the most promising industry of the future, Biotechnology. With its large pool of scientific talent, world-class information technology industry, and vibrant pharmaceutical sector, India is well positioned to emerge as a significant player in the global biotech arena.
Biotechnology is perceived as a revolution throughout the world. Scientists, through Research and Development (R&D), have developed and are continuing to develop cures for diseases that have affected people for decades and even centuries. Scientists recently, have also, clinically developed crops that can withstand the brutalities of weather changes, helping poor farmers of the developing countries to retain their yield and increase their output manifold. Biotech, considered a boon by some, provides great hope to many around the world, and its benefits are and will be realized by more and more people over the years.
On the threshold of this new revolution, numerous companies have sprung up to take a piece of the exponentially growing Biotech market worldwide. The ever-decreasing physical boundaries enable biotech companies from the West to tap large markets around the world.
India to this extent holds a good advantage over many other countries of the world. With its large population of over a billion people there is a huge market for products and services. India's population has a very interesting demography that creates almost a perfect environment for biotech companies to shift bases here. In addition the Indian sub-continent, which occupies only 2.4% of the total global surface area, has the most varied species of flora and fauna. A study shows that, in percentage terms, India has about 7.6% of total mammal species, 12.6% of bird species, 11.7% of fishes and roughly 6.0% of total flowering plants that are present in the world. Biotech companies, by moving to India, can utilize this immense Bio-diversity, can easily find samples and, also conduct field research much more efficiently. Adding to this, India has one of the largest agriculture sectors in the world, and varied climatic zones that can help in research and development of different agri-biotech products applicable worldwide.
India, today, holds a small share of the global biotech market, but has all the capabilities to become a dominant player. The consumption of biotech products in India is expected to quadruple in the next decade. The human and animal segment of the industry alone is growing by at least 20%.
India has a rich human capital, which is the strongest asset for this knowledge-based industry. India has a large English speaking base and, according to Confederation of Indian Industry estimates, produces roughly 2.5 million graduates in IT, engineering and life sciences, about 650,000 postgraduates and nearly 1500 PhDs qualified in biosciences and engineering each year. India has proved its competency in selected areas of biotechnology such as, to name a few: capacity in bioprocess engineering, skills in gene manipulation of microbes and animal cells, capacity in downstream processing and isolation methods, and its competence in recombinant DNA technology of plants and animals. India has also allowed assisted stem cell research that permits researchers to use embryos from fertility clinics upon informed consent of the donors, thus giving it a clear head start in this new and promising field in Biotech. Clearly, India has the strength and capabilities in this industry, and a definite advantage to forge ahead and become the chosen location for many biotech companies looking for large markets and low cost qualified manpower to work in their R&D division.
It is estimated that vaccines, contract research, agriculture and human health sectors comprise as much as two thirds of the total market. It is further estimated that health care products would dominate the Indian biotech market, roughly 40% of the total market by the year 2010 followed by agriculture of about 30%. It is also estimated that contract research and bioinformatics would pick up and account for as much as 25% of the biotech market. An estimation by CII shows that Agri-Biotech would see growth rates of as much as 60%, Diagnostic and Therapeutics of about 25% and Vaccines of about 15%. These figures clearly indicate the prospects of the Biotech industry in India.
Government and State Initiatives
The Government of India realized the potential and benefits of this industry at an early stage and formed the Department of Biotechnology in 1986 that has now become the central agency, responsible for policy, promotion of R&D and for international cooperation and manufacturing activities. Some of the initiatives taken by the Government of India are as follows:
Some useful websites for further information are:
- The Government of India has been increasing its outlays to provide financial support to this industry. Government of India is also setting up a venture capital fund, to support small and medium enterprises.
- Good regulatory framework has been set up for approval of GM crops and rDNA products. Recently, the Government of India decided to make changes to the Drugs & Cosmetics Act to make it more globally compatible.
- Indian Patents Bill recently passed by the Parliament allowing 20-year patent term, inline with provisions made by WTO and TRIPS.
- India has a sound and widely acknowledged framework of bio-safety guidelines to deal with evaluation, monitoring and release of genetically engineered organisms and there are more than 106 institutional bio-safety committees.
- The initiatives taken by both Central government and State governments have given a big boost to the Biotech industry in India. Foreign companies looking for new markets and to expand facilities to much more economical locations can find India ever more open and responsive to their needs.
State Level Initiatives
- Department of Biotechnology: http://dbtindia.nic.in
- Confederation of Indian Industries:
- Government of Andhra Pradesh:
- Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce:
- US-India Business Council: www.usibc.com
Many state governments have also realized the benefits/importance of this industry. State governments namely Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra have begun to formulate their policies, develop R&D centers to encourage and nurture the Biotech industry. Following is a brief outline of some of the initiatives taken by a few state governments:
- Government of Andhra Pradesh, in collaboration with the ICICI Limited, has set up a knowledge Park near Hyderabad.
- Development of 'Genome Valley' and Biotech Park with state-of-the art features.
- The Government has initiated many business friendly policies such as 'Single Window Clearance' mechanism geared to relieve the problem of red tape.
- The Government of Tamil Nadu is facilitating in the setting up of the biotechnology enterprise zones (bio-valleys) along the lines of Silicon Valley to exploit the bio resources of the state.
- Four state-of-the art biotech parks, a bioinformatics and genome center will be established, each of which would be leveraging the bioresources of the agro-ecological zones of Tamil Nadu.
- Has an excellent intellectual infrastructure. Through nearly 1000 institutions, it produces around 163,000 trained technical personnel each year. Some of the best Centers of excellence in India are present in Maharashtra.
- The government is also promoting biotech parks, R&D centers, and pilot plant facilities for underway contract research by putting equity stakes in such projects.
- The Karnataka government has announced a biotech policy to promote this sector and is setting up an institute for bioinformatics in Bangalore
- In addition the state government is also creating a biotechnology fund that will have inflows from the biotech companies. This could be used for incubation of new projects and promotion of the sector in the state.
- Karnataka has planned to launch India's first state sponsored biotechnology venture capital fund to boost their initiatives.
India's Biotech Industry:
- Himachal Pradesh has prepared a blue print for promotion of biotechnology industries in the state which includes setting up of biotechnology parks, conservation and exploitation of bio-resources, intensification of R&D, and promoting biotechnology entrepreneurship through tax concessions and relaxed labor laws.
- It is also proposed to provide research based support to the private companies in form of providing for instance, access to a data base of bio-resources which is being developed along with separate entries of endangered medicinal plants.
- The State government has recently announced 100% tax holidays for all biotechnology products up to the year 2012.
Segment Review: The Indian Biotech industry can be divided into different segments. Following is a review of largest and the fastest growing segments of the Biotech industry in India.
Medical Biotech Segment
The Indian pharmaceutical market is growing very rapidly. According to a study by Mckinsey, Indian Pharma industry is expected to grow to an innovation-led US $25 billion industry by 2010 with a market capitalization of almost US $150 billion from the current US $5 billion generic based drug industry. The vaccine market is expected to grow by roughly 20%. Agri Biotech Segment
- India being the second largest food producer, offers a huge market for biotechnology products, especially agribiotech products.
- India has an excellent scientific infrastructure in agriculture, rich bio-diversity and skilled and low cost human-power.
- In a report by Ernst & Young it is expected that the Nutraceuticals market is roughly US $532- 638 million presently and growing.
- With its 8000 kilometer of coastline including Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshwadeep islands, India has a rich aqua culture and its Marine resource development holds great potential.
- With increasing number of pharmaceutical companies finding it difficult to conduct entire drug discovery process-in-house they are looking for ways to minimize costs. India has become a very attractive base as the cost of infrastructure is relatively lower compared to other nations.
- Foreign companies also benefit from cheaper qualified workforce available in India.
- India produces enough qualified graduates each year thus companies looking to expand their operations can easily do so without facing a shortage in labor.