Pharma industry steps up recruitment 5 timesAt a time when global multinational drug makers are slashing their workforces to reduce costs, their Indian counterparts are on a hiring spree.

The top 10 domestic drug companies recruited 200-250 professionals annually over recent years. The number has now gone up almost five times.

Lupin, one of the top five local players and growing at an annual average of 23 per cent in the domestic market for the past four years, has added about 900 sales executives in the eight months, to take its field force to over 3,200 people, said Shakti Chakraborthy, its president, India region formulations. “We aim to strengthen our position in areas such as cardiology, central nervous system, diabetology, anti-asthma, gastro-intestinal and oncology with the addition,” he said.

Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the largest domestic company in sales, is adding 1,300 people across manufacturing, quality and sales and marketing in 2009-10, said a spokesperson. The company recruited 1,500 people in 2008-09.

GlaxoSmithkline Pharmaceuticals, the largest multinational player in India, added 300 people in 2009 to enlarge its sales team to 2,100 people, said Hasit Joshipura, MD. Sources said other MNCs such as Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and MSD Pharma were also recruiting sales people in large numbers to boost business in Indian shores.

The Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM), valued at Rs 55,500 crore in 2008, grew 8.9 per cent in July and 18.3 per cent in June, according to ORG IMS, which tracks sales of drugs in India. A KPMG-CII study estimated that the Indian drug market would grow at over 16 per cent between 2007-2011.

The growth of the global drug market is stagnating. While the US market is forecast to suffer a decline in 2009, the top five European markets would see a meagre 2-3 per cent growth and Japan only 4-5 per cent, according to IMS Health, the global drug sales tracking agency. More than 53,000 jobs have been eliminated in 2009 globally by MNC drug companies, almost double that in 2008. Major cuts have been announced by Eli Lilly (5,500), Pfizer (19,000) and Merck (16,000). On the other hand, “the Indian drug market is poised to grow in double digits and we see huge growth potential from lifestyle diseases and higher healthcare spend in rural areas in future,” said GlaxoSmithkline’s Joshipura.

A KPMG study said the growth will be driven by increased spending on healthcare, increasing penetration of health insurance and changing disease profiles, and positive regulatory changes. Companies are reviewing their sales strategies.

“Healthcare facilities and numerous hospitals are coming up in small cities and rural areas, necessitating drug companies to expand their reach to so far untapped markets. Companies are also focusing on specialised divisions with highly skilled experts to sell products to specialists,” said R B Smarta, founder and managing director of Interlink, a pharmaceutical marketing consulting firm.