Image India’s logistics industry, expected to reach a market size of around $125 billion by next year, is scaling up for the pharmaceutical sector, widely considered as recession-proof.

Industry players said that the pharma sector, valued at $9 billion and growing at 8% every year, is an opportunity waiting to be tapped and that they are reaching out now with temperature-controlled warehouses and other offerings. “We are setting up free trade and warehousing zones of which a major portion will cater to the pharma sector,” said Ajay Mittal, CMD, Arshiya International, a logistics firm.

These will provide duty-free and temperature-controlled storage infrastructure, letting pharma companies to set up mother distribution centres for importing expensive, sensitive and rare products (raw materials, finished products, equipment).

Mr Mittal said the first of these zones are coming up in the western region. Currently, the pharma sector contributes almost 9% of the total turnover of Arshiya, estimated at Rs 257 crore.

Blue Dart’s marketing head Ketan Kulkarni said that his company is planning to strengthen its current offerings to the pharma and CRO (clinical research organisations) sector by providing environmentally protective packaging, movement within a specified temperature range and specialised handling while in transit.

Global logistics major DHL will introduce monitoring and validation services using the latest calibrated temperature control equipment.

A company official said it will also provide detailed test reports providing system compliance for regulatory authorities, a range of temperature controlled packaging solutions for finished goods and clinical trial supplies for pharma companies.

According to a McKinsey study, the Indian logistics industry has the potential to reach $125 billion by 2010. The logistics costs of the industry in packaging, transportation, marketing and cold storage have been growing at a CAGR of 5 to 7% from 2002.

Pharma companies like Lupin believes that supply chain management is very critical to its growth strategies in India. “It becomes more important when you talk about servicing advanced markets like the generic markets in the US and Europe where how quickly you service your clients and trade partners are the critical differentiators over your peers,” said a Lupin spokesperson.

Another branch of the pharma segment, stem cell banking, too is gaining ground in India. Mayur Abhaya, ED of LifeCell, said: “We have tied up with DHL and Blue Dart to transport the sample from anyplace in the country or even from our international operations to our storage facility within 24 hours.”