India's Pharmaceutical Machine Manufacturers: From Imitation to Innovation - Pharmaceutical Technology

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India's Pharmaceutical Machine Manufacturers: From Imitation to Innovation

Pharmaceutical Technology

Marfatia's partner and Electrolab's technical director, Bharat Zaveri, describes the innovation and design needed to achieve the task. "Controlling accurate rpms was the most difficult part of creating the machine. So, we devised the AC motor controller with a feedback system and with that, the rpm was very consistent. Specification back then by the United States was 5 rpm. We were able to create it at 1 rpm."

Rajesh Subramaniam, managing director of Subnil Packaging Machines Ltd., satisfies the industry demand for complete tube-filling packaging lines. Subnil capitalized on this niche by manufacturing a complete packaging solution line that fills, cartons, and bundles tube products. "Now, we are the undisputed market leader in tube packaging machines in India," Subramaniam states.

Newtronic Equipment Company Pvt. Ltd. developed remote monitoring and maintenance for its stability chambers. Stability chambers are essential for determining the half-life of drugs. Director N.M. Mehta explains, "We saw the need for remote monitoring and servicing these chambers from anywhere in the world via the Internet, allowing [users] to communicate with each other from different plants so that various departments in testing facilities can better share data." Newtronic reported spending nearly 20% of their $5 million US turnover on R&D and establishing a new facility to increase production capacity. "We heavily invest in R&D and expansion to meet the demands of our continued growth," Mehta concluded.

Many IPMMs achieve innovation by reverse engineering a process or an existing solution to enhance performance and develop new applications. This technique allows them to gain a competitive advantage over other industry competitors. Dev Ashish Bakshi, joint managing partner of Tapasya Engineering Works Pvt., recalls the development of Tapasya's number one product, the "Saizoner" mixer grinder, "My father was first approached by Procter and Gamble in 1979. They asked if he could manufacture a mixer granulator if they helped with the design. My father agreed, and in a few years the engineering team developed our first Saizoner mixer grinder, which is now number one in Asia and seventh in the world."

Innovation can give a company a competitive advantage. Producing the same quality equipment for much less, however, is the main competitive advantage IPMMs have. Marfatia recalls Electrolab's first export, "After selling to Kadila Pharma, we exported our first dissolution tester. The average price of the imported one was 10,000 Euro. We sold ours for 1000 Euro, including profit."

Consequently, IPMMs carry the stigma of producing "cheap" equipment. Western manufactured equivalents are at least 10 times more expensive. "The price of the whole Indian machine could be equal to just the packaging cost of the European machine. The vast difference in price for similar equipment, in Europe or the United States, is staggering when compared with the lack of difference in the actual quality or functionality," comments an anonymous IPMMA committee member.

Perhaps the saying "you get what you pay for" does not strictly apply when comparing Indian-manufactured machines with Western-manufactured ones. Is there much of a quality difference between Indian and Western machines or are Western prices overinflated? Ipca Laboratories's managing director, Prem Godha, seems to suggest the latter. When asked whether he used Indian-manufactured pharmaceutical machines, Godha commented that 90% of his company's machines were Indian manufactured. "As an API producer, we have seen little or no difference, other than price, between Indian-made machines and their foreign competitors. Besides, we benefit more from using the Indian brands because they are nearby and can provide us with better after-sales support and service."

One can argue that Indian drug manufacturers would be biased in favor of Indian-manufactured machines, rather than foreign machines. An increasing number of foreign pharmaceutical-machine manufacturers also have recognized India's achievements and evolution in the industry.


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