Digitalisation of the supply chain is the new imperative for the Indian pharma companies. Talk to those in the industry and a range of companies get mentioned as actively engaged in this journey – Cipla, Dr Reddy’s, Lupin, Intas, Glenmark and several other major Indian pharma companies. ‘’In an unpredictable business environment, digitising the supply chain helps as decisions based on data and ideally made available real-time on a dashboard will eliminate scope for human error while ensuring informed decision-making,’’ says Dr Satyanarayana Chava, founder and chief executive officer of Hyderabad-headquartered Laurus Labs.
If digitising the supply chain has become most critical, the ask is really to put in place an end-to-end solution that can help bring in operational efficiency, improve business forecasting, inventory management apart from better demand and supply planning. Having data on each of these components on a digital dashboard becomes critical. With better business forecasting, demand and supply planning can improve. The need for this was always there, even pre-pandemic. But now, as one industry leader, who did not wish to be identified, says, ‘’companies with global reach and a large product mix, have a lot of complexity to deal with and therefore making digitised supply chain crucial for greater operational efficiency. Also, he says, currently, the overall margins are going down (there is also heightened competition in markets abroad – as in the US) and therefore a better fix on the supply chain becomes important as with real-time data, business strategy and planning can be fine-tuned from time to time while at the same time reduce inventory carrying cost.’’ With competition, especially in key markets, like in the US getting intense, he says, ‘’reining in these costs and improving operational efficiency seems the only way out.’’
Kedar Upadhye, president and global CFO at Cipla, sees the digitisation of the supply chain as more than just a business imperative. To him, it is a move that is to take a company well beyond operational efficiency and ensure a crucial component of future-readiness in the business and operations. Cipla, he says, is deeply conscious of the way the pandemic necessitated companies to get all the more agile and responsive and to stay in tune with this business imperative. He says, Cipla has been on, what the company calls, a ‘’reimagination journey that is led by a complete digital transformation of its value chain and across business verticals – from supply chain, manufacturing, R&D, finance, HR and even in customer and stakeholder engagement.’’ One of the important measures to achieve this has been dealt with by acquiring a 21.8 per cent stake in GoApptiv, an end-to-end solution provider, especially focussed on healthcare companies and aimed at digitising the supply chain and to enhance operational efficiency with an apparently better connected backend and frontend.
The heightened interest from pharma companies for digitising their supply chain is a fact corroborated by the IT companies that are leading in this space of providing solutions. Most pharma companies talk of IT companies like Kinaxis, a Canadian major; SAP, another leading player in this space apart from the Dallas, US headquartered o9 Solutions (based out of Bengaluru in India), which has been another company most pharma companies talked about though the interest in digitising the supply chain seems to be an interest not confined to the pharma industry alone, especially in the backdrop of the pandemic. ‘’Digitising the supply chain helps companies be better prepared for sudden shocks and also helps them manage their inventory better and plan more suitably for the demand and supply scenarios and the interest in this is across the board and not just from pharma companies,’’ says Jayaraman K, vice president – industry solutions and sales at o9 Solutions. However, he does feel the challenges and therefore the business imperative for pharma companies could be even more partly because of the fact that the sector has a greater degree of regulation, compliance needs and more linked to global supply chains and to markets abroad.’’
In a bid to cater to the need for pharma companies to stay agile in the current environment, Kinaxis has been pitching for the pace at which it can deliver solutions. In fact, it has also been talking of helping companies facilitate supply chain agility in just about six weeks – all to ensure a confident decision-making in an unpredictable world. In one of the media releases the company says, ‘’the current disruptions are driving companies to evaluate their readiness and resilience to responding to business turbulence… reduce risks brought on by disruptions.’’ How these solutions transform the Indian pharma companies and make them future-ready may now be worth tracking.
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