India is clearly becoming the “it” destination for pharmaceutical companies’ shared services centers (SSC) – or Global In-House Center (GIC) – organizations. Why do we say this? Because global pharmas with headquarters in the U.S. and Europe employ more than 11,000 FTEs employees in their India-based shared services centers to deliver not only table stakes transactional finance and HR services but also highly complex processes across all stages of drug development, including drug R&D and clinical trials.
What’s India’s appeal? There are four factors.
Established/Mature Location for Global Pharma Services Delivery
India is a time-tested, proven GIC destination for a wide range of industries. Many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies started delivering their global services support operations from India back in early 1990s. Now, pharma majors like AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Novartis are delivering complex, judgment-intensive services such as product R&D, biostatistics, and clinical trials site management from their India GICs. Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore are the preferred locations, housing more than 80 percent of the pharmaceutical GIC talent.
Skilled Talent Pool
Talent availability, at scale, is one of India’s strongest value propositions. In recent years, many pharma companies have been able to successfully scale their delivery teams supporting diverse functions such as R&D, commercials, IT, and finance. For example, a leading pharma GIC houses 2,000+ resources providing IT services for various pharma functions. And multiple other pharma SSCs have scaled teams (400+ resources) that support R&D services, and dedicated resource groups comprised of doctors, PhDs, and biostatisticians, for complex drug R&D processes like development of computational solutions for analyzing clinical trials.
Opportunities for Cross-functional Collaboration
India’s availability of diverse talent profiles at scale allows India-based pharma SSCs to support multiple functions. And because many of them house IT resources with R&D and commercial business teams, they have multiple opportunities to collaborate on and insource IT work for drug R&D (e.g., to build IT platforms for drug development and IT services for lab support), and commercial operations (e.g., IT services for finance.) The value of this collaboration? Tighter integration of functions, better understanding of business requirements, and faster execution.
Mature Market for Digital Services Delivery
Leading India-based pharma GICs are working on digital initiatives including analytics and automation, and some are serving as global automation CoEs for their parent enterprises. Many are developing analytical tools for marketing & sales operations, competitive intelligence, and incentive planning. They are also investing heavily in automating less complex and high-volume transactional processes such as expense management, purchase order creation, offer letter generation, résumé screening, and management reporting, and deploying RPA bots to read files, extract data, and report adverse events. As part of the broader digital agenda, some centers have also started exploring the uses of artificial intelligence/machine learning to recruit patients and select sites for clinical trials, and for channel sequencing and optimization in their enterprise’s sales & marketing function.
Going forward, pharma companies not only expect their India SSCs to grow in scale and expand the scope of their process delivery, but also play a significant role in their digital transformation journeys by leading initiatives across all stages of the product R&D lifecycle. To satisfy these expectations, the GICs need to build deep domain capabilities and acquire or train talent to deliver increasingly complex, higher up the value chain services and next-generation digital initiatives.
To learn more about why pharma companies consider India their preferred service delivery destination, please read our recently published report, “Healthcare and Life Sciences – GICs in India Fast-tracking Enterprises’ Digital Agenda,” or connect directly with the report authors Anish Agarwal, Bharath M, and Rajeshwaran Pagalam.