The Indian pharma industry is well positioned to capture much of the $65 billion new business expected to open up globally next year, a new KPMG study reveals.
"The Indian pharma industry is currently worth $6 billion - in a global industry worth $650 billion - and is growing at 10 percent, compared to the global industry rate of seven percent," said John Morris, global head of KPMG's pharmaceuticals practice, commenting on the new study.
"The generics business remains at the heart of everything India does well and so it should, considering that India accounts for 22 percent of the global generics market."
Morris however pointed out that opportunity now exists for India to become so much more than just a generics player and shape up as a developer of new drugs.
Much of the impetus behind India's fresh challenge for a greater share of the global industry is driven by last year's introduction of product patents.
For the previous 25 years, patents were only granted on processes - a decision which saw many MNCs abandon the subcontinent, but which resulted in India becoming a leading player in the market for generic medicines.
The expansion of India's patent system to cover products as well as processes has already started to bring the MNCs back into the fold, the report points out.
There was never much point in Indian manufacturers spending too much on research and development of their own when their new product discoveries could not be patent-protected.
With patent protection in place and foreign investors eagerly eyeing India's wealth of human resources, and its massive domestic market, significant growth opportunities abound for Indian companies.
The patent change regime in 2007-08 would open a huge international market worth $65 billion for the Indian pharma industry, the report said.
Through proactive measures such as public-private partnerships, and encouragement of research and development India could hope to capitalise on the opportunity, feels Sanjay Aggarwal, pharmaceutical sector leader for KPMG in India.
"Multinational companies that have re-entered the market since the new product patent system seek out the domestic industry's skills and infrastructures to boost their research and manufacturing activities in the subcontinent and also open up this vast, virtually untapped market," said Aggarwal.
The KPMG report quotes a leading industry figure to point out that despite recent improvements in the Indian market infrastructure, many people still "talk about India but invest in China".
Much of this is attributed to shortcomings in the current Indian regulatory environment - India still offers no data protection unlike China. There is also the issue of domestic drug pricing.
The report claims that drug prices in the Indian domestic market are the lowest in the world.
"The aims of the Indian industry - and of the government - are ambitious but will require a strong pricing environment if the Indian people are to access the life-saving and innovative medicines they need," the report states.