In an interview to CRN India, Suketu Shah, MD, Soham ERP, a software pioneer catering to the pharmaceutical industry with expertise over three decades says the Pharma companies are realizing the need to focus more on their core business to expedite drug development in the new normal. The last 12-18 months have also been a wake-up call for them to accelerate their digital transformation journeys and improve supply chain efficiencies
How is the Indian pharma industry looking at technology modernization?
The role of India’s pharmaceutical industry, as the largest provider of generic drugs globally, is well-known. Per an IBEF report, India ranks 3rd volume of global pharmaceutical production and ranks 14th by value. Our domestic pharmaceutical market is nearly US$ 42 billion in 2021. It is expected to grow to US$ 65 billion by 2024 and further rise to around US$ 120-130 billion by 2030. To sustain and further expand market momentum, Indian pharmaceutical companies are taking a technology-first approach to business. All new upcoming pharma manufacturing plants are developed to adhere to WHO, USFDA, and PICS standards. And from an IT perspective, we are seeing more and more pharmaceutical companies deploy cloud and other technologies like artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), robotic process automation (RPA) etc to modernize supply chain processes, extract better insights from data, perform modelling/simulations faster and accelerate drug development as well as time to market.
Is the consumption/pay-as-you-use model of IT services picking up in the Pharma industry?
Pharma companies are realizing the need to focus more on their core business, given the dynamic nature of the industry and the need to expedite drug development in the new normal. The last 12-18 months have also been a wake-up call for the Indian pharma companies to accelerate their digital transformation journeys and improve supply chain efficiencies. As a result, they are increasingly preferring cloud-based modernization programs to take advantage of the latest modern technologies in a ‘pay-as-you-use’ model.
Are you seeing increased adoption of automation and emerging technologies in the pharma sector?
Indeed. Extending Industry 4.0 to the pharma industry, what I like to refer to as Pharma 4.0, is enabling pharma companies to use modern technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Cognitive Science, AI/ML, blockchain and RPA in unison, with cloud as the foundation. This is helping pharma companies accelerate production while minimizing mistakes and errors, offering radical improvements in distribution and supply chain management.
Given the importance of data in our industry, pharma companies have started integrating all the data from multiple sources to get a single view, along with integration with machines on the shop floor – this is resulting in faster business decisions.
Can you talk about the journey of Soham? Tell us about your own transformation journey in the cloud era.
We have a proven track record of over three decades in helping pharmaceutical companies modernize their business with technology. From day one, we have focused on helping our customers increase their operational efficiencies, improve processes and lower costs. Over the years, we have developed an end-to-end suite of business applications that a pharma company needs. We built these in close collaboration with some of the top pharma companies in India, so the capabilities are tightly aligned to our customers’ business priorities and needs. Today, we work with 700 plus pharmaceutical companies across the country. We are helping these companies future-proof their business in a cloud-first world.
How are you helping your customers deal with challenges brought about by the pandemic? Can you share examples of customer names and specific details on how you helped them?
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have focused on supporting our customers with uninterrupted service for all their technology needs, given our customers belong to the ‘essential services’ category by virtue of being in the medicine manufacturing and distribution business. Firstly, to ensure our customers don’t face any disruptions in services, we quickly empowered all our employees with the latest, secure connectivity tools so they can remotely support customers real-time, so each customer had a single point of contact. We assured them of 24×7 services during the lockdown to keep customers stress-free at least from a software support standpoint.
I want to share one specific example. We implemented the complete ERP at Bright LifeCare (branded as HealthKart), at all of its locations pan India, while both the teams where working from home. This was a challenging but a very satisfying experience for us, and the customer was very appreciative of our commitment and support.
Why did you select Oracle as your preferred cloud infrastructure provider?
Over the years, we have used different databases, but none came close to the capabilities Oracle offers, so we decided to use the world’s best database from Oracle. We assessed a number of local and hyper-scale cloud providers. But in the end, we chose Oracle’s secure, next-generation cloud infrastructure for its robustness, breadth of capabilities, extreme performance and superior cloud economics. Our already good, long-standing relationship with Oracle helped make the entire cloud migration process smooth and seamless, with Oracle Consulting as our implementation partner. By running our cloud-based ERP application on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), we achieved 30% improvement in application performance, leading to faster process execution, while also reducing costs by 40% vis-à-vis the previous IT setup.
How is your innovation roadmap shaping up? What are your business expansion plans?
We are in the midst of developing an innovative document management system (DMS) as an extension of one of our flagship offerings – PharmaCloud – using Oracle Apex. A large number of existing customers have already shown an intent to use this offering almost immediately post-launch. We are also working on a number of other innovations that can help us expand our business in India as well as venture into international markets faster.