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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru April 07 , 2021
JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) is now working to propel collaborations between Indian and Japanese pharmaceutical and medical device companies. This follows the government of India’s productivity-linked incentive (PLI) scheme which aims to attract global investments.

The two promising sectors that are a catalyst to strengthen strategic ties are pharmaceuticals and healthcare. This Covid-19 pandemic makes it inevitable to promote these sectors. Our endeavor is to attract mid-sized Japanese companies into India particularly when PLI is seen to give a fillip, said Takashi Suzuki, director general, JETRO, Bengaluru.  
India is known for its strengths in active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), generics and vaccines. The share of generic drugs in Japanese pharmaceutical market is around 80% and would continue to grow in the wake of healthcare cost reduction. Therefore, Japan can be seen as a promising export market for Indian pharma, he added.

However, some Indian pharma companies exited from Japan primarily because of consistent fall in drug prices making unviable to remain competitive.

In order to leverage the Japanese generic drugs opportunities, Indian pharma should focus on branding and packaging to garner market presence. They will need to team-up with local players to adhere to concepts that are acceptable to Japanese customers. Yet another challenge is lack of conviction among doctors in Japan to prescribe Indian pharma products. It is here we see acquisitions of either multinational or Japanese pharma brands by Indian companies would enable faster entry. For instance in 2018, Sun Pharma took a cent percent stake in Pola Pharma to strengthen its presence in Japan, he pointed out.

Moreover, Japan is home to the world’s highest ageing population which is creating a huge demand for healthcare and pharma products. Here JETRO expects mid-sized Japanese companies to take advantage of the PLI schemes and collaborate with Indian pharma and medical devices.

In the backdrop of the CPhI Japan virtual event scheduled from April 14-16, JETRO noted that platform would be ideal for companies to ascertain potential opportunities. “As the pandemic phase continues, we would focus on online B2B programme. So far, 32 such B2B meetings were organized in medical device and four Indian companies are shortlisted for an online B2B interaction with the Japanese counterparts. Going forward B2Bs are seen to boost tech-transfers or exports from Japan to India and vice versa, said Suzuki.  

Providing a perspective from a pharma and medical device start-up, Endow Yutaka, director, Japan-India Startup Hub, said JETRO Bengaluru inked an MoU with C-CAMP-Beyond Next Ventures Innovation Hub (CBIH), Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation, Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre and NASSCOM.  

Under CBIH, 370 Indian startups have applied and many have been funded already. There are extensive avenues for innovation particularly using information technology that Bengaluru is globally recognized for, noted Endow.

Under the Japan-India Startup Hub established under a government agreement in 2018, 3 Japanese startups set up offices in Bengaluru. Promising prospects to pursue into developing healthcare software, drug delivery systems, robot technology and medical instruments are seen. In fact use of robots for walking assistance, supporting care takers and other possibilities can also be explored, said Endow.

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