India emerged as one of the world’s largest COVID vaccine exporters in 2020/21. Extensive production with intensive development of “made-in-India” vaccine products enable rapid growth for the nation’s pharma industry as it prepares to become the leader in the post-pandemic world.
As of May 2021, India supplied cumulatively 69 million vaccines to 71 countries. The country pledged to export 1 billion COVID vaccines to the COVAX program by December 2022. After a halt in exports due to a surge in COVID cases from April to September 2021, government officials announced that the country would resume its vaccine exports to developing nations in the last quarter of 2021. The country aims to export 8 million vaccine shots by the end of October.
Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, was a major driver behind India’s export resumption. The manufacturer managed to produce more doses of Covid-19 shots than the government’s most optimistic forecast. Currently, SII delivers around 150-200 million Covishield shots per month to its government. Covishield is a version of the UK-based AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Bharat Biotech, another major producer of Indian vaccines, is also producing domestically developed Covaxin Covid shots.
India aims to produce its own mRNA-based Covid vaccine – a breakthrough that would help ease the global vaccine shortage crisis – by the end of 2021. India’s first mRNA vaccine candidate, known as HGCO19, comes from the lab of Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. Chief Executive Sanjay Singh claimed that their vaccine candidate could be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, making it more manageable for distribution to low- and middle-income countries, where ideal logistics and storage are limited.
The “Pharmacy of the World”
From a modest 5% contribution to the global medicine landscape in 1969, medicine ‘made in India’ has taken up 80% of the global pie by 2020. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is now ranked third globally in volume and 14th in value. In 2020, the industry directly contributed to the GDP by 1.5%, and 3% indirectly.
Considered as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, India is the largest distributor of generic medicine, with a 20% share of the global market. The drugs and pharmaceuticals sector has attracted a total FDI inflow of US$17.99 billion from April 2000 to March 2021. Drug and pharmaceutical exports reached US$24.4 billion in FY21 (Fiscal year 21, 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021), with a remarkable YoY growth of 17.9%. Between FY16 and FY21, pharma exports have grown at a CAGR of 7.6%.
The US is India’s key market with a 30.4% share of the total exports, followed by the UK, South Africa, Russia, and Brazil with less than a 5% share each. Meanwhile, India accounts for 40% of the generic pharmaceutical drug demand in the US, and 25% of all medicines in the UK. There remains a largely untapped market for India in Japan, China, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and other African countries. Domestically, the market is dominated by the native pharma companies making up roughly 80.5% of the market.
India also boasts strong capabilities and capacities for vaccines production. The nation supplies more than 50% of the global demand for different types of vaccines. Indian vaccine producers cumulatively could manufacture 8.2 billion vaccine doses on an annual basis. Regardless, the vaccines market was significantly under-penetrated in 2019 with a then-estimation of US$250 million in value. In crisis come opportunities. As governments globally include vaccines as a key item of their agendas, India has a US$11 billion global COVID vaccine market opportunity to tap on, according to a recent report from the CARE Rating Agency. A report released by Kearney in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) also hailed the future of the Indian vaccine market with a forecasted value growth from US$2 to US$4 billion by 2026.
India also found opportunities in biosimilars production. The nation manufactured US$500 to US$600 million in the $12 billion biosimilars market in 2020, with its strongest player – Biocon, among the top 10 global players by revenue. The global market for biosimilars is expected to reach US$35.7 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 24.7%, making it a more-than-attractive field for the Indian pharma sector.
India’s healthcare and pharma sector set an ambitious target to reach US$130 billion in market size by 2030 from US$42 billion in 2020. The COVID pandemic, though posing many challenges, has brought about multiple opportunities for the industry and helped accelerate its ambition. With strengthened government support and investment flows in R&D and Infrastructure, India has a great potential to become the actual pharmacy of the world.