Sanjeev Dhar was named India manager for Agilent Technologies Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis unit in January, heading one of the company's fastest growing country/business units.
A marketing manager with Agilent since 1996, Dhar previously was national sales manager for Waters India and before that, was a marketing manager for Sico, an India-based distributor of laboratory instrumentation.
Dhar spoke with BioCommerce Week in an e-mail exchange about Agilent's approach to the emerging India market for molecular biology tools.
Last week, India published a draft strategy for biotechnology development in the country. What would this mean to Agilent LSCA if implemented?
The draft policy focuses on using biotechnology as a tool to improve quality of life and position India as hub for all the biotech-related work. The policy focuses on creating infrastructure both in terms of research and development, and government-supported impetus for biotechnology-based economic development.
Sectors like biopharmaceuticals, clinical development services, contract research bioservices, agriculture, genetic engineering, molecular medicine, diagnostics biotechnology, etc. will drive growth for analytical instrumentation.
How do you sell into that?
Agilent has many innovative technologies for the labs doing biotechnology work (e.g., gene expression, proteomics, and bioanalyzers). In addition to this, Agilent has proven technologies for liquid- and gas-phase analysis (LC, GC and MS), which are used by companies in the research, development, and manufacturing of biotechnology-based commercial products.
What are the market opportunities — industrial, healthcare, scientific research?
Both scientific research and production of biotech-based products will see major growth. As per the draft policy, government will be committing substantial financial support to do innovative scientific research at the institutional levels. There will be government-supported infrastructure to stimulate research in the areas of genomics, stem cells, molecular medicine, metabolic engineering, cell biology, etc.
Industry opportunities will be mainly in the area of biopharmaceuticals, bio-agro products, clinical development services, diagnostic biotechnology, bioengineering, bioinformatics, and contract research.
What LSCA products are available in India now and in the short-term future?
We have full range of gas- and liquid-phase products, including mass spectrometry products. Many of the products like bioanalyzers and gene arrays are new to India and Agilent has plans to establish and grow the biological solution business in the country.
Who is buying and what are they buying?
We are successful in both gas- and liquid-phased solutions. Particularly, we have seen high growth in our liquid chromatographs, which are growing well in the pharma industry. We believe our 1100 platform HPLC is one of the most successful HPLC [products] in the India market in terms of our growth and repeat business from major pharma customers.
How is India different as a marketplace than other developing markets? And, is it better?
India is high-growth market due to years of economic reforms and alignment to global trade. India is both a consumer and also an exporter of various products. Due to the availability of high- skilled, low-cost technical labor, India is uniquely positioned to carry out high skill work at a fraction of the costs compared to US and Europe. So India is good place for outsourced work not only in biopharmaceuticals, but also in high skill areas like pharmaceuticals manufacturing, R&D, biotechnology-related work — both for human and plant life. The quality of the jobs done in India is very high compared to most other developing countries in similar cost structure.
Also, having a very large middle class population, there is good potential for global companies to market their produce in India. Additionally, India has strong intellectual property regulations to protect foreign investments and therefore we can expect major investments from global [multinational companies] in India.
Can India be a model for Agilent in China?
Both countries have their own unique strengths and value propositions. What gives each country its unique edge, depends upon the nature of the business activity and the market focus,. So far, India is strong in the service sector and China in hardware manufacturing. We need to wait and see if it changes over a period of time.
Is the new intellectual property legislation just passed by India's parliament helpful to sell LSCA products there?
The old patent regime was process-focused so there was the possibility of doing reverse engineering to copy product. However, India's new patent laws protect both the process and products. This should give multinational companies enough confidence to make major investments in India. We expect markets like pharma, biotechnology, food, flavors and fragrance, to see good growth due to foreign investments. LSCA can benefit from this in the long term. We need to see the response of global companies on a short-term basis, which is too early to comment on as of now.
What do you see as the size of the addressable life sciences market there, and growth rates in percentages?
We do not have accurate market size numbers as of now so it is difficult to comment and we will not be able to comment on growth rate numbers as well.
What is Agilent's go-to-market strategy for life sciences in India?
We currently have direct sales channels and no distributor for our system solutions. We believe this model helps us serve our customers better. We are able to leverage on Agilent's word-class sales and support processes, which help our customers be successful.
How do you manage a market half a globe away?
Agilent India is well aligned to our world class systems and processes, which helps our employees to be effective and serve our customers better. We have a strong IT infrastructure to support our operations. All the Agilent resources, including human resources as well as knowledge capital, are well-connected worldwide through IT.
What is your outlook for the future in India for Agilent?
It is both positive and promising.