Indian pharma companies have been building a broader presence in LatAm markets over the past two decades. With well-established trade relations already in place, the region offers a series of unique opportunities that have led India to become its fifth-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals and attracted widespread Indian investments in local manufacturing and as well as in the creation of regional sales offices.
There is still a greater potential for the Indian pharma sector to strengthen their visibility and expand exports to this region
Udaya Bhaskar, Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India
An Expanding Footprint
Beyond the contribution to global supply chains as the world’s third largest maker of drugs by volume after the United States and China, Indian pharma is expanding its footprint and investments around the world.
“As the fifth largest economy, our presence across the world is steadily growing. Transformation in manufacturing, infrastructure, innovation and startup culture within India are game changers,” said Indian external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at an India-Latin America business event as part of a pan-LatAm tour earlier this year.
Latin America is a particularly attractive region, with its rapidly growing healthcare industry and a pharma market that is expected to grow at nine percent per year through 2028. In addition, India has been building its trade relationships with Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) for some time via platforms such as the India Business Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean; the India-LAC Conclave, the India-CELAC Forum; the India-System of Integration in Central America (SICA), and India-CARICOM Dialogues. The country has also established a preferential trade agreement with the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the South American trade bloc grouping Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Consequently, Indian pharma companies have been increasingly focusing on the region and in 2019 the nation exported USD 1.3 billion in healthcare products to Latin America, including finished pharmaceuticals, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), and vaccines.
According to the Indian pharma portal Pharmabiz, India is the fifth-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals to Latin America with the biggest markets being Brazil (USD 317 million), Peru (USD 128 million), Chile (USD 123 million) and Mexico (USD 114 million), as per the figures released by the commerce ministry of India.
Apart from exports, Indian pharmaceutical companies are also investing in the region with some 25 companies creating a physical presence there through local manufacturing facilities or sales offices. Indian pharma companies have 14 manufacturing plants in the Latin American region, with most of them situated in Brazil and Mexico.
“Indian pharmaceutical companies have been exporting APIs and finished formulations to Latin America for more than three decades. Recently most of the big pharmaceutical companies from India have established a local presence through regional offices in most of these lesser regulated markets, with lower entry barriers,” said Sameer Kolhe, president of Mumbai-based Maypharm Lifesciences, as reported by Pharmabiz.
Benefits for the Region
Latin America also stands to benefit from the Indian investments coming its way. “India’s economic activity is deeply important for Latin America and the Caribbean. As the region grapples with the wide-ranging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and other global economic fallout, the expansion of Indian trade and investment with the region could certainly boost regional economic prospects,” said Foreign Policy Research Centre Asia and Latin America Program Director Margaret Myers and Program Associate Steven Holmes in a March interview.
Indeed, local governments and regulators seem to have taken an interest in India. The country has garnered the largest number of manufacturing site approvals from Brazil’s drug regulator, the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA).
The possibilities for Indian pharma in LatAm remain wide open. “India’s pharma exports to the LAC region have grown from USD 869.96 million in FY-2017 to USD 1707.67 million in FY-2022, registering a compound annual growth rate of 14.5 percent, said Udaya Bhaskar, director general of the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil). “However, there is still a greater potential for the Indian pharma sector to strengthen their visibility and expand exports to this region.”