High time to strengthen storage and supply chain logistics: J. B. Chowhan

  1. Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld, spoke to J. B. Chowhan, Founder & Chairman, Vardhman Health Specialities Pvt. Ltd., to know more about the current trends and opportunities in Indian logistics and supply chain management.
  2. How has the pandemic accelerated the opportunities for pharma and healthcare companies?
    The pandemic has reiterated the importance of vaccine development and administration more than ever before. As the entire healthcare system was forced to be highly responsive and enable the supply of medicines across geographies, manage patient and doctor safety and handle multiple new Central and State Government restrictions, it required companies to quickly understand and navigate the complex system effectively. Companies have also realized the need to make supply chains leaner and invest in stronger storage infrastructure. The emphasis on minimization of cost and timely deliveries as well as a reduction in inventory buffers has exposed the fragility and importance of logistics management at the same time. All of this means pharma and healthcare companies are now paying more attention to strengthening their storage and supply chain logistics more than ever before.

  1. Current trends in the Indian Logistics and Supply Chain sector
    Growth in the cold supply chain sector has increased from 8-10% prior to Covid0-19 to 12-15% right now and is expected to accelerate further. Right now, healthcare constitutes about 3% of cold storage and this is expected to increase to 6%. With the Government’s COVID immunization drive, pharma will be a key driver for growth in cold supply chain management over the next few years. The supply chain industry made a remarkable contribution throughout the lockdown in keeping the supply of essential items functional and the obstacles and challenges faced has been a good learning.

  1. You work with some of the biggest pharma companies to support them with their marketing and distribution in India; can you tell us a little more about the model and how it works?
  2. Vardhman Health Specialties (VHS Group) was founded in 1988 and has since emerged as a leading specialty pharmaceutical distribution company. We diversified into Super Specialty Cold Chain Supply of Biologics or Biosimilar products in 1998. Vardhman Health Specialties (VHS Group) pioneered the distribution of specialty pharmaceutical products, primarily used in therapies such as Oncology, Nephrology, Hepatology, Virology, Cardiology and Neurology, among others. VHS Group is the 1st & only Company in India to acquire the prestigious GSDP (Goods Storage and Distribution Practice) certification accredited by WHO.
  3. Our storage infrastructure and technology, consignment movements and delivery to customers are 100% tested and safe and maintained at designated temperatures for best drug efficacy. VHS Group is present in 18 locations across India with State-of the-Art Infrastructure set-up to handle life-saving Super Specialty Pharmaceuticals. Vaccine manufacturing companies transport vaccine in a refrigerated truck to the airport. After that, the vaccine will be kept in ice-packed thermocol boxes in the air cargo and transferred to the designated medical depots. From there, the vaccines are taken to state and district stores and then to primary & community healthcare centers. This entire process is validated & audited as per WHO Standards of GSDP every year.

  1. The pandemic has presented new and expanded opportunities for pharma and healthcare companies. What has been your experience in the last year and what are the opportunities you see ?

We have further strengthened our capacity for storing vaccines at the required temperature set by the manufacturing companies. The role of the supply chain is to ensure effective vaccine storage, handling, and stock management; rigorous temperature control in the cold chain; and maintenance of adequate logistics management information systems. If the logistics is well-managed, it can help save on costs and ensuring efficiency without sacrificing the quality of service delivery.

  1. Opportunities and plans for the future?
    Our primary focus is to establish robust connectivity and network system pan India for pharma and healthcare logistics. The Group plans to invest about 40-50 Cr overall, out of which 25-30 Cr will be for land acquisition, to set up a state-of-the-art Cold Supply Chain Warehouse in Karnataka.

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