Indian Pharma & More

Good morning, folks! Today, the news is a mix of hope and doom, much like life in quarantine. Read, enjoy, absorb and share…

MAIN STORIES

Indian pharma industry gets Bill Gates stamp of approval

The Indian pharmaceutical industry has pretty much been at the epicentre of this health care crisis. Yesterday it caught the fancy of the news cycle again as Bill Gates made the claim that Indian pharmaceutical industry is capable of being the vaccine producer for the world. Last week, Prime Minister Modi had exuded similar pride in the industry especially bringing out it’s role in reducing prices and the fact that two-thirds of the world’s vaccines for children are made in India.

Is it that easy? One of the biggest struggles for the industry is it’s dependence on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients or API, a core ingredient to manufacture the drugs. As per a report by PWC India, 50% critical APIs are imported and most of them come from China. In a report titled “Reviving India’s API Industry”, PWC India puts forth various short term and long term strategies for better backward integration.

The irony of it: While Bill Gates comments are certainly well meant, they come in the backdrop of some questions on the professionalism of the industry. One just needs to look at the unrealistic timelines from ICMR for a vaccine to coincide with Independence Day on 15th August. Lately, even the latest wonder drug, Itolizumab by Biocon is facing fire for a ridiculously low number of 30 trials, no phase-3 trial and announcement to the press before peer reviewed research results. Some bio-con this is!

Air India facing strong turbulence

Last year, with rumours rife about Air India being under the disinvestment axe, we didn’t think things could get worse for the national carrier. And then corona happened. While Air India continued playing it’s role of the dependable airline in times of crisis with the Vande Bharat Mission, the financial troubles seem to be mounting, leading to a slew of cost cutting measures.

What cost cutting measures? The mildest of those measures include laying off employees working post retirement in extended stints. The board of directors have also approved a compulsory Leave Without Pay (LWP) scheme for it’s 11,000 permanent employees ranging from six months to two years, extendable to five years! For it’s pilots, they have announced a 60% salary cut which is obviously being met with resistance. The crisis seems to have evolved into a class war of sorts in the mammoth organisation with four of the unions locking horns, in a bid to protect their interests in the limited resources.

No cake walk for aviation: “2020 is the worst year in aviation history and airlines are in survival mode”. So said Conrad Clifford, IATA’s regional vice president for Asia Pacific. This came on the heels of IATA forecast that Asia Pacific will be the worst hit region expected to post losses of $29 Billion in 2020. As per the report, India will see air passenger traffic fall by a whopping 49% in 2020 as compared to last year and could lead to 30 lakh job losses in aviation and aligned sectors.

Enemys’ enemy is a friend

With that equation firmly in mind, China seems set to snub US and rest of the world sanctions on Iran. While there was a basic agreement signed in 2016, there are now much louder whispers of a strategic deal between China and Iran. A Mint report states that the two countries have already reached an agreement to start laying the tracks on a 628 kilometres Chabahar-Zahedan line.

Are you jumping this much for a simple rail line? While the details are still much like Chinese whispers, last week The New York Times had details about an 18-page document being worked on. As described by NYT – “The investment and security pact would vastly extend China’s influence in the Middle East, throwing Iran an economic lifeline and creating new flash points with the United States”. On the other hand, The Print believes it’s just an extension of the current situation where most developing economies are anyway highly dependent on China.

What is it to India? Well, the tensions are already beginning to simmer in a haze of we said you said. Recently, the very credible publication The Hindu reported that citing funding delays Iran had dropped India as a partner from the strategic Chabahar rail project, choosing to go about the project on its’ own with help of a $400 Billion strategic partnership with China. Now, Indian foreign ministry has declared the report “speculative” claiming Iran was anyway yet to finalise some of the issues in the project. Diplomacy games are getting thornier.  

IN SNIPPETS

Different hue to Indian real estate industry: Unlike the cautiously upbeat note of the Magic Bricks Prop Index report, Knight Frank India painted a much grimmer picture for the Indian real estate industry in its latest report. Citing a decade low number for the industry in the Jan-June period, it stated that sales plunged 84% in the April-June quarter across the top 8 cities and this is yet another industry in dire need of financial or regulatory intervention from the government.

Investors like the smell of fresh blood: Rossari Biotech, a young specialty chemical company, had it’s bold move of launching it’s IPO in these times by having it subscribed over 79 times. While they have forayed into providing chemicals for various industries, Rossari’s claim to fame lies in being India’s largest manufacturer of textile speciality chemicals.

Data authenticity debate on inflation again: In it’s latest SBI Ecowrap report, the bank has pointed flaws in the methodology of inflation calculation by National Statistics Organisation or NSO. Making use of the “COVID consumption basket” as designed by Harvard economist Alberto Cavallo, in their estimation the real inflation number for June 2020 is around 0.90% higher at 6.98%.

Twitter makes news for the bad reasons in sensitive times: On Wednesday night, bitcoin scammers hacked into many high-profile verified Twitter accounts tweeting out a deal to double bitcoins sent to a specific address. While it lasted for just about an hour, having reached $350 million people, the scammers made about $110,000. Considering how prolific accounts like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Elon Musk were hacked into, the issue is raising serious questions about cyber security of the platform.

Conscience calls in vogue: Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, a collaboration of twelve big oil firms with the likes BP, ExxonMobil, Shell and Saudi Aramco has pledged by 2025 to cut down carbon emission by 13% from 2017 levels.

MARKET PULSE

It was a day when the IT stocks kept the indices pulled up in the green. Infosys with a 9% jump and L&T infotech with an almost 5% increase on the back of strong Q1 results, kept the bulls happy.

WILD CARD

Green is the colour in the times of coronavirus with everyone vouching for nature’s repair and keeping sustainability at the heart of new actions. C40 Cities, an international coalition of urban leaders has thus floated a new concept, 15 minute cities proposing to build infrastructure in such a way that most of the citizens’ needs are met a short walk or bicycle ride away. Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur are the Indian cities part of this initiative.

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