Serious talent crunch, attrition rate threaten pharma outsourcing sector

Nandita Vijay, BangaloreThursday, March 3, 2011, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

TeamLease Services Private Ltd, India’s largest human resource management company, is now concerned about the acute shortage of trained professionals in the pharma outsourcing sector. The industry has shown exponential growth over the last five years with many global companies either outsourcing their activities to an independent organization specialized as a Pharma Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) or setting up their captive centres in India.
The talent crunch is huge in contract research work and clinical trials. The shortfall is largely attributed to the high attrition rate and a plethora of job opportunities. Currently there are over 50 pharma KPOs largely concentrated in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore. Among the leading ones are Apollo Health Street, Market Rx and Frost & Sullivan’s KPO division.
“However, considering that there is an average of six lakh such specialized professionals required at any given day in the sector with the necessary soft skills, it is increasingly becoming a challenge to find the right fit in such large numbers,” Sangeeta Lala, vice president, TeamLease Services told Pharmabiz.
“The requirements of odd working hours are not always perceived as a desired option vis-a-vis regular working careers. As a solution to address this situation, KPOs are focusing on various means to attract the right talent. These include turnkey hiring, extensive marketing campaigns and tie-ups with specialized colleges to pick freshers with the right attitude and then train them up to the required job. It is critical that the industry starts developing and nurturing its key talent, because the future will bring more high-end processes into India, with requirements in contract research work and clinical trials,” she added.
Pharma KPO services include basic processes like calling and billing, invoice processing, contract research, data management, business intelligence applications, consulting and financial planning. Outsourcing contracts come to India from across locations like UK, US, Australia which effectively means that work timings are set as per these time zones and employees need to be flexible to this.
Typical recruits in a pharma KPO are professionals qualified in pharmacy, science, biotech, research and analytics; with additional communication skills, English proficient and analytical skills. Graduates from other streams may be hired if they have prior exposure to the pharma or biotech segment. There are of course technical requirement which hire candidates from alternate sectors too. The interview rounds are long and exhaustive, from resume shortlist, technical/ domain testing, personal interviews, voice assessment and Human Resources rounds, stated Lala.
TeamLease Services has been engaged in hiring professionals for the KPO sector for the last few years where it is engaged in recruitment process outsourcing and helping to march employee to employer.
According to industry observers, the pharma sector is growing annually at 15 per cent and is the third largest in the world by volume. It is valued at Rs.90,000 crore or $22.5 billion with exports at around Rs.35,200 crore or $8.8 billion. The industry is at a brisk expansion spree and is witnessing a surge in hiring, but is faced with a talent crunch in the pharma outsourcing sector.