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Drug firms offering huge salaries

October 11, 2004 08:36 IST

Senior pharmaceutical industry executives have been switching jobs like never before in the last three or four months, a trend that is partly due to a major increase in salary levels in mid-sized drug companies.

At least 15 executives at the level of vice-president and above have moved to other companies.

The list includes Sudarshan Arora, head of new chemical entity research at Lupin, who is believed to be going overseas; Lupin's Chief Financial Officer Indrajeet Banerjee; Ranbaxy Laboratories' head of dosage forms and regional director (Asia Pacific and Latin America) Vinod Dhavan, who recently joined Lupin as president (business development, Latin America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand); Ranbaxy Vice-President (medical and clinical research) Kiran Marthak, who joined GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals in place of S M Chandrashekhar, who in turn moved on.

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Senior Vice-President (biological research) A Lakhdawala had moved out and Swaroop Kumar, who used to work at a US-based company, had taken his position, a Glenmark executive confirmed. Glenmark's head of strategic planning Sameer Baigaonkar has quit.

Strides Arcolab Chief Scientific Officer Suresh Venkatraman joined the company a month or so ago from Zydus Cadilla, where he was vice-president (product development). Industry sources explain the current churn as an outcome of the huge shortage of skills in pharmaceutical research and basic chemistry.

The lack of enough experienced marketing professionals has also contributed to the trend.

While it is an HR nightmare for companies, employees aren't complaining. The churn has led to hefty increases in salaries.

According to a source, a research executive at an Indian pharmaceuticals company with about three years of experience gets close to $100,000 (around Rs 46 lakh) a year, on a par with what European and US companies pay.

"This is the minimum," the source said. The head of research could get close to Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) a year, the source said, adding that salaries have doubled in the last two years.

Another industry source describes the latest round of job hopping as the third wave. In the first phase, multinational pharmaceutical companies abroad hired talent from India.

Then the bigger Indian pharmaceutical companies like Ranbaxy Laboratories and Dr Reddy's lured skilled people overseas to return home and join them.

"Now with mid-sized and small drug makers getting into basic research and embarking on a massive growth path, the smaller companies are poaching talent from the big companies by offering much higher salaries."

Indeed, some mid-sized companies have been hiring expats, reflecting their ability to pay high salaries as expats are paid double of what their Indian counterparts take home.

Paul Moore, an expat who is a former employee of Perrigo, the over $1 billion British pharmaceuticals major, has joined Strides Arcolab as head of manufacturing operations. Joe Thomas has joined Stride Arcolab as president (strategic business) from P&G Singapore.

Says Arun Arora, global CEO of Stride Arcolab: "What attracts talent to our company is primarily multiple opportunities. We have been successful in securing a good number of regulatory approvals and ours is a story well validated."

Rumi Dutta in Mumbai