Future of Pharma Staffing Post COVID-19 | Mr. Ahmedali N | Mentor | Cornucopia – V5 Global | A Unit of FirstMeridian Business Services

AhmedaliWhile the pandemic did create several opportunities for business growth, it also pushed the pharmaceutical industry to address the gaps regarding outdated technologies and processes.

There were disruptions in the supply chain and the import of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and companies had to ramp up operations quickly. The increasing demand compelled companies to transform operations, introducing more digitisation and automation in day-to-day practices.

Looking down the road, the changes adopted by the sector will remain. Automation and digitisation have proved successful, resulting in a better return on investment (ROI) in other sectors. The pharma sector has also begun to experience the benefits of the same.

The growth trajectory firmly points upwards. The need for supplying essential pharmaceuticals during the COVID-19 pandemic has left a positive impact on the market and is expected to drive the market.

According to the EY-FICCI report titled ‘Indian Pharmaceutical Industry 2021’, the industry will reach $130 billion by 2030. India holds 12% of all global manufacturing sites catering to the US market.

The Government of India recently relaxed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms in the pharma sector, allowing up to 100% investments under the automatic route permitting the manufacturing of medical devices under certain conditions.

The move furnishes the industry with more funds, allowing companies to update technologies and enhance manufacturing capabilities. However, this also requires the industry to realign its workforce to cope with the new technology and practices.

Current Staffing Landscape in Pharma Industry

The difference in hiring in the pharma sector is typically linked to a clash of old vs new cultures and the changing nature of the expectations from external stakeholders. Pharma companies have both blue-collar and white-collar employees. They typically operate across different models and are involved in manufacturing, R&D, field sales and more.

The recurrent waves of COVID-19 have created challenges for training and maintaining quality and continuity of operations. The current focus is on ensuring that the sector has the required qualified people with specific skill-sets to optimise manufacturing.

Pharmaceutical companies have started to broaden their perspective and adopt contract staffing just as IT and Telecom industries have. However, the challenge is the differentiation between permanent and temporary staff, employee relations, and employee engagement.

Like most industries, given the COVID-19 situation, the pharma industry also adopted a hybrid work model. The sector has seen nearly a 30% rise in year-on-year hiring since January 2021 under the hybrid model, under which they must be present in the office for only a certain number of days.

About 40% of the staff will stick to traditional working in the office to execute strategic processes. R&D units are operating with 50% staff. And considering the current pace of development and R&D, the industry needs a higher level of skilled talent across pharmaceuticals and IT and cybersecurity.

However, the challenge is to find the right skill sets and fast. Managed Services and Contract Staffing can help address this challenge. Engaging contract or temporary staffing will allow the industry to ramp up its workforce rapidly. It allows companies the flexibility to temporarily increase their workforce and optimise business planning.


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic effect, India’s pharmaceutical and vaccine market has the great potential to transform over the next decade. With the rapid introduction of generic drugs and few amendments in policymaking, the government and industry must play a crucial role in realising this transformation in reality.