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Pharma, biotech the new draw for overseas Indians

Madhumathi D.S. Anjali Prayag

Madhumathi D.S.

Anjali Prayag

Bangalore , Aug. 27

YOU could say it's the Return of the Native-Part II. If it was information technology that started bringing overseas Indian professionals back home in recent years, the mantle now passes to biotechnology and pharma companies, the country's other internationally visible sectors.

Indian professors, scientists and industry employees from abroad, mostly the US, are apparently sending feelers and CVs by the droves to biotech and pharma majors. Biocon, Dr Reddy's, Orchid Pharmaceuticals are just a few of these companies, which have had to handle a new group of job aspirants in recent times.

"I have been getting a lot of such queries from overseas, with at least 1-2 of them a day mailing me their CVs and saying they want to come back to India," says Dr Nirupa Bareja, Group Head-HR, Biocon Ltd. "In fact, it became so much that I had to recently move to a different email ID."

For the Rs 500-crore-plus Biocon, rated India's no. 1 biotech company and the torchbearer for its industry, this is also the time that when it is hiring 600 new employees. Half of them are already in its fold and the rest will be in to be in by the end of March 2005. The headcount will then rise to be 1,700 - the largest single biotech pool in the country.

Dr Bareja, a PhD in marine biology, says one of the job seekers is a 50-year-old professor at Oxford who has nearly 100 papers to his credit and is guiding 11 scholars. "While we do not have any age bar in our organisation, we do not know where to place people like him. We have made a couple of senior level placements. Our worry is that those wanting to shift from academics would have difficulties as Biocon's research is product-based and business oriented."

"Biocon has been attracting a lot of people from the US," says Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD of the 25-year-old company.

According to Dr Bareja, the company has taken in a couple of senior level overseas Indians, and one such professional from the US will start be starting work in September.

According to Mr Saurabh Rastogi, Senior Consultant, Hewitt Associates, the reasons for the return are many: globalising salaries within the industry, narrowing to 15-20 per cent compared to the pay in the US, and the generally improved pay packages.

An executive from a Hyderabad-based pharma major says it is also due to an improved research atmosphere and infrastructure, besides the urge to come home to one's roots.

For Biocon, it is the Kiran brand that is at work, says Dr Bareja.

A scientist at a Chennai-based pharma company says part of the phenomenon is due to the pleasant returning experience that IT professionals have had in the last couple of years, though in their case, it was because of the rash of pink slips post-2001.

Large companies like Biocon also routinely hire their R&D staff from the IITs and Mumbai's University Institute of Chemical Technology (formerly UDCT). They also have several interns from Harvard, National University of Singapore, and virtually from all over the world.

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