Rise of the Indian Pharma Machinery Industry


I am associated with Pharmalab for the last 48 years and at present am serving in the capacity of Vice President, International Marketing.

We made our humble beginning by manufacturing Hospital Equipment which was the need of the day. We made autoclaves, instrument sterilizers, vacuum ovens, WFI unit etc. Even during that period, our clients were well impressed with the quality and workmanship of our equipment.

Years passed by and we started getting feelers from multinational pharmaceutical companies that they needed quality pharmaceutical equipment as the equipment which they had imported in earlier days aged and became outdated. You may recall, those days foreign exchange was very dear and there were many restrictions on importing any equipment from overseas.

There were practically no manufacturers for pharmaceutical machinery in India those days.

Many Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, May & Baker, Merc Sharp & Dohme, John Wyeth, Hoechst Pharmaceuticals, Searl India, Park Davis etc. started approaching us to develop pharma equipment as per their need. Even though, we did not have all the required technology and engineering manpower to meet the demands, with modest resources we started manufacturing equipment such as semi-automatic filling & capping machines, filter press etc .

Once we manufactured these units, our clients were more than happy as the the quality of these equipment exceeded their expectations. Progressively, we entered into manufacturing of automatic flling , capping and labelling machines for liquid orals.

There was also a big void for sterile injectable equipment in India. Import was the only resort then. Again, our MNC clients started dialogue with us and with their active cooperation we could manufacture washing, filling , plugging, capping and labelling machines.

Slowly the requirement of equipment for manufacturing the product also emerged and over time we have developed manufacturing vessel, membrane filter holders for filtration and sterile filling vessels for storage. From then on, there was no looking back. We went on to manufacturing WFI, PSG, Sterilizers and so on.

In the beginning, only MNCs where ruling the pharma market. Gradually, Indian companies such as Cadila, Ranbaxy, Dr. Reddy’s, Biological Evans, IDPL, Hindustan Antibiotics etc. started producing pharma products in India, exclusively for the Indian market.

Things evolved rapidly and Indian entrepreneurs started exploring avenues for Indian pharma products outside the country. However, it was restricted to under-developed countries because of higher acceptance standards in more developed countries.

During this period, few entrepreneurs ventured into the pharma machinery manufacturing segment, especially for solid preparation which was a huge void in India.

Over time, the pharma machinery sector also started seeing the outside world. Initially, acceptance of our equipment posed serious difficulties in developed countries. However, with quality products and a price point that was hard to match, smaller pharma companies started buying Indian equipment.

High quality equipment from European countries posed a big threat, but many small pharma companies abroad could not afford their prices. Hence Indian companies got their entry and started growing the market.

Initially, pharmaceutical machinery export was limited to very few countries like Russia, Middle East and few African countries. However, for the last decade the export of Indian pharma equipment has grown very fast. The reason for the increased demand was mainly due to government regulation in those countries that mandated in-country manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. To increase opportunities for employment, better utilization of their natural resources, and to preserve foreign exchange, many countries decided to stop import of generic over the counter products. Many local companies started mushrooming and their search for reliable, economically viable, lower automation, easy to operate machines created avenues for Indian manufacturers to export their equipment.

To meet the demand, many consultancy companies started mushrooming, providing turnkey solutions to most of the upcoming pharmaceuticals as they had only a limited knowledge of local regulations & local FDA. These consultants influenced the client to get equipment within their budget from India.

Further, the growth of electronic media also played a big role in promoting pharma equipment. Today, globalization is the name of the game. It has shrunk the world. Anybody who needs whatever equipment can easily go online, do a web search and find good manufacturers from India. This also helped to boost the logistical supply chains.

Today, I am pleased to report that we are exporting to more than 56 countries, out of which 60% business by volume comes from developed countries. It is no mean achievement and we all have reason to cheer for this. The bedrock of this achievement is simply our endurance and perseverance to reach international standards. It is now time to raise the bar and set global quality benchmarks others would do well to follow. That is our aim for the future and I am very excited about this.

Mr. E N Unni
Vice President
Pharmalab India Private Limited


Phone:+91 22 6622 9900

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