While the economic downturn caused some countries and companies to trim their delegations to 2009 BIO International Convention, India sent its largest group ever to the annual conference.

Many Indian delegates attended a reception hosted by the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce at Emory University‘s Goizueta Business School on the evening of May 18, the day the BIO event kicked off in Atlanta.

The delegation was so large that when they stood to be recognized at the request of GIACC President Ritesh Desai, many of the tables in the packed room were left nearly empty.

The size of the group shows that “India is looking at this whole thing as a big opportunity,”Anjan Das, a senior director for the Confederation of Indian Industry and a member of the delegation, said of the conference.

While the country faces many challenges, like building infrastructure, establishing predictable legal patterns and attracting outside investment, there’s little doubt that India is poised for rapid growth in the biotechnology sector, Mr. Das said. 

Mr. Desai said the Indian biotechnology market is already a $2.8 billion industry, and it’s expected to grow by at least 30 percent next year.

Mr. Das’ organization is so confident of this trend that they went ahead and booked space for next year’s BIO event in Chicago.

India’s growth is a natural “counterbalancing” to the rapid growth of biotechnology in China, said Jagdish Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt professor of marketing at the Goizueta school.

Dr. Sheth, who founded the India, China & America Institute to examine the interplay between the three large economies, said China will be the leading nation in biotech in less than 20 years.  The U.S. is currently dominant, and India will benefit from the development of both.

He said Indian pharmaceutical companies will soon begin incorporating more biotech elements into their operations in order to climb the value chain. 

Thanks to economic reforms in the country and the policy clarity that will come from the newly elected government, Indian companies will also begin making “massive acquisitions” all around the world, taking advantage of devalued assets during the economic downturn.

Japan, with its large market for drugs and well-developed research infrastructure, will lead foreign direct investment in India’s biotech industry.  This represents a larger trend, as Western nations’ share of FDI in Indian biotech will be taken up by Asian nations like Japan and South Korea, Dr. Sheth said.

Dr. Sheth, who also sits on the board of Wipro Ltd., which has a large technology unit, said this could be the biotech century for India, noting that the sector could grow as quickly in the coming years as IT has in the past three decades.

Whatever happens, his ICA Institute is “optimistic” that India and China will have huge roles, he said.

“It looks like both of these nations will become the place where the rest of the world will show up,” he added.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...