Making It: Mukul Taparia

Pregna International’s Mukul Taparia talks about representing the pharmaceutical sector on the RHSC’s Executive Committee, about a new Manufacturers Group, and about Making It — an upcoming blog series on manufacturer perspectives on the RH supplies market

The Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) and manufacturers go back a long way. The RHSC’s distinct, focused mandate is to increase access to RH supplies; it counts the manufacturers of those supplies amongst its staunchest stalwarts. Some 20 percent of RHSC’s membership represents commerce and industry.

In 2017, the RHSC Executive Committee created a seat for a Manufacturers’ Representative. After a first term held by Bayer Pharmaceuticals’ Klaus Brill, the seat passed to Mukul Taparia, Managing Director of Pregna International. Stepping into the role in March this year, Mr. Taparia also leads the Manufacturers Group, which is open to all manufacturer members of the Coalition. It is an ethical platform for collaboration that provides its members with a collective voice to address critical issues.

Here, Mr. Taparia addresses manufacturers’ most pressing concerns, as well as the unique opportunities afforded by this special space at the RHSC.

It’s been some months since you came on board as the Manufacturers’ Representative. Could you share a little about this role and its responsibilities?

Manufacturers are a crucial part of the supply chain; without products, there is really no market, is there? It’s an important and exciting role I’ve been called to play. My primary responsibility is to be the conduit between RHSC manufacturers and the Executive Committee. In this way, manufacturers get more agency and a valid platform.

What added value do you believe the RHSC Manufacturers Group offers manufacturers?

It’s an uphill task. The main challenge the group faces is indifferent participation. Only a few group members show up on our calls and there is a reason for this — to date, they have not found this platform to be of great value. Traditionally, many manufacturers attended Coalition meetings, but have done so watching from the sidelines, using the space as a networking opportunity. My challenge is to figure out how to build manufacturers’ confidence so that they can be heard. If they know they can register their concerns, more and more manufacturers will show up.

If they know they can get register their own concerns, more and more manufacturers will show up.

Manufacturers share common challenges and struggles: getting products into markets, securing regulatory approval, advocating around particular projects or products, building relationships with donors. Some of these shared struggles can be resolved through collective action.

Also, in a group setting, manufacturers stand to learn a great deal about best practices, new opportunities, and networking with individuals who are committed to this space. The Manufacturers Group is a place where all manufacturers, regardless of their size, market standing, or status as generics or innovator — are given equal opportunity to share their views. It welcomes manufacturers who might have trouble scraping together just a couple million dollars as well as companies earning in excess of several billions! We are all on the same platform. I haven’t seen that happen anywhere else, and I compliment the RHSC’s leadership for setting the standard by continually breaking down the barriers that once divided groups of members.

What about competitiveness?

Yes, of course it is challenging to get direct competitors to sit around the same table, open up and share their problems. For example, if specifications were being drafted for a particular product, a competitor’s natural instinct might be to try to disqualify the others and push forward their own product. But we are all increasingly recognizing that a holistic approach — one that addresses common concerns can yield results useful for the entire community. That common vision, however, can only come out of mutual trust. And trust takes time. Mind shifts take time.

With this group, we aim to provide a forum where individual manufacturers can share their concerns and discuss the broader challenges they confront. One manufacturer on its own may not be heard, but when a community speaks together, people listen.

What added value can the group bring for the Coalition more broadly?

When manufacturers are involved as partners from the very beginning, they can respond proactively to market needs. They can also contribute ideas on what is likely to work and what may not.

Manufacturers have substantial experience working with stringent regulatory authorities, supplying goods to different geographical locations, and building efficient supply chains. Say, for example, a manufacturer wishes to enter a national market with a WHO prequalified product, but finds the local regulatory agency demanding additional quality assurance tests — tests the manufacturer finds too costly. The manufacturer can share such a development with others in the Manufacturers’ Group in the hope that another member with relevant in-country experience could offer to speak with country regulators, explore the reality on the ground, and offer suggestions on how best to overcome the seeming impasse.

Manufacturers also find themselves involved at every stage of the supply chain, from procuring raw materials and building markets, to marketing at the last mile. We are intertwined with every part of the community, and we bring rich perspectives to the conversation.

CGA 2019 available at https://www.rhsupplies.org/cga/

What use do you think manufacturers might make, if any, of the RHSC’s recently-released Commodity Gap Analysis 2019?

It is certainly a useful tool for manufacturers. It helps them identify gaps between supply and anticipated growth in demand, both in national markets and globally. It allows them to identify regions, product categories, and market segments. Product development, introduction and regulatory approvals in different countries make for an extremely long process. Data from the CGA can add to the range of variables manufacturers use when gauging market prospects.

An especially noteworthy finding of this year’s Gap Analysis was the anticipated growth in domestic government funding and the rise in out-of-pocket expenditures for family planning supplies. Working always with a view to commercial success, we are adept at tapping into private sector opportunities.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

What future development are you most hopeful / excited about?

I look forward to representing the manufacturing community on the Coalition’s Executive Committee, and in other forums that recognize the contribution we bring to the reproductive health space — not just as suppliers of goods, but as critical thinkers and technical experts. I especially look forward to kicking off Making It — a dedicated blog series designed to reflect on the RH supplies space from the perspective of the manufacturing community. My hope is that these voices will help the wider community to begin seeing the world as we manufacturers do. Each community within the Coalition — be they advocates, data analysists, or regional champions — views the world through their own coloured glasses. By sharing each other’s views and learning new lessons, we will all be in a much better position to think and act in new ways.

It was Einstein who is reported to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The more we talk as a community, the more inclined we will all be to do things differently, more efficiently, and more effectively, in order to serve the women and girls who need RH products. After all, isn’t that why we are all here at the Coalition?

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Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC)

Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC)

We are the world’s largest network of reproductive health supplies organizations. http://www.rhsupplies.org/