“Agilent will continue to develop need based innovative technologies”

In an exclusive face to face interaction with the Bio Voice's Rahul Koul, the Country Manager of Agilent Technologies India, Mr Bharat Bhardwaj shared the details about the company's life sciences initiatives, latest product launches and future plans. Read on:

Mr Bharat Bhardwaj, Country Manager, Agilent India.

Headquartered in India at Manesar, the United States-based multi-national company, Agilent is a leader in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets. With close to 1,500 employees in the country, the company’s Manesar facility is a global hub for finance, as well as housing life science labs using the latest chromatography, spectrometry and spectroscopy instruments. Agilent operates across India through offices located in Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Chandigarh and Kolkata.

Agilent globally is ranked No. 3 on Barron’s second annual ranking of the “100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies.

In an exclusive interaction with the BioVoice’s Rahul Koul, the Country Manager of  Agilent India, Mr Bharat Bhardwaj, shared details on the company’s latest initiatives, its performance in last few years and its continuous focus on innovation. Read on:

How has the Agilent’s last two years been? Please take us through the key developments at the company? How has been the growth?

The last two years have been an exciting journey for the Agilent. We have been now getting into certain segments, which were earlier on the corner but are now at the centre-stage of our strategy. We acquired the company like Dako which has got us more into life sciences research and come up with certain acquisitions like consumables. We are able to now get into chemical standards which are also a key aspect of the customers’ workflow.

We were able to provide excellent chromatograph, chromatography, columns, chemistry but what about the sample preparation stage and chemicals required at that time. And that is where we have been trying to address customer needs.

About 8 percent of our investment goes into research and development activities, which means there is a lot of excitement in terms of product development, workflow solutions, and acquisitions. The result is that the growth has been exceptional. Therefore, the company has been doing well globally and in India.

How has the Agilent’s last two years been? Please take us through the key developments at the company? How has been the growth?

The last two years have been an exciting journey for Agilent. We have been getting into certain segments, which are now at the center-stage of our strategy. Agilent acquired Dako, the Denmark-based cancer diagnostic company which helped expand our portfolio into life sciences research and come up with new offerings that helps in the fight against cancer. With the acquisition of ULTRA Scientific, we can also provide chemical standards and certified reference materials which key aspects of our customers’ workflow.

With more than 70 years of insight and customer collaborations, Agilent has excellent chromatograph, chromatography columns and chemistries in its product portfolio and now greater expertise at the sample preparation stage, this is how we are trying to address our customer needs. The new introductions provide critical tools that enable laboratories to perform tests more quickly and also design experiments in ways that were not possible before. Agilent provides complete workflow solutions: custom packages of equipment, software, services, informatics, consumables, and most of all, knowledgeable people who partner with customers to achieve their goals.

About 8 percent of our revenue goes into research and development activities, which means there is a lot happening in terms of product development, workflow solutions, and acquisitions. The result is that the growth has been exceptional.

Bio-suppliers in India have been collaborating with the universities and setting up demo labs and training centres. Are you too looking at following the same at Agilent?

We have always been closely associated with academia as we work with leading academic institutes globally and across India. We may not set up a laboratory in their campuses but we are able to address the specific needs of customers from our Centres of Excellence. Agilent has three centers of excellence in India. We are closely working with Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) and they are using advanced technologies from Agilent to come up with new ideas to address scientific challenges.

From beginners to experts, Agilent University offers comprehensive learning solutions that enhance skills and proficiencies in the use of quality testing instruments. At Agilent University in India users can get trained and get certified for operating our equipment. Looking at the wider spectrum of Agilent userbase, we not only impart instrumentation training but also look at imbibing best practices at pre-sample state and post sample state as well.

Agilent University may be new to India, but it has already been around for some time in countries such as, Singapore and China. Under our skill development program in India, the user group base is changing rapidly and the Agilent University concept is going to prove helpful.

Will it be an academic university or just a knowledge-driven awareness initiative for target audience?

It is not an academic university but a platform with our training modules, with not only face to face interactions but employing digital means too. You don’t have to always walk into a room for training but could avail the web-based audio and video modules.

These programs, oriented to instrumentation basics, theory, techniques, maintenance, software and data analysis help members gain knowledge and insights into the latest techniques, unleashing full potential of our analytical technologies.

What is your view on the business environment and regulations in Indian context?

I would say it has come a long way. If I look back last 3-4 years, there was a lot of talk about this subject. But it is only in the last 2 years that we have seen traction and concrete steps taken by the regulatory bodies in food, pharmaceuticals and environment segments. One such example is FSSAI. It is good to see the way they have revamped the industry. They are proactively working not only for spreading awareness to consumers but also for implementing testing and surveillance.

I am very excited about it since now the regulatory bodies, technical teams and companies like us are talking to each other. We have platforms where we introduce our technologies to them and they too are keen on collaborating with us.

For example, there are agencies such as AOAC which is a global platform for the food analysts. When they want to train their user base, Agilent joins hands to organize customized web seminars for them. This collaboration has evolved over period and India can do better if regulators and companies can have more open dialogue. The ecosystem is changing in the positive direction.

Are there any plans for ‘Make in India’? What are the trends in the company?

I would say we have made the required investment which starts with having the right set of people in India. We have close to 1,500 employees in the country. We may not be manufacturing in India but we have a global hub here. We have a huge campus at Manesar that we are expanding further. There are 1,000 employees at the Manesar campus. Moreover, the specific needs of Indian customers and industry are always at the top of our priority while developing new solutions or improving the way we do business.

As mentioned earlier, 8 percent of revenue goes back into R&D every year and it is the highest amongst all the players operating in this market. Because we believe in innovation, we are focused on developing the best in class products addressing customer needs.

In gas chromatography (GC), we have undisputed market leadership. 7 out of 10 products sold in the market are by Agilent. Still, we decided to come up with a new age GC. With 8860 & 8890 GCs, we have set new benchmarks.

You have recently launched new gas chromatography systems and a UV- Vis system in the Indian market. Please share more details and tell us about the uniqueness of these latest products?

The new Agilent 8890 and 8860 GC systems extend the company’s industry-leading portfolio of robust analytical instruments. They will incorporate innovative and intelligent ‘self-aware’ predictive technology, expanding their suite of smart-connected GC instruments.

The Cary 3500 UV-Vis system is an innovative spectrophotometer designed to help life science, pharma and biopharma research communities simplify their analyses, optimize laboratory productivity, and ultimately help bring new therapeutics to market faster. Earlier for temperature controlled experiments such as DNA melting or protein measurements, it used to be one temperature at a time. But with this product you can do multiple sets of measurements at a single time. That means you can have four pairs of experiments running simultaneously.

In biopharma space, protein characterization is the most common experiment. Earlier it could only be done one at a time whereas now these experiments can be performed simultaneously. It used to be cumbersome and time consuming, but with the unique Cary 3500, user can deliver high throughput and manage their ever increasing workload. The system is one of its kind and quite competitive. It has multi-cell and multi-temperature capabilities. It was introduced on 1st November 2018 and already, quite a few units have been sold in India.

What is your target for the total number of UV units to be sold during the current financial years?

We don’t really focus on just the numbers. The idea is to go for the customers where they require high throughput analysis and where the number of samples is quite high. They obviously don’t want to compromise on accuracy. Plus, all the pharma companies focus more on reducing running costs.

With older models of UV-Vis systems, users needed to replace lamp every two years. But now with our UV-Vis systems, there is no such cost attached. The benefits to the customer are footprint reduction, increased productivity, better accuracy, and decreased cost of ownership. I am excited for these new introductions which will result in substantial gains in efficiency and result analysis for our customers. Meanwhile, we will continue to innovate need-based technologies.

Are there any challenges in terms of how the clients react to new age digitally smart instruments?

It is an interesting question. It does take a while for the adoption of new technology to reach an optimal level. But I will look at it from the perspective of today’s young generation users. They want simple and easy products. They are interested in knowing how we can tell them to prevent the problem before it happens and if it does happen, they want to know how to quickly fix it. Of course, they are happy with these smart instruments.

At the same time, there are certain practices that have been in existence since a long time. For certain segment of users, it does take a while to catch up to the new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) but eventually they too like it as it makes their work easier.

We are the global leaders in gas chromatography and our users have always responded quickly to the changes that were adopted from time to time. I look at it not as a challenge but as an opportunity.