When it comes to careers in biotechnology, the majority of the Indian students and parents are not too clear about the subject fields and career opportunities. There is also a population that discourages a career in biotechnology in India.
It’s true that biotechnology is still a sunrise career path in India. But, from global and Indian perspectives, biotechnology is currently one of the top fields (like big data, machine learning, renewable energy, and media).
This post will give you a holistic overview of subject fields, career opportunities, biotechnology industry, and job prospects of biotechnology in India. I am also going to explain how to get jobs in the biotechnology industry in India. So, students and job seekers read the post with attention.
Biotechnology Careers and Jobs in India
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use”. In other words, biotechnology is the exploitation and application of biological organisms and/or processes for industrial and other purposes, especially the genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of specific products. The end goal of biotechnology is to improve the quality of human life and health.
Subject Fields & Applications of Biotechnology
Biotechnology finds applications in human health & medicine, veterinary sciences, agriculture, food processing & preservation, bio-fuels & bio-energy, chemical industry, environmental management, waste management, mining, forestry, aquaculture, soil conservation etc. The major subject areas are molecular cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, botany, systems biology genetics and statistics. You will be introduced to the fundamental concepts of modern biology, including cell biology, experimental techniques and data handling, bioinformatics, genomics, and proteomics. Additionally, you will cover the basics of traditional engineering disciplines and biology to solve problems encountered in health care. At the undergraduate level, you also cover basic sciences, mathematics, engineering, and life sciences.
Related Post: Major Domains of Biotechnology
Career Paths in Biotechnology
As a biotechnologist, you will be working with DNA, tissues, microorganisms, bacteria, virus, and complex proteins. Depending on your interest, you can choose a career in the pharmaceutical, food & beverage, agriculture, industrial, chemical or environmental sector.
Please be advised that Biotechnology is primarily a research oriented field. More importantly, biotechnology is a product-based industry and not a service industry. Depending on your specialization and/or expertise, you will be working as a medical biotechnologist, pharmaceutical biotechnologist, agricultural biotechnologist, food biotechnologist, environmental biotechnologist or industrial biotechnologist.
If you’re not inclined towards a research career, you can also pursue careers in sales, marketing, regulatory affairs, medical writing & journalism, policy making, branding and communications, medical law, business development & management, big data and analytics, consulting and entrepreneurship.
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Career Prospects of Biotechnology in India
The biotechnology industry in India is doing very well, and currently on a very strong growth trajectory. The sector, with its immense growth potential and talent pool, will continue to play a significant role as an innovative manufacturing hub. The biotech industry is one of the most significant sectors in enhancing India’s global profile as well as contributing to the growth of the economy.
India is among the top 12 biotech destinations in the world and ranks third in the Asia-Pacific region. India has the second-highest number of US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)–approved plants, after the USA and is the largest producer of recombinant Hepatitis B vaccine. Out of the top 10 biotech companies in India (by revenue), seven have expertise in biopharmaceuticals and three specialize in agri-biotech.
The biotechnology segment is the fastest growing segment in India. It is valued about $11 billion currently and it will touch the $ 100 billion mark by 2025 as per the forecast of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE). Furthermore, the biotech industry is expected to go up to USD 11.6 Billion by 2017 and it is expected to grow at 30% growth rate every year (Make In India website). The increased demand for healthcare services, R&D activities, clinical capabilities etc. provides scopes of a huge number of job opportunities.
Why is Biotechnology going to be a Hot Career Choice in coming days?
See what the experts are saying……..
More importantly, the world needs it……
Major Segments of the Biotechnology Industry in India
The Indian biotechnology sector can be classified into 5 major segments – bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-agriculture, bio-industry, and bio-informatics. The biopharma segment deals in biopharmaceuticals that include drugs, vaccines, proteins, and antibodies. This segment primarily deals in diagnostics and therapeutics.
Bio-services usually refer to clinical trials, research, and manufacturing contracts.
The bio-agriculture segment deals with crops, food production, and processing. This segment includes scientific research work on bio-pesticides, bio-fertilizers, and genetically modified (GMO) seeds and crops.
The bio-industry segment covers the research work related to yeast-based, enzymes, organic amino acids etc. This segment also includes extensive work related to biofuels and food science and technology.
The last segment, bioinformatics deals with bio-IT services, which covers computational biology, computational chemistry, genetic sequencing etc. Bioinformatics is all about the applications of computer technology to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information. Some areas of work include gene sequencing and gene assembly. Read more about the biotechnology industry in India.
Investments and Funding for the Biotechnology Industry in India
The biotech sector in India has been attracting a significant amount of attention and funding over the past two decades. Several global companies have aggressively collaborated with the Indian biotech companies due to India’s strong generic biotechnology potential. Some of the recent investments and developments in this sector are as follows:
The Telangana state government’s flagship pharma and biotech event – BioAsia 2017 attracted investments to the tune of Rs 3, 382 crores (US$ 507.3 million).
During the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit-2017, 54 MoUs worth Rs 5,022 crores (US$ 736.1 million) in the biotechnology sector was signed by 37 companies.
Syngene International Ltd, the contract research services arm of Biocon Ltd, is setting up a drug discovery and development center in Bengaluru for Amgen Inc., a biotechnology company based in the US.
Apart from the above companies, several startups are also coming up in the field of biotechnology. In the last 5 years, Indian biotech startups raised $2.8 billion (INR 18, 700 Crore) in investments. Out of all startups, 57% are working in the Biopharma segment. 120 startups have received $117 million so far in the biomedical space (Tracxn). Read more about the funding and investment for the biotech sector in India.
Challenges of the Biotechnology Sector in India
The biotechnology field is very challenging and demands a lot of hard work, patience, inquisitiveness, specialized skills and creativity. The biotechnology vertical is by far the most challenging one when it comes to entrepreneurship. Firstly, the amount of required funding is huge compared to other verticals. It’s not like building an online platform that requires a laptop and Wi-Fi connection. You need lab space, consumables, reagents, cell lines, animal models, equipment etc. So, the requirement of funds is also significantly higher for biotechnology start-ups.
Secondly, it takes almost a decade for a biotechnology or biopharmaceutical startup to launch a market-ready product. Venture capitals (VCs) are not always willing to wait that long before making an exit. VCs are not always ready to invest unless the product or device is ready (or almost ready) for the market. Time is a serious constraint in biotechnology and biomedical device spheres. Unlike software or technology domains where things can be fixed fast, one mistake in biotechnology can take you 18 – 24 months backward.
Thirdly, even when the product is ready, getting international safety approvals (e.g. FDA) is a lengthy process. The approvals can take 2 – 4 years. So, even after making a market-ready product, you are not making any revenue. The regulatory authorities in India are still not equipped to certify products and/or medical devices. Besides, the Indian biotech startups also need to fight with heavily funded foreign counterparts, especially in those based out of the US and Europe. This again put the biotechnology entrepreneurs at a disadvantage.
Another problem in the Indian biotechnology and biopharmaceutical startup space are the lack of expertise in the form of consulting and mentoring. There are not enough advisers within this domain, and hence getting funds is always an uphill task.
Advice for Job Search and Employability in the Biotechnology Industry in India
Higher studies (advanced degree), the location of your undergraduate or postgraduate college, technical skills, projects & internships play a vital role in employment within the biotechnology industry in India (and abroad).
Higher Studies in Biotechnology
Biotechnology is definitely hot & happening and the Next Big Thing. But, please be advised that an advanced degree (Masters or Ph.D.) is a must if you want to work in the core research domain. In India, not all the colleges provide decent facilities and faculty members; especially, at the undergraduate level. To be honest, there are not many jobs around for fresh graduates. This is because it is a mainly research-based field, and undergraduate degrees do not provide any sort of research methodology training.
Even if you hold a Masters degree in Biotechnology, it’s important that you work hard to get a quality project or internship experience and develop a solid technical skill set. This is not the field where you can get a job by knowing the theoretical concepts. Going abroad for Bachelor or Masters courses is also a very good alternative, at least in the biotech domain.
There are hardly 50 – 100 good colleges and universities in India. If you are attending institutes like Delhi University, BHU, Lovely Professional University, Amity University, SRM, IISER, Pondicherry University, Manipal, Amrita University, Goa University, Pune University etc., you will have better exposure. Going abroad for Bachelor or Masters courses is also a very good alternative, at least in the biotech domain.
Have a look at the two profiles (CV snapshot) to get a better understanding of what companies and recruiters look for.
Hence, don’t get fooled by the biotech boom. Take an informed decision. Even a postgraduate degree will not help you to get a job in a biotech company if the degree does not involve an extensive research criterion. Additionally, you also need to gain exposure to the commercial aspects of the biotechnology industry.
So, how to develop solid technical skills and where to do a project or internship? What if I can’t afford expenses for a foreign degree? Read on…………
Location of the College or University Matters
Choosing the right college is important for education and career progression. So are factors like ranking, reputation, and other parameters. But, at the end of the day, you need a job after graduation or post-graduation. Biotechnology is a very practical oriented field. More than your grade, your technical skills, and soft skills will play an important role when it comes to getting the jobs. In order to gain exposure and develop the right skill set for a biotechnology career, location is very important. I will explain this in more details in the following sections. Read more about the importance of location for careers in biomedical research.
Top Biotechnology & Bio-Pharmaceutical Startup Incubators in India
§ IKP Knowledge Park (Hyderabad)
§ Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT) at IIT-Delhi (New Delhi)
§ Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) (Bangalore)
§ NCL-Venture Center (Pune)
§ Amity Innovation Incubator at Amity University (Noida)
§ KIIT Technology Business Incubator at KIIT University (Bhuvaneswar)
§ Technology Business Incubator at Anna University (Chennai)
§ Technology Business Incubator UOH (Hyderabad)
§ iHUB at CCMB (Hyderabad)
§ Technopark TBI (Trivandrum)
§ Technology Base Incubator Society (New Delhi)
§ E-Health TBI (Bangalore)
§ VIT Technology Business Incubator (Vellore)
§ UOM TBI (Chennai)
§ MITCON Bio-Pharma Technology Business Incubator (Pune)
§ Ekta Incubation Center – WBUT (Kolkata)
Top Biotechnology and Bio-Pharmaceutical Startups in India
So, as you can see that the majority of the biotechnology companies, startups and incubators are based in and around Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi. So, it’s very important to get into a decent college in or around those locations. It is very important for biotechnology students to gain real-world experience through internships and projects during studies. Online and certificate courses (MOOC) are also excellent in terms of enhancing knowledge, skills, and employability. Last but not least, it is equally important to work on your personal development and soft skills as well in order to improve your employability. Otherwise, the job opportunities will be very hard.
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Biotechnology Internships in India
Ø Winter / Summer Training in Delhi at Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB)
Ø Biotechnology Training Center in Bangalore | Instem, Bangalore
Ø Summer Student Research Programme 2017 at IISER-Kolkata
Ø IISER Pune Summer Student Programme
Ø Summer Fellowship Programme at IIT Madras
Ø Summer Fellowship (Bio-Science) Programme at IIT Kanpur
Ø Biotech Internship at NIT Rourkela
Ø Summer/Winter Biotech Training at NCCS Pune
Ø Six Months Research Training Programme at Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Gurgaon
Ø Summer Training at National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Haryana
Ø Summer Program at TIFR Mumbai
Ø Internship at IISc Bangalore
Ø IITs and IISERs
You could also do paid projects or summer training and online courses or certifications on biotechnology from Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Skillwise etc. It’s very critical to have solid knowledge, technical skills, and hands-on experience in order to get jobs in the biotechnology industry.
Online and Certification Courses
Future Prospects of the Biotechnology Careers in India
Despite several challenges, there are many entrepreneurs and startups in the biotechnology space, which are doing exceedingly well. The Indian Government is also providing a lot of support. In the last few years, Govt. initiatives like DBT, DST, CSIR, and BIRAC are pumping a generous amount of money within the biotechnology startup ecosystem. Apart from pharmaceutical and medical biotechnology, opportunities and prospects are very bright if you are going to work in the food biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology or environmental biotechnology sectors. Read more about food science & technology careers and agricultural science careers in India.
Initiatives by the Government of India
The Govt. of India has supported nearly 300 Start-ups and SME”s and 150 young entrepreneurs for innovation, research, and product development so far. The BIRAC’s flagship schemes have resulted in more than 30 Products, 20 Technologies, 16 Early Stage-Technologies, 2 Process Innovations, 40 IPs. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) budget for 2017 financial year is $683 million to support 38 labs.
CSIR has identified about 200 technologies which they are putting on the fast track for commercialization. CSIR claims it is currently getting 15% of its budget from marketing its results and aims to raise that to 25% in the next 2 years and possibly to 50% by 2020.
The government bodies are pushing hard for industry-academia collaborations for empowering biotech entrepreneurs & accelerating inclusive innovation. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi aggressively working towards accelerating discovery research to early development for biopharmaceuticals.
The key focus is preparing India’s technological and product development capabilities in the biopharmaceutical sector to a level that it is globally competitive over the next 10-15 years and will transform the health standards of India’s population through affordable product development. Total project cost to be funded by the Government of India is Rs. 1500 crore for five years. 50% cost for the Mission Programme will be arranged through the World Bank loan.
In terms of funding, ventures like IDG Ventures, Accel Partners, and Norwest Venture Partners are few active venture capital funds investing in the biotech startup space in India. Here is a comprehensive list of active venture capital firms in the Indian biotech space.