Russia’s Chelyabinsk region is seeking proposals from Indian pharmaceutical companies looking to set up manufacturing units there with a local partner.

While some manufacturers are eyeing the prospect of a local production facility as it would translate into easier and greater access to Russia — the largest market in the Central and Eastern Europe region — they are unlikely to move fast for want of more clarity.

This emerged at a meeting the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) had convened here recently between a senior official in the Union Commerce Ministry and the pharma firms.

Indian manufacturers were keen to know more about tax benefits that the Russian region would offer and the availability of infrastructure facilities for joint venture units. Details on size of investment, specific product range the region is looking at and whether the government of Chelyabinsk would invest in the JV and provide buy-back facility were also sought.

Pharmexcil Director General Ravi Uday Bhaskar said the meeting came in the backdrop of Chelyabinsk Governor Boris Dubrovksy inviting JV proposals from Indian pharma companies at the recently concluded inter-ministerial meeting.

‘Right time’

The invitation of Chelyabinsk, a region straddling the continental boundary of Asia and Europe, assumes significance in the context of growing emphasis in Russia to accord preference to locally made products. Indian pharma exports to Russia have been showing negative growth in recent years due to regulatory requirements and that government’s policies encouraging self sustenance.

So, “it is the right time for Indian pharma companies to consider investing in Russia,” said Pharmexcil chairman Madan Mohan Reddy.

The Russian government is pursuing a Vision 2020 Document with a focus on building self reliance in drugs, Mr. Bhaskar said, adding that about 25 firms, including Dr. Reddy’s, MSN Labs, Aurobindo Pharma, Hetero Drugs, Aarti Drugs and Zee Laboratories participated in the meeting. Russia’s focus is more on formulations than APIs, he added.

The Commerce Ministry official said negotiations for a free trade agreement with Russia were also going on.