Quality Control profession in Pharma requires attention to detail and even one mistake can lead to loss of life – says Probir Kumar Thakur

Probir Kumar Thakur (Team Leader in Quality Control)

Insights:

  1. Education in pharmaceuticals, in most colleges, don’t prepare students for the real world. They do not impart the requisite practical knowledge or any discernible employable skills. They simply teach you the theory of the subjects you have chosen as your major.
  2. There are varied options for beginners in the pharmaceutical industry, but you have to know your interest, aptitude, and personality. You need to choose the right stream accordingly because switching departments become nearly impossible after the first 3 years.
  3. Pharmaceutical drugs and medication are widely consumed. Making a mistake in pharmaceutics can lead to loss of life. Only someone who is utterly devoted to the scientific aspect of the job is suitable for it.
  4. Drugs have become a basic necessity in today’s world, therefore this industry is only going to expand and thrive in the future. Anyone employed in this sector is quite safe in terms of job security.
  5. This is an industry wherein you have to constantly keep on learning as well as being updated about all the relevant advancements and upcoming trends.

Profile Details

Name – Probir Kumar Thakur

Profession – Team Leader in Quality Control

Age – 44

Gender – Male

City – Nagpur

Industry – Pharmaceuticals

Where have you been born and raised?

I was born and raised in Calcutta, West Bengal. My mother is a homemaker and my father is a retired Indian Air Force officer. I have a brother who works in the tourism industry.

Who all had the most influence on you and how?

I wasn’t get influenced by any person. It was more about the opportunities that opened up for me at the time and the brand name associated with an organization and the work they do that ultimately influenced me to go into this field.

Please give us a summary of your career.

After finishing my B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry from University of Mumbai, I moved onto Purvanchal University where I pursued M.Sc in Organic Chemistry.

I started off my career as a shift supervisor at E-Pack Polymers Ltd., wherein I was responsible for the quality of thermocol.

I wanted to move into a more scientifically relevant field. So, I got a chance to work with a commercial test house. There is a mandatory requirement for any manufactured drug to get quality tested by a third party and that is exactly what we catered to.

From there, I got an opportunity to work for Ranbaxy. I completed almost 4 years in that company wherein I dealt with a lot of sophisticated, analytical instruments. My job was in quality control department and I wanted to move into R&D. I had a better chance of doing that at Sanat Products Ltd which was a sister concern of Dabur. I spent two years in this company working on herbal products. The majority of our exports were to international cosmetic firms. After doing that, I moved to a company called HiGlance Laboratory Ltd which was an export house. I learnt a lot about regulations of the pharmaceutical domain during my time here.

Lastly, I was associated with GSK’s R&D department. Here, I worked in the food industry. The common string between these two areas was the quantitative and qualitative analysis and I was able to apply all the skills I had honed throughout the years to this matrix.

Which institutes are best for the education/training of quality control in the pharmaceutical industry?

I feel that most of the government colleges and their syllabus is not job oriented as it merely imparts basic knowledge about chemistry as a subject. Some colleges like ICT (Indian Chemical Technology) or even IIT’s, now have special programmes which emphasize internships in reputed companies. That work experience is pivotal because it is the first interaction a student has with how an industry functions.

What are the costs associated with the education/training of this profession?

I have no idea about the current costs but I can tell you that when I graduated it was quite cheap, it was around INR 10,000/-. Now I’d imagine the costs would have increased.

What are the typical entry-level jobs in this profession in the pharmaceutical industry?

You can enter as quality assurance, regulatory affairs, quality control, innovation in packing, etc. So, you need to figure out which line best suits you.

You typically start at the trainee level wherein you get a stipend.

What is the range of remuneration one can expect when starting out in quality control?

5 years of experience – 40,000 to 60,000 INR per month

10 years of experience – 75,000 to 1,00,000 INR per month

15 years of experience – 1,00,000 to 2,00,000 INR per month

20+ years of experience – 2,00,000 to 2,50,000 INR per month

When we talk about 20+ years of experience the range varies greatly from person to person, it depends upon the trajectory of their career.

Please describe your work.

Overall, my job is to maintain the quality of drugs my company produces.

Currently, I’m reviewing all the standard testing procedures and it requires a lot of inputs. It’s a foolproof QA audited document. It is the final document an analyst uses for his analysis, so reviewing this particular document is crucial for a project. It requires a great deal of concentration and devotion from my side because there could be things missed by my juniors.

Apart from this, I take care of the samples which have to be routinely analyzed. We have a stability chart and a fixed schedule which involves carrying out the stability analysis of the product in a timely fashion.

Also, any sort of technical troubleshooting is taken care of by analysts. So it’s a daily affair for me.

What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to consider a career in quality control?

  1. There are a lot of novel and ground-breaking things you can experience in this career. So, I’d certainly recommend science enthusiasts to go for it since it would satisfy their intellectual curiosity.
  2. Work culture in the pharmaceutical industry involves a lot of interaction with different people so you would love the work environment.
  3. In today’s culture we all heavily depend on drugs and working in this industry means you will thrive in the future. So in that way, one’s employment is very secure.
  4. The pay scale increases tremendously and in a short period of time.

What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering a career in quality control?

  1. There are technical as well as non-technical challenges. You need to have management and technical skills since it is essentially a techno-commercial role.
  2. It is a highly scientifically-oriented job. Having an attitude and scientific temperament is important because people consume our drug products and even one small mistake can lead to an irreversible fatality.
  3. As you are involved with many people, your communication skills should be well honed. Even the slightest miscommunication may cause fatalities.
  4. There is new research every single day and you have to be updated to succeed in this industry.

What are the relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in your job profile?

Nanotechnology is becoming popular. This type of information and awareness is pivotal for anyone looking to enter the industry now because that’s where the future lies. Good communication skills are also a must.

What kind of person would be happy in your career?

Someone who is passionate about science, who is willing to put in the hard work to keep oneself abreast of all the advancements in the field so as to be efficient at their job. Individuals with that kind of conscientiousness would do stupendously well in this profession.

Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?

I might have if I had all the relevant information and proper mentorship. Since I didn’t, I learnt through experience and discussions with my seniors.

What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?

My main advice would be to keep yourself updated, learn to use all the resources at your disposal be it discussions with your seniors, reading good journals or getting relevant information from the internet. This is an industry that does not believe in giving second chances to someone who’s not up to the mark.

Contributing Writer – Shtakshi Gupta

Also check out our conversation with Mr. Sunil Acharya (Regional director of quality system and compliance at Abbott) here