Merck aims for top slots in seven emerging markets

US drug giant Merck & Co, the world's second-largest drug maker, is mulling acquisitions and alliances with local firms to scale up its India businesses, in a clear strategy shift, according to a top company executive.

Ramesh Subrahmanian , senior vice-president and president, Asia Pacific human health, Merck & Co said, ''This could be to fill portfolio and capability gap.'' He was speaking on the sidelines of the India Economic Summit in New Delhi.

Subrahamanian, however did not elaborate on the portfolio and capability gap. The American company has plans to emerge among the top two pharmaceutical companies in India by 2015. According to analysts, this is an ambitious agenda, in the fiercely-competitive Indian drug market considering it currently comes in at the 28th position in the Indian retail market with a 1 per cent market share.

With its acquisition of Schering Plough, the drug maker  now operates three entities Schering Plough India, Organon India and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), the local arm.

Merck has so far kept away from Indian pharma acquisitions, a growing trend among its global counterparts as they look at emerging markets to bulk up operations. Some notable Indian acquisitions include Daiichi Sankyo's acquisition of Ranbaxy and Abbott's takevover of the local formulation business of Piramal Healthcare.

''We are looking at acquisition opportunities not just in India but in all emerging markets,'' Subrahamanian said.