Powering up India’s medtech industry

Potential of Medtech industry:

Medical technology is a nearly Rs. 40,000 crore market in India, growing at over 12 per cent. Of this, imported products account for about 70 per cent. The opportunity for indigenous solutions and domestic medtech production is huge. The market can grow into an estimated over Rs.1 lakh crore in seven to 10 years. But it needs efforts on multiple fronts to realise the potential. Right products, models and partnerships can do the job.

The key factors those existing medtech products:

The low-cost model, Limited availability of trained and skilled personnel, space, infrastructure and operational constraints in hospitals and clinics, maintenance and servicing burden of equipment, growing aspirations of smaller institutions and doctors to earn higher revenues, option to add features in a modular manner over time as business grows, travel distance and time for patient and caretaker, paying capacity of patients and families, are some of the contextual elements that today’s imported medtech products do not cater to. This is an untapped opportunity and requires innovation and R&D driven product development.

What are the challenges?

* Low cost model- Economies of scale, and volume-price dynamics that has made the low cost model successful in vaccines and generics, is absent in medtech.

Pure-play ‘low cost manufacturing’ alone cannot give impetus to indigenous medtech development, given India’s weak manufacturing ecosystem for technology-driven hardware.

*The key activities that retain the bulk of the value are innovation/IP, design, engineering, and commercialisation.

The domestic industry mostly focuses on consumables, test kits and lower-value equipment. As a result, most local medtech companies are medium and small enterprises; only a few have annual revenue of over Rs.100 crore.

Mitigating the gaps:

To mitigate these gaps, R&D and product development should be done through partnerships with as many stakeholders as possible.

These partnerships should include collaborations with R&D institutions, hospitals, government health agencies, component vendors, OEMs, and, even other medtech companies.

With the current ecosystem, one could target such products at a 3-5-year time frame in hospital instruments, diagnostic devices, health monitors, and surgical equipment.

More complex platforms and products such as active implants, minimally invasive surgery systems, high-end equipment need long-term R&D at the level of 5-7 years.

Development of such complex technologies should be led by our R&D institutions with government support, in partnership with industry with goal of market-ready products.

Way ahead:

A short- to medium-term goal of developing products in chosen categories those are affordable and targeted at specific problems should be set. This should be done through partnerships between industry, academia and the Government. As the ecosystem and support structures mature, India should develop products that have a large-scale impact and higher value products.

On a longer term, aim should be to shape and position medtech as a strategic tool and industry that would help improve Indian healthcare and serve as a global innovation engine for medtech for emerging markets.

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