D L Pandya
Editor & CEO
MEDICAL PLASTICS DATA SERVICE
If Indian Medical System needs to get some sort of independence, Make in India approach needs to become deep rooted in the Rs 60,000 crores Indian Medical Devices Industry. Interestingly the range is also huge, as compared to 20,000 medicinal products, more than 500,000 different types of Medical Devices are used globally. However, medical devices industry of India is miniscule, less than 1.5 per cent of global production, with disproportionate reliance on imports and indigenous manufacturing being mostly restricted to products in the lower end of the technology value chain. With such high dependence of imports, not surprisingly, they contribute nearly 25 per cent of an average treatment cost. While the per capita spending on Medical Devices in India is the lowest among BRIC countries, it represents a sizeable growth opportunity, according to estimates it is all set to grow at 15 per cent 15% to USD 8.6 billion by 2020.
Thus, a Make in India initiative assumes paramount importance, not only to reduce technology gap but also to reduce the cost of treating illness. But there are challenges. Three issues are of critical importance - unavailability of raw materials, lack of skilled workers and capacity to implement quality needs.
Despite sufficient human capital in the country, the industry faces the problem of inadequacy of the available skilled and trained manpower in both quantitative and qualitative terms. A BCG-CII white paper (2015) suggested promoting advocacy focused on career opportunities in medical technology, installing awareness of medical technology in medical/allied curriculum and launching programs for continuous regulatory education to keep abreast on latest regulatory requirements and trends. At the MSME level four issues are of paramount importance. In the short run, there is need to (a) enhance skill and get access to appropriate technology and (b) get critical raw materials at reasonable price and in the medium to long run (c) promote innovation and innovation eco system.
Skilling for a pharma bent of mind: Even now medical devices are not perceived as a medical product by the workers, especially the casual/contractual workers. They often change jobs and are not aware about the various technical necessities as per the requirement of the Food and Drug Administration. There is an urgent need to impart such skill to the employees.
Skilling for expertise in assembly: A number of micro and small units in this business are basically assemblers. The assembling units depend on two specialised skills – calibration and testing. They need steady flow of trained technicians and workers in these areas.
Access to machinery for assembling: Non-availability of high tech machinery essential for moulding, extrusion and assembly is not at par with other countries. Given the smaller concentrations of unit owners, there is need for creating micro common facility centres (CFCs), as opposed to large CFCs, which is the order of the day.
Access to critical raw materials: Quality of critical raw materials is not up to the mark in India. Hence a number of critical raw materials are imported. However the import duty on these raw materials is so much higher as compared to the finished product that the cost of assembling in India often turns out as a non-viable exercise. Hence such raw materials used for creating end products of medical devices need to be charged at a much cheaper rate.
Celebrate innovation: Getting a job is celebrated in our society, but innovators are a no-no. There is a need to create a local work force and for that one needs to create an atmosphere of promoting innovators. For example, with the support of the Department of Science and Technology a leading innovator M/S Sahajanad Laser, an all India award for innovative models - "Sahajanand Laser Technology - SUSHRUTA Innovation Awards" was organised by National Bio Medical Engineering Society (NBES) in 2010 for the first time. The Award is now in its 5th Year of operation (http://www.biomedsociety.com/).
Be in touch with true customers: Often the major source of innovations is the customers who provide the idea. MSMEs need to be in touch with them on a regular basis else the vital intelligence for promoting innovation may be lost forever.
They often change jobs and are not aware about technical necessities as per the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration.
The medical equipment assembling units also need two specialized skills - calibration and testing.