Medical Electronics: The Next Big Opportunity in India

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  • Industry veterans are of view that the country should start by designing for India
  • Paramedics, doctors and medical staff need to play an important role
  • Veterans agree that India can make for the world
  • Following documentation at every step of development is critical
  • The medical electronics market was estimated to be worth USD 5.1 billion in 2019
Panelists at India Technology Week

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the nation on fourth May 2020, strongly pointed towards making India a self-sustaining country. He pointed towards ‘Vocal for Local’ products. EFY Group, on the same lines organized a panel discussion between the veterans of electronics and the semiconductor industry.

Moderated by Poornima Shenoy, co-founder, The Gain, all the panelists agreed on one key opportunity – India Can Become the Next Hub of Medical Electronics and Medical Technology manufacturing!

Industry veterans who presented their view at the panel held during the first day of India Technology Week included

  • Nitesh Kumar Jangir, Co-founder, Coeo Labs Pvt. Ltd.
  • Ravi Chivukula, Co-Founder & CEO, HeARTHealth Technologies Private Limited
  • Srinivasa Moorthy S A, Director – D4X Technologies Private Limited Technologies Pvt Ltd Advisor – BLAER MOTORS PRIVATE LIMITED
  • Ravi Ramaswamy, Senior Director & Head at Philips health Systems Innovation Campus

Some of the areas in the Medical and HealthTech opportunities include

  • Telemedicine
  • Diagnostics and imaging
  • Medical devices
  • Digital analytics
  • Digital epidemiology

Start by designing for India – start bottom-up

While focus on designing and manufacturing medical devices and technology for export is a good idea, starting with designing and manufacturing the same for consumption is a better one. The panelists agreed India to be a huge consumption market for these devices.

Keeping in consideration the generic medicines and their production in the country, it was suggested that we start making for ourselves and simultaneously move towards making for other nations as well.

Ravi Ramaswamy while giving out an example of the product that needs to be designed keeping India and the USA in consideration noted that not only internet speeds vary in both the countries but voltage fluctuations are not the same as well.

Similarly, medical devices need to be designed in such a manner that these are easy to operate by medical staff in India. “Make in India, relevant to India, works in India,” were the exact words quoted by Ramaswamy.

He also pointed out towards the fact that while medical electronics designed for developed countries may or may not work efficiently in India, the ones designed for India will work in developing countries.

Paramedics and doctors play an essential role

The ones using the medical electronics made in any country are not engineers but the medical staff. Ranging from nurses to paramedics to doctors, every medical equipment design should have its origins from the feedback taken from these professionals.

Srinivasa Moorthy mentioned that the process of getting the medical products certified in India needs to be simplified. The same, as per him, will enable India to take firsts steps towards reaching the global markets.

Ravi Chivukula sharing his view mentioned that medical and health tech is a huge opportunity. Revisiting days when India used to be a big exporter of medical devices, he pointed out that India needs to start developing products for consumption in the local markets.

Once that target is met, India can then start exporting the same to other countries as well.

Make for World in India

This probably was the most discussed point during the panel. Ravi Ramaswamy, keeping his experience in perspective, said that designing just for India would not justify the commercial and volume side of medical equipment and devices.

The right approach would instead be to design keeping all the emerging countries in the picture. He emphasised that while the needs of different nations for a medical device are approximately 80 per cent, the rest 20 per cent can easily be tweaked depending on the device to device.

He mentioned that even Philips follows the same principle. The company first develops products around India and then modifies the same according to different markets.

Nitesh Kumar Jangir also highlighted the need of having knowledge of geographies one wants to retail these products in. He gave an example of some countries where electricity supply is a big issue. Such countries need medical equipment and devices that consume low energy.

Documentation at the right time

The documentation process for medical devices and equipment plays one of the most crucial roles. Srinivasa Moorthy noted despite some startups doing great work in the medical devices and technology field, they are lacking behind because of the lack of documentation. He added not following the right process as one of the other major reasons behind the same.

Giving examples, he mentioned a startup that was working on closing a life-saving idea in the neonatal medical devices field. The startup, despite this great idea, was finding it difficult because they had used only the English language in the device.

An officer who audited their products for certification asked them a very simple question which they could not answer. The question involved using the device in areas where English was not spoken!

Moorthy recommends keeping documenting every step of the product and technology development. He also recommends keeping the certification process an integral part of the product development process.

Similarly, after-sales-service, as per Nitesh Kumar Jangir, should be an integral part of the product development process. For example, a nursing home might not have the technical know-how to detect and correct even the smallest of faults. Having service partners becomes critical here.

Remote diagnostics of medical devices, in such cases, can also prove to be beneficial.

Long term investors needed

The life-cycle of startups operating in the medical technology space is much longer than other startups. Panelists pointed out that medical startups need investors for much more than three years. Three years is considered as the average time investors exit startups that are not medical tech-oriented.

Ravi Ramaswamy stated that big organizations have realized the potential of eco-system and startups working in the medical tech and devices arena. He mentioned Philips mentoring startups from the same area.

The medical electronics market was estimated to be worth USD 5.1 billion in 2019!

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