In conversation with Rajiv Nath, MD, Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd.
During the recent pandemic, the healthcare sector emerged as a heroic covid warrior in helping the country deal with the alarming situation. Whether it is treating the patients or coming up with a vaccine to combat the virus, the healthcare sector has led the way. In addition to the doctors and nurses, special credit must also be given to the Pharmaceutical Industry & medical devices manufacturers, who have equally contributed to help in fighting the virus. One of the organisations that need a special mention is Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd. However, these achievements would not be possible without the support and unwavering contribution of Mr. Rajiv Nath, Managing Director, Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd. in his additional role as a Forum Coordination of AiMeD (Association of Indian Medical Device Industry). In an exclusive interview, Mr. Rajiv Nath speaks on the recent pandemic and the future of the healthcare industry.
Being one of the largest manufacturers of disposable syringes, it must be difficult for HMD to keep up with the market demand during COVID-19. How is the company tackling the pandemic?
It has been a roller coaster year where demand was low due to reduced Non COVID healthcare but later in year the gap was compensated by increase in demand for syringes for vaccination.
HMD is one of the largest suppliers to UN Agencies for KOJAK Auto Disable Syringes for immunization and is also the first Company in India to manufacture Auto Disable Syringes for Curative Segment. In the last few months, we got order requests from countries such as Japan, Brazil and US for disposable syringes and Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka for auto disposable syringes as the countries have started to stockpile in anticipation of COVID vaccine. Keeping up with these rising demands is challenging but it is our responsibility to help in winning the global war against COVID.
In fact, HMD is all geared up to meet the Syringe demands. With over 9 plants, HMD has created a niche for their disposable syringe ―DISPOVAN, which is today the most popular brand in syringe market in India with over 60% market share with Dispovan Needle and Dispovan Insulin Syringes having over 70% Market Share in Private Sector.
We have scaled up the production of KOJAK AD syringes and already supplied 140 million auto disposable syringes KOJAK AD 0.5ml Syringes to COVAX-the WHO facility to maintain the supply chain of vaccine & syringes for developed countries. To ensure continuous supply, HMD has ordered multi cavity molds, high speed assembly & packaging lines and expects to achieve 800 million capacity p.a. in Qtr1 and 1000 million by end of Qtr 2 of 2021. HMD will also make a total of 177.6 million KOJAK AD 0.5ml Syringe for Govt. of India by March 2021.
Tell us a bit about your experience as the founder and forum coordinator of the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry.
AiMeD was initiated a decade ago by 3-4 of like-minded Manufacturers at the side-lines of an international Conference on Regulation. It was established as an Umbrella Association of Indian Manufacturers of Medical Devices to cover all types of Medical Devices including Consumables, Disposables, Equipment, Instruments, Electronics, Diagnostics, and Implants. Today, more than 350 Manufacturers and additionally of over 200 Associate Members are a part of the AiMeD family. The association also represents the interest of over 1200 Manufacturers of Medical Devices. However, with over 2000 products AiMeD should have more than 7000 factories and bigger than Pharma to address the manufacturer’s problems.
As India geared up to fight the COVID crisis, the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry relentlessly worked at the forefront to combat the crisis. In my role as the Forum Coordinator of AiMeD on behalf of the Indian Medical Device Industry, I was in regular consultation with the government & assured Commerce Minister, Shri Piyush Goyal & Govt. full support in the fight against COVID-19 crisis. Special thanks to Dr. Vaghela, Secy. DoP and their Team at DoP & NPPA where the regulators at NPPA collaborated with regulators at CDSCO and the manufacturers to debottleneck supply chain issues in full lock down for many of medical devices plants for critical products like Mask, PPE & Ventilators etc.
HMD Healthcare is on track to produce 177.6 million auto-disposable syringes by March. How did you make this project a success?
HMD is gearing up to meet the Auto Disable Syringe demands, which is the preferred mode of injection in public healthcare to ensure safety of patients. We have proactively requested the government to provide us clarity on the various kinds of syringes required for the vaccines under development. The reason is some of vaccines will be given via skin, which is also known as intra-dermal delivery whereas others will be given via nose, also known as intra-nasal delivery (via nose) or possibly oral delivery (via mouth). We need early intimation for appropriate product development for drug delivering and boosting the capacities further.
The front runner COVID vaccines being launched in India would need a 0.5ml AD Syringe for intramuscular drug delivery. In addition to the annual procurement of 300-350 million of these syringes by GoI for the UIP (Universal Immunization Program), additional orders have been placed on us by MoH&FW. HMD is on track to produce 177.6 million 0.5 ml KOJAK AD syringes for GOI by March 2021. We have rapidly ramped up our capacity by debottlenecking & ordering multi cavity molds & reengineered our Std. Disposables Syringes lines to produce Auto Disable Syringe for vaccination. This is the advantage of our technology, flexibility is available for quick ramp up and switch over. We have also bid for 350 million pcs tender for supplies required till September 2021.
Can we expect some announcements on product portfolio by HMD in over the next few months?
HMD is coming up with more designs of safety engineered drug delivery products in the near future.
Rajiv Nath is a renowned name in medical device industry. So, how did HMD happen?
My father, Late. Shri. Narindra Nath founded HMD in 1957. He was a pharmacist and pioneered the launch a comprehensive range of sizes of Glass Syringes in India (Glass Van brand). His passion for sincere honest hard work helped him serve the medical profession with affordable world-class medical devices. It is because of his vision, in-depth knowledge of management and organizational expertise that the HMD group has scaled to new heights every day under HMD’s culture.
I am the lucky son born with a ‘silver syringe’ but trained by my father.
As a Managing Director of Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd., I am now carrying forward the legacy of fair business practices and the value system for our organisation while shouldering responsibility of well-being of 3000 direct employees & 5000 indirect dependents of HMD. Fortunately, our current turnover is more than 650 crores.
The new price control policies in healthcare sector have received a mixed response from manufacturers, doctors, and the end-buyers. What is your take on this?
All the newly announced schemes and initiatives by DoP will prove helpful to Indian medical device manufacturers. As India has the potential to be 2nd factory in the world for medical devices, India should not lose this opportunity to become self-reliant in medical devices and we request the PM to ask Ministries to act on following:
Regulate MRP – Consumer Electronics like Infrared Thermometer needs to have a Maximum MRP 3-4 times of import Price. During pandemic related shortages, a Non-Contact Thermometer of Rs. 600 was selling at Rs. 6000 to Rs. 10,000. AiMeD encourages responsible manufacturing and while recognizing the need for profit for business to grow & modernize decries profiteering in healthcare & opportunistic pricing in times of shortages. We have been recommending rational price controls of capping MRP over import landed / ex-factory price at maximum 5 times. It can be lower for high value implants. This will help consumer to access these at below ½ of the current prevailing MRP for many of the devices.
The government has been focusing on Make in India for most of the sectors. Do you think this trend is slowly making its way into the health devices manufacturing sector? How feasible this whole thing is from your point-of-view?
The Government of India through its flagship “Make in India” initiative relied heavily on the Indian manufacturers to meet the rising demand of essential healthcare equipment for the country, and brought a focused need for pushing the Indian medical devices sector to become self-reliant or ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat.
During this tough phase of COVID, the only silver lining was the ‘Make in India’ drive. Many businessmen in auto sector, garments, hospitality and tourism industry diversified into medical devices considering the losses incurred in their own businesses and saw a growth opportunity in COVID-related medical devices.
Finally we may have something to help accelerate medical devices manufacturing as a Make in India enabler so that Indian National Healthcare security concerns are addressed - the inadequacy of which is being exposed in the crisis to address the coronavirus epidemic preparedness.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman sharing a holistic vision of healthcare announced:
• 137% increase in health budget.
• PM Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat to be launched with an outlay of 64,180 Cr over 6 years. Huge intervention in India's healthcare journey.
• Pneumococcal vaccine to be rolled out across the country to avert 50,000 child deaths annually. 35,000 crore for vaccine has already been given and has committed to provide more
• Support for wellness centres
Setting up health labs
Critical care hospital blocs in districts
Strengthening disease control surveillance & Strengthening of NCDC
Onehealth centre for WHO regional office
We had been hoping that this will be a Make in India push budget for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and though the FM has highlighted the need to support manufacturing sector to be part of global supply chain and need for it to grow on double digit sustained basis, we, The Indian Medical Device Industry are disappointed not to notice any changes in custom duty as done for other sectors. However, we were quite hopeful that the fine print of the Union Budget could have possibly acted upon our recommendations on a Predictable Tariff Policy for a Make in India push for Phased Manufacturing Plan for Components and Finished Medical Devices and allocations for Testing infrastructure as well as for MedTech Parks and Cluster developments. Supporting Policies are needed so that Indian Medical Devices Industry can make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for common masses, aim to place India among the Top 5 Medical Devices manufacturing hubs worldwide and help end the 85% import dependence forced upon us and an ever increasing import bill of over Rs. 42000 Crore.
Where do you see the medical devices industry in the next five years?
Healthcare Industry is quite vulnerable as it is dependent on imports. The market needs imports worth Rs. 42000 crore. Therefore, the healthcare industry needs to be rescued from this dependency of cash flow challenges, poor financing viability and fluctuating prices linked to volatile exchange rates. We need to work to convert these challenges into opportunities for the medical industry by investing heavily in Public Health. In addition, the MSME sector also needs to be rehabilitated and revived with the help of supporting policies such as nominal duty protection of 10 to 15% that nurture them back to health. India needs to create Quality Testing infrastructure and incentivize Indian certification of medical devices, so these manufacturers are influenced to produce value added quality and not chase downward spiralling prices that are not sustainable & expose patient to poor unsafe quality product.
Indian medical devices industry is facing a stiff competition from international manufacturers. How do you plan to dominate the market?
Indian manufacturing industry is at the cusp of a great opportunity. The reason is China’s growth in the manufacturing sector has slowed considerably. Due to geopolitical reasons, global investors are showing renewed interest in India. Our government has also seized the initiative and in a series of measures has reformed the country’s foreign investment policy to allow higher levels of investment from abroad in diverse sectors. As a result, India has become one of the most open economies in the world and rightly positioned to attract large-scale foreign investments.
It is quite encouraging seeing that several state governments have are showing interest on setting up medical device manufacturing parks in their states. In fact, they have got the approval from the Government of India. There will soon be six medical devices manufacturing clusters in the country Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, UP, and Haryana. Even Goa, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan are interested in this opportunity. The medical devices manufacturing clusters will boost the domestic manufacturing of high-end medical devices at a lower cost and significantly enhance job creation. Supporting policies of preferential procurement in public healthcare will protect overseas and Indian investors and allow domestic manufacturer to dominate the market.
Medical device industry is more than 10 billion US dollars in India, but people are not getting any legit healthcare system. What steps do you think the government should take care to ensure people are getting legit healthcare devices or treatment?
Despite all the right intentions of the government, the objective of Make in India initiative to boost domestic medical device manufacturing within the country is not picking up. The industry is still struggling against low-priced, low-quality Chinese imports. Pseudo manufacturers armed with fake certificates of USFDA, CE or ISO 13485 are also a major concern that needs to be addressed. The weakness of India’s healthcare security and Indian Medical System was exposed when imports were disrupted from China in February and March. Establishing a stronger, robust and better protected Indian Medical Device would have helped manufacturers of masks and PPE kits. This measure would also enable them to develop a modernized, automated PPE kits and also help in ramping up the capacities to feed India and even other countries.
We are waiting for a policy announcement on the below vital issues of Indian Medical Devices Industry to end the import dependence forced upon us:
• Government must ensure consumers are not hurt by shortages by monitoring of prices at import or at ex-factory level and of the MRP and proactive steps taken to regulate prices but not overly so that it leads to further shortages and become non remunerative for manufacturers and traders.
• Regulate all Medical Devices under a Patients’ Safety Medical Devices Law separate from Drugs to protect patients and aid responsible manufacturing.
• Restriction on Import of Pre-owned Medical Equipment
• While we thank the government for deploying 5% cess on some imported devices to encourage employment and Make in India of some medical devices, to address the 70-90% import dependency we seek this cess to be applied to other medical devices too. In addition, a predictive nominal tariff protection policy should also be implemented as done for mobile phones to ensure a vibrant domestic industry and competitiveness and price stability driven by competing domestic players.
• Launch of ICMED Plus Product Certification to allow manufacturers to certify products to global standards.
• Incentivise the quality and domestic content in healthcare products in public healthcare procurements by preferential pricing for Q1 e.g. ICMED (QCI’s Indian Certification for Medical Devices) instead of L1 (lowest price) to ensure patients access acceptable quality.
What changes have you noticed in the healthcare industry over the years?
The healthcare sector in India has rapidly progressed in the last decade. Today, patients have access to world class healthcare products by latest Medical Technology & 5 Star quality hospitals in both Private and Public Sector. The country is favourably positioned in the medical devices domain for outsourced contract design, product development, and manufacturing.
Tell us a bit about your school and college days
My formative years were in - boarding schools – St. Georges College & Hampton Court in Mussoorie where there was an all-round grooming of personality in leadership, fraternity, discipline & team work based value systems. I completed my high school from St. Columbus’ in Delhi, which further reinforced value system of eternal friendship bonds, hard work and humility. I graduated in B.Com (Hon.) from PG DAV College in Delhi University with many hours spent in studying books on Management & Psychology in DU’s South Delhi Campus. The college experience and boarding school experience taught me to be street smart and fend for myself without parental hand holding and develop independent thinking and seek innovative solutions to standard problems.
Disclaimer: This is a company press release. No HT journalist is involved in creation of this content.