Put India to sleep and steal a $3-bn market

Written by Soma Das | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 31 2010, 05:39am hrs
The promise of a sound sleep is creating a huge market for the medical industry in India. Medical technology and top pharma companies are waking up to a potentially $3-billion Indian market for their products and therapies.

Action has begun in the last few months with players like Philips Healthcare setting up sleep labs, GSK Consumer Healthcare and Modi Omega Pharma launching anti-snoring products ranging from nasal strips to mint-flavoured throat sprays to aid better sleep, and others are planning to follow suit.

A study by market research firm Nielsen during November-December 2009 found 93% of urban Indians are sleep deprived and 62% display high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. According to industry estimates, the number of sleep apnea patients in the country could be somewhere between 40 million to 70 million.

Thats still quite small compared to the US market, which is estimated at over $23 billion. But the $5-million Indian market, as per industry estimates, is growing massively at a CAGR of almost 25%.

The nascent sleep therapy market in India was kick-started last year when the $17-billion GE Healthcare brought to the Indian market continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to treat sleep apnea, a breathing disorder common among adult diabetics. GE has since installed 3,500 units throughout the country, a company official said.

Currently, the country has around 100 sleep labs, which is slated to double once Philips sets up another 100 by the end of the calendar year.

When we compared the magnitude of sleep deficit related disorder here to the number of sleep labs that we had, we were appalled. That is when Philips decided to take the initiative to at least double the number of sleep labs to 200 from the present 100, Anjan Bose of Philips Healthcare said.

Philips has partnered with Delhi-based Medicity, branches of Fortis, R&R and Mumbai-based Hinduja and Seven Hills, among others, to execute the project.

Healthcare and pharma firms are also offering products over the counter. Modi Omega Pharma, a 50:50 venture between Modi Mundi pharma and a leading European pharma OTC company Omega Pharma, last week entered the sleep market by launching an anti-snoring spray. UK Modi, chairman, Modi Omega, said, We clearly understand the shifting mindset of urban Indian consumers from treating illness to managing wellness. Anti-snoring is an untapped category but offers huge potential. We have ambitious plans for the product to be retailed through pharmacies and retail outlets across the country.

GSK entered the market a few months back through its nasal strip. The company markets a bouquet of sleep therapy products (rinses, sprays) in the US market which it may consider bringing to India in the future.