The Indian market is driven more by consumerism

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Nov 11 2013, 07:18am hrs
India has great technical expertise, great engineering talent and a gigantic consumer base demanding quality healthcare at affordable costs, says Tom Gentile, president and CEO of GE Healthcares healthcare systems division. Gentile is a 13-year GE veteran and most recently spent three years as president and CEO of GE Aviations services division, transforming the services business into a global $7 billion platform. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for Care Innovations, a home health joint venture between GE and Intel. On a recent visit, he spoke to Sudhir Chowdhary about GE Healthcares latest innovations for a healthier India and world. Excerpts:

Give us an overview of Indias healthcare market and GE Healthcares vision for it

One of the unique characteristics of the

Indian market is that it is not like other markets in the sense of government reimbursements or private insurance. There is much lesser government reimbursement and relatively little private insurance. The market is driven more by consumerism than any other market in the globe so that makes it one level more competitive and also very focused on value and super value. It is a very big market with a lot of people. The expenditure on healthcare is still relatively low4-5% of GDP versus other markets which are higher.

But the growth rate in India has been tremendous! It is double digits this year and we foresee it to be double digits for many years; it has been double digits for many years in the past. We have been in this market since 1991 and have over 4,000 employees and 1,600 engineers in Bangalore. It is our number one development centre outside the United States. We are the single biggest domestic healthcare company; revenue is over $570 million not just across devices

and equipment but also healthcare IT and life sciences. So we see this market as one where we can learn a lot about how to develop, distribute, service, support and train for super value products and thereby improve healthcare access. We are at work towards a healthier India.

People here require advanced healthcare at low cost. What are you doing in this regard

Well, one of the things that we are doing is that we are developing relationships with some of the top practitioners in the country. Recently, we met 250 of the top radiologists in the country who are using our most advanced equipment and developing clinical applications and doing research to validate how this can be used to treat people. Meeting healthcare providers around India help us understand their challenges, their needs and insights into what solutions can help them. Because it is true that there is no market that is exclusively super value or value or performance or premium. Every market has some elements of all of those and India is no different.

Another thing is developing products that meet the needs of practitioners who demand price points that are well below what global markets are currently offering. These would include, in our maternal and infant care division, baby warmers and photo-therapy units, which are at price points well below what is in global markets. In diagnostic cardiology, we have developed the MACi, which is a 12 Lead ECG machine that can track heart rhythms. The MACi was developed here in India; it is deployed here as well and also exported to other parts of the world.

The important point is that we are developing the products here because we have an engineering talent here. We have access to physicians who demand products that are in that price range but once we have developed the products, we sell them not only in India but also export them all around the world. Thats a very important part of our model for India.

But how important is the Indian market for GE Healthcare in terms of business

The total global revenue for GE Healthcare is $18 billion. Our annual revenue from India operations is $570 million. But India is also our single largest development centre outside of United States. It is the laboratory for super value products which represents now 10% of the global market and is now growing at double digits. It is a place where we have access to some of the world class clinicians who can demonstrate and validate our products on large populations of individuals and generate clinical research to help us get registration of products and market acceptance. So the actual revenue that we get in the

Indian market is not a complete measure of the value of what India represents to GE Healthcare.

What are the opportunities that the Indian market presents and how do you plan to

address them

One of the primary focus is the opportunity to leverage our healthcare engineers in Bangalore to develop super value products. That is well under way. Second opportunity is in terms of the really sophisticated clinicians here who can help us to research to validate our products in terms of clinical settings and understand the clinical and economic impacts and outcomes. The third thing is to develop the models for how a super value product goes to marketso

beyond the product, its thinking about the distribution, application training support, servicing and aftermarket sales.

As we expand beyond the city centres in

India to the more rural populations, we have to develop all of those approaches to be successful. The team here is very well positioned to create the models that we can use in other parts of the world like Africa, Middle East South East Asia.

Whats the latest project being at the Bangalore R&D centre

Our Bangalore centre is becoming our pilot facility for a new technique that we are using to develop products at GE, called Fastworks. Fastworks originated from our Silicon Valley software team that uses agile development which relies a lot on customer inputs and feedbacks in rapid turnaround of prototypes.

Across GE, we have started to think on how we can apply those agile development techniques to hardware. So Terri and her team in Bangalore said we want to be the first to pilot this. So what they have done is that they have taken the Fastworks concept and they have

applied it to some of our development programmes here and the idea is to come up with the whole range of assumptions.

To test each of those using a technique called minimally viable products. So we create a prototype where we can quickly check with the customer, get feedback and rapidly develop it for the next product. So its a very

fast iteration, high experimentation but the idea is to get ideas and innovations into the market faster. Speed

always makes a huge difference in terms of market acceptance and ultimate success.