By Sumit Bagaria,
The healthcare and pharmaceutical sector is a resilient and supportive pillar of our economy and has undergone many reforms. The pandemic has also opened many opportunities and innovation for the use of health technology, telemedicine, digital records, artificial intelligence, diagnostic kits and home collection. There’s now a growing need for stakeholders to tap deeper into the med-tech and medical devices segment, which, in the next ten years, could turn into the golden investment destination.
Financial reforms have transformed the pharmaceutical sector
With a greater onus on prioritizing healthcare, the 2021 budget saw a 137% increase in funding, with a focus on self-reliance. The announcement of setting up medical parks, incentivizing the production of APIs and allowing up to 100% investment via FDIs have undoubtedly, helped. Schemes like the National Health Mission and Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana have also been introduced to bolster the healthcare system.
Now, with another budget session approaching, the industry needs to work in synergy to create a global ‘hub’ of innovation and concentrate efforts on expanding health tech. Despite being the third-largest exporter of vaccine supplies and generic drugs, the med-tech and devices sector are still 70% dependent on imports, which hinders us from achieving atmanirbharta (self-reliance) and domestic gains. Scaled-up investments will also help the sector revive, itself from the impact of COVID-19 led drop in elective surgeries and global supply chain shortages and disruptions.
The med-tech segment offers space for abundant growth
In a country that houses over 21% of the world’s disease burden, having affordable, reliable and quality health tech is essential. This is the time for investors to strike the iron while it is hot. Indian med-tech is expected to grow to USD 50 billion by 2025 and record a CAGR of around 35.4%, which is unparalleled. The segment undoubtedly has massive potential which can target the poor penetration of indigenous devices, domestically and internationally. We need to tap on the right opportunities and incentives to help it reach its true potential. Ample growth opportunities and credible investments can also cut down our dependency on international suppliers.
Screening tests for cancer, anaemia, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases and easy availability of accurate, affordable and accessible diagnostic testing is another segment that should be delved into deeper. It has proved to be vital during the pandemic and should be viewed strategically. By increasing the outlay on the same, it can help in early detection and treatment and improve the quality of healthcare services. While we strive for self-sufficiency, we need to quickly ramp up screening and early detection of diseases like cancer, which will lead to better treatment and lowering the burden in our tertiary care hospitals, where patients typically come when the stage and spread of cancer may be difficult to treat, like many countries including China, we must have a strategy of using the best-in class global technologies which are proven to work, while we incentivize and support Indian R&D and manufacturing. In women’s health for example, breast and cervical cancer screening has saved hundreds of thousands of deaths across the world, and India too (with its high population, limited healthcare infrastructure) can help save lives.
Empowering innovators and small manufacturers with lucrative incentives
There have been substantial investments made to boost local manufacturing, including previous funding of over Rs. 3420 crores. Policy changes should further be focussed on enticing foreign investments and companies with subsidies like tax holidays, PLIs, correction of duty structures to monetize benefits for manufacturers in the MSME sector. Investments to set up early-stage venture capital funds to support India’s many homegrown innovators and start-ups, who are experimenting with new-age technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and unique monitoring tools will deeply encourage and build a supportive talent pool for the future.
The government should substantially increase its spending on health, creating both infrastructure and screening programs and encourage Indian scientists and businesses to develop best in class medical technologies and devices in India.
(The author is MD & CEO, Hemogenomics. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)