Precision diagnostics is the future and will influence therapeutics and outcomes for treatments. Post pandemic, the diagnostic industry is set for a new growth curve. More customers are now aware of the importance of quality and precise diagnosis. Over 70% of medical decisions are based on diagnostic reports and diagnostic companies will now evolve to play a major role in patient outcomes. The industry is also expected to consolidate faster and bigger national lab chains like SRL are well positioned to drive this consolidation and gain more market share.
In an exclusive interview with the Financial Express Online, Anand K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics talks about how diagnostics industry as a whole have played a critical role in shaping the new delivery models while focusing on quality and patient centricity.
“Laboratories are now going closer to the patient than ever before. Extensive network presence, home services, comfort of digital platforms for test booking, payments and report storage, labs are now offering 100% convenience to customers. Labs that do not adopt digital technologies and digital mode of delivery will lose out on this opportunity,” Anand remarks.
An increasing incidence of non-communicable disease and chronic diseases, an ageing population, increasing market for preventive healthcare, preference for evidence-based treatment, increasing per capita income and insurance cover will all lead to the growth of the industry. Excerpts
How would you review the first two quarters for SRL Diagnostics?
We have had a brilliant two quarters in FY22 and have posted healthy growth and 400+ crore revenues in both quarters. In Q1 and Q2, we have posted revenues of Rs 441 Crore and Rs 403 Crore respectively.
In Q1 FY22, SRL conducted highest number of Covid-19 RT-PCR tests among all the private players. In Q2 FY22, we have posted the highest ever Non Covid revenue at Rs 331 Crore.
In a bid to go closer to the patient across our network, we have added close to 400 customer touch points. We conducted over 22 million tests in H1FY22. To improve our digital outreach, we have launched an all new web and app experience for our customers through our new and improved website and mobile app. We will continue to strengthen our network, add new tests and technologies to improve our offerings to our customers.
How will SRL gain more market share? What are the focus areas for SRL?
SRL is the largest diagnostic chain today in terms of network and lab strength. We are strengthening our network further in priority cities. This will help us gain more market share where we are the leaders. We have added about 400 customer touch points in the first two quarters in a bid to go closer to the patient. This will remain one of our focus areas going forward.
SRL Diagnostics also earlier this year completed the acquisition of DDRC SRL JV in Kerala, making us the largest player in South India. We will continue to explore both organic and inorganic routes to become the leaders in the cities that are priority for us.
We are also adding to our test capabilities and expanding our test menu. Adding more specialised tests will boost our revenues in the specialised testing segment. In FY 21-22, we will continue to utilize our people and technological resources to strengthen our leadership in the reference laboratory segment with a focus on next generation diagnostics. The current clinical practices are going to be impacted by the ground breaking genomic testing, which is triggering a revolution to start a period where the medicine is preventive, personalized, predictive and participatory, and rooted in the human genome project.
What are the current trends for Covid testing and where do you see it going from here?
While Covid testing numbers have come down from the peak during May 2021, we are seeing pockets of infections in certain parts of the country at different times. Kerala and East India are continuing to post elevated daily new cases. Between mid-October and mid-November, we saw the daily average cases spike in over 10 states including Delhi.
Covid testing is very important if we are to keep our people safe, especially the vulnerable population that is not yet vaccinated. It is also important to continue following COVID appropriate behaviour and ensure complete vaccination of the eligible population.
We are also seeing offices opening up and educational institutions are also expected to open up very soon. Covid testing will continue to remain paramount and will see spikes and dips that will mirror the rate of infection across the different states in the country. We have a network of 22 COVID approved labs and are well positioned to serve the citizens across the country.
The sports and entertainment industry is also dependent on testing. SRL was nominated as the diagnostic partner by the Indian Olympic Association for testing the Olympic and the Paralympic contingent. We are also the diagnostic lab of choice for many corporates, manufacturing companies, production and entertainment houses. People have also started traveling as norms have been relaxed globally. Business travel has also seen an uptick. All of this point to a continued need for COVID testing as the disease is now believed to have reached a stage of endemicity in India.
Are you seeing an uptick in preventive and wellness testing given that people are more concerned about health post Covid?
We saw a dip in regular testing during the lockdown and pandemic. Even tests that need regular monitoring like diabetes or high cholesterol were impacted. We are definitely witnessing an uptick in preventive and wellness testing. People today are now more aware than ever about importance of testing, correct diagnosis and taking preventive steps to stay healthy and fit.
There is also a growing trend of tracking vital parameters through smart wearables, especially among the young. This will also propel the preventive testing market as people want to keep a tab on their vitals. We witnessed a healthy growth in our preventive offering which doubled in in Q2’22 compared to Q2’21.
What kind of public private partnership is required to address the Covid testing needs of people residing in remote parts of the country?
Over the past week, more than a million Covid tests are being conducted every day across the country. ICMR has approved more than 3000+ Covid testing labs that includes both public and private laboratories. There is no challenge in delivering COVID testing even to the most remote locations. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to deliver high quality diagnosis to every nook and corner.
It is important to replicate the success of Covid testing to other diseases of concern like Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and HIV. These conditions are both a health and economic burden. Public Private Partnerships will certainly help us overcome the challenges and deliver high quality diagnosis that will greatly aid in better patient outcomes.
Private, large lab chains like SRL have the strength of a wide network, infrastructure and capabilities. With the government paying for tests at subsidized costs, we can help our citizens live a more healthy life. SRL also has an experience in delivering partnerships of large scale both for state governments and for bodies like UNICEF. We are well placed to partner with the government for a project of any scale.
What are private sector and government collaborations of SRL on the Covid testing and vaccination drives?
During the pandemic, we worked together with state governments and municipal corporations to deliver Covid testing as per the regulations. We also ramped up our labs and workforce and have over 22 approved Covid testing labs in the country. This has been possible due to our strength in quality. As India’s first NABL and CAP approved lab, it is not surprising that we were able to build capabilities to offer large scale Covid-19 testing.
SRL is also the only large private chain to have taken up the vaccination drive. This has been one of our efforts to help the communities where we operate in. We completed delivering 12,500+ vaccinations in the last 3 to 4 months. We are offering vaccinations from our flagship centres in Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata.