The scheme to boost local medtech manufacturing is timely, especially given the raging pandemic. But regulatory clarity is vital
‘Make in India for India’ has been the Government’s clarion call for self-reliance in the last few years. And the pandemic has further highlighted this need of self-reliance across industries, including medical devices.
To facilitate an ‘atmanirbhar Bharat’ and incentivise players, the Government recently brought in the product-linked incentive (PLI) scheme. It is meant to encourage several sectors to increase their local manufacturing and supply chain base, among other things. A step that could see India become self-reliant for high-end products to a great extent.
The criticality of a robust medical devices sector has been proved time and again, especially during the ongoing pandemic. Currently, a large share of medical equipment and parts is imported from abroad. But the urgency of Covid-19 and the import restrictions over the last year compelled many sectors to look internally for talent and expertise to fulfil the urgent needs. Indigenous manufacturing of high-tech medical devices isn’t just aimed to enhance localisation but also unleash our capabilities on the world.
Given the highly competitive nature of the industry, and the higher stakes in the coronavirus pandemic, the PLI is welcome; but its success will largely depend on the timelines of the regulatory requirements.
The PLI scheme has incentives starting from April 1, 2022, while the results were announced end February 2021. Since it involves setting up a greenfield plant, lead times for regulatory approvals and so on, the effective date of execution extends well into 2022. If the regulatory applicability date is moved up a year, it would allow smoother execution.
Furthermore, till we are fully self-reliant, imports of medtech equipment and parts are required to ensure quality healthcare for all.
Government-backed schemes can make devices more competitive in the global arena, and attract more investment from global investors. It also showcases India’s indigenous talent while propelling regional manufacturing plants as engines for future success.
The PLI scheme essentially aims to reduce dependency on foreign countries, besides providing companies with incentives on incremental sales from products manufactured in their domestic units. Aimed at labour-intensive sectors, the scheme also facilitates indigenous innovation and increased employment.
Implemented in November 2020 for 10 sectors besides medtech manufacturing, the PLI scheme could also boost exports, increase forex earnings and manage employment requirements in the years ahead.
India’s healthcare system has been evolving phenomenally over the last three decades. Today we have the capabilities and tools to innovate locally for ‘super-value’ products.
Our local healthcare ecosystem differs from those abroad. Factors such as affordability, accessibility, and quality play crucial roles in delivering healthcare. In a country like India, where the rural-urban divide is large when it comes to quality healthcare, knowing local needs and manufacturing for those needs goes a long way to bridge these gaps.
Panacea Medtech made in India, for India
Products that are made for India, have features designed to manage indigenous healthcare and medical problems. They are priced affordably, for a multitude of hospitals and clinics, manufactured and deployed across different tiered cities and remote environments. Revolution ACTs (the first made-in-India CT or computed tomography scan) is a classic example — developed, designed and manufactured in India for India and the world, with over 1000 units installed in the country.
The increased shift from foreign dependency to local manufacturing will have positive cascading effects in the next 5-10 years. Local manufacturing will flourish, leading to higher growth rates and revenues.
Locally made quality products will improve access to world-class medical devices and equipment for Indian hospitals at a more affordable price, thereby democratising healthcare.
The writer is Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare. Views are personal