Indian health-tech: A growing opportunity for partnership with the Philippines

HE Shambhu S. Kumaran, Ambassador of India to the Philippines

India is a global IT powerhouse and has emerged as a leading country for technology startups. The country now ranks third globally in terms of unicorns. Of the 90-plus unicorns in India, a remarkable 46 were added in 2021 alone, testifying to the dramatic spike in global interest in India’s tech ecosystem.

While fintech and e-commerce are leading the boom, the health sector is emerging as a key area of ​​focus. There are nearly 4,000 health-tech startups operating in India, undertaking multiple innovations, which are helping boost the health-tech market.

Indeed, especially after the wide-ranging impact of COVID-19, health-tech companies are bringing in record levels of funding globally. Health-tech startups raised about $ 15.3 billion in 2020 worldwide, a 44% spike from 2019’s $ 10.6 billion. In India, health-tech startups raised $ 455 million across 77 deals.

These companies are developing capabilities for design and manufacturing of high-tech products and leveraging technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, smart sensors and others to manufacture medical devices and provide digital healthcare solutions for the future.

India is also the fourth largest medical device market in Asia, valued roughly around US $ 11 billion. This includes implants, consumables, diagnostics and medical electronics. Innovations happening across MedTech startups is giving a new dimension to this sector, as they combine medical devices with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) or cloud capabilities.

Some of these market-defining innovations include ‘VAPCare’, a device developed by a Bengaluru-based startup Coeo Labs. The device treats Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP), an infection of the lungs resulting from the bacteria in the fluids that collect in the lungs of a patient who has been on a ventilator for more than 48 hours. The device removes saliva and also pushes anti-microbial liquid into oral cavities just in case some of the saliva trickles into the lungs. The device was developed by the company with grant funding from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Government of India.

Sattva MedTech developed an alternative ‘ECG-based fetal distress monitor,’ as it was working out on a solution to the issue that the traditional fetal monitor used to measure fetal heart rate was very ambiguous, as it could not differentiate between sounds from the mother’s heart from the one from the baby’s heart, thus making the whole interpretation quite subjective. It was able to find out a solution, which worked on electrical signals rather than sound, making it much more accurate. Interestingly, the price of its innovative product was almost three times less than the traditional fetal monitor devices available in the market. Another Bengaluru-based startup, Remidio offers a portable eye screening tool with telemedicine and AI triage capabilities.

Other interesting innovative solutions, to name a few, include radiation-free, non-touch, accurate, breast cancer screening solution (Niramai); A-powered microscope imaging solutions for diagnostic purposes (SigTuple); retinal imaging devices (Forus Health); triangular patch that can be stuck on a patient’s chest for medical-grade data on pulse, respiration and blood oxygen, and also for a spot ECG (ten3T Healthcare) and others.

Besides these MedTech startups, there are larger health-tech and life science platforms such as doctor appointment platform like Practo; MedGenome; and others. Overall, this sector is expected to record a five-fold rise at a CAGR of 37% to reach US $ 50 billion in 2025, from US $ 10.36 billion in 2020.

The MedTech sector has helped in enhancing the quality of healthcare products in the Indian market, providing real-time diagnosis, reducing healthcare costs and providing accurate data for further analysis. Given its immense potential, plenty of opportunities exist ranging from online platforms and marketplaces to medical devices and deep tech applications such as AI, internet of things, and genomics for analytics. Investors, both domestic as well as foreign, are riding on this latest wave of medical innovations in India, as Indian healthcare sector moves towards reaching $ 372 billion by end of this year.

With concerns on persisting unequal access to medical care, limited access to health facilities, medical professionals and devices, adaptation of similar technological innovations is an important dimension of the way forward for solution providers and decision makers in the Philippines. This opens up immense opportunity for bilateral cooperation between India and the Philippines.

Many of these Indian MedTech companies have already started exploring new geographies, including countries in ASEAN. The Philippines with its use of English language, large professional workforce and need for affordable quality healthcare, is relatively well-placed to take advantage by exploring linkages and partnerships with these Indian companies. Early adoption of such partnerships can enable the Philippines to emerge as a leader in this sector within ASEAN.

As democracies, India and the Philippines recognize the importance of putting people first. Thus people-centric as well as business-driven, knowledge-based and technology-led initiatives are at the heart of our emerging partnership. India and the Philippines can mutually support each other’s efforts to develop an accessible and affordable healthcare sector.

For a structured discussion on the pathways and prospects for India-Philippines engagement, the Embassy of India to the Philippines, in partnership with BusinessWorld, is organizing the first-ever bilateral business conference on healthcare and medical cooperation on March 23, 2022 (Wednesday) at Shangri-La, The Fort, BGC. The Conference will be in hybrid format, with open participation in online mode. Please register at https: //www.virnew.com/bworld-india-philippines-conference/.


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