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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ravikiran Prabhakar Talks Scope of Medtech Startups in India

Indian entrepreneur, investor and mentor - Ravikiran Prabhakar, partner at Shirak in discussion with Indian entrepreneur Nalin Singh at Transcontinental Times

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Divya Dhadd
Divya Dhadd
Journalist

INDIA: Smart Entrepreneurship Decoded, a show hosted by Transcontinental Times has had a fascinating journey over the last 24 weeks hosting people from varied startup ecosystems who shared insights with us. In another new interview, a trending aspect of entrepreneurship has been put forth – Medtech in India.

The success of medtech in India in recent years cannot be exaggerated enough, and the Covid-19 pandemic only seems to have accelerated its growth.

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Parallelly, medical tourism has gained momentum and now is a $2 billion dollar business in India. The medical equipment industry is at $12 billion dollars now and is expected at a 50 by 2025.

However, what is lesser known about this huge industry is that around 80-90% of the high-end devices are imported. Rarely do we see Indian machines being used for MRIs, CT scans or surgeries. A lot of brave startups are trying to change this.

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The startup movement in India started with ideas majorly focused on the services and IT sector. Startups here see massive success with the service sector but why do Indians not get to the product side? Ravikiran Prabhakar from Bengaluru, with a professional background in consulting, investment and the medtech sector, while discussing with Nalin Singh, throws light on this aspect of the Indian startup system.

Also Read: Digital Transformation: The Future of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Hurdles of launching medical equipments

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Prabhakar said that when people invest in businesses, they mainly focus on ROIs and on the product side the cycles are typically longer. When talking about medical devices, it takes even longer – for a medical device to get launched, it takes a minimum of three years. The reason is that the medtech is a highly regulated space, unlike other consumer products. The industrial design itself takes about a year and a half, after which the engineering design, testing and regulation take place. 

Prabhakar said that once you go to a body for certification of the design, it takes around 6 months to a year to receive approval from them, while you’re just waiting the whole time. And after all that waiting period, either they give a green signal or ask you more questions.

“The typical life cycle of a medical device is around 3 years, and investors do not wait for 3 years for some response to come from the pipeline.”

When asked if big pharma in India is partnering with medtech to bring development in the industry, Prabhakar said that a couple of the big companies are doing hackathons and are nurturing the medtech startups. He added that quite a few of these startups have come up with phenomenal products and services, but some big companies end up buying them.

“With amazing innovations, the medtech space is taking off, even the big companies have understood that the copy-paste model doesn’t work because we are in a highly regulated environment,” said Prabhakar while interacting with Transcontinental Times.

Government funding for medtech sector in India

Prabhakar said that the government is doing quite a bit in the medtech space. In Karnataka, there is a C camp, Bangalore Bio-Innovation Centre, Buy Rack and other such organisations that provide funding for medtech startups. But it is not the same as the food tech, agri-tech or ed-tech funding provisions of the government.

India is a young country, so the thought of strategic planners is that we have yet some decades for the ageing demography to get out of control. Until then, the focus is on immediate needs like food and clothing. “This could be the reason why the space is laggard in terms of government funding. But we will soon get there,” said Prabhakar.

“There are large number of small startups and entrepreneurs coming up with products and services right from the ground up, understanding the specific need for the Indian market and launching products. And this space is only going to boom.”

Lastly, when asked about the most rewarding part of being in the medtech industry, the Bangalorean said: “Patient outcomes. When I see a device that I have worked on, addressing a patient’s problem or bringing a change in their lives – there is nothing more rewarding than that.”

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