What’s the toughest call you have had to take since the pandemic started?
Early in the lockdown, the biggest challenge was to put in place a business continuity plan. Our number 1 priority has always been to keep the team safe. The toughest call, I would say, was to figure out a way to do that. We did that by rolling out a product range, comprising surgical hand disinfectants and hand sanitizers, in order to help address the large demand-supply gap in the wake of COVID-19.
Similarly, we also worked on ways to ensure that people had access to affordable wound care during the lockdown. Given the overwhelming number of customer queries we were getting from across the globe on how to treat chronic wounds in a lockdown situation, we set up a global helpline number. The idea was to help with online medical assistance at home – by way of video calls with trained professionals and nurses – for those living with chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers, bed sores, burns and other complex wounds. I have to admit that it has been an incredible learning experience!
How will this crisis change the supply-demand for your product in the country?
Axio’s product range comprises hemostats and advanced wound care products, which are primarily used in elective surgeries and medical procedures. Although such surgeries and procedures have been on hold due to the pandemic, we expect things to change in the coming weeks. Despite the magnitude of the COVID-19 challenge, we cannot afford to keep other health concerns endlessly on hold.
On a more positive note, we are seeing a renewed focus on healthcare expenditure across the world. This, in turn, will help medical device companies to come up with innovative solutions in the long run. I’m also excited about the focus shifting back to indigenous manufacturing. In these tough times, India has realised that we can only fall back on our local medical device manufacturers. I hope that this will be a wakeup call for the government to ensure conducive industry policies and support indigenous manufacturing and technology innovations to address India’s unmet healthcare needs. It’s the perfect opportunity to address our long-standing issues with import dependency.
Will this crisis accelerate the innovation in the healthcare space, drug development process or lead more Indian healthcare firms to go beyond generic manufacturing?
Yes, definitely. I see this as a turning point for healthcare industry in India, just like the late 90s was for the automotive industries. As the first-ever Indian company to design, develop and commercialise an emergency haemostat for trauma care – a USFDA and CE approved product – we have long waited for a time when the medtech industry attracts more investor interest as well as government funding.
Today, I’m happy to see fresh funding in developing ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other innovative healthtech products that need to be deployed on massive scale immediately. At the same time, Indian drug manufacturers are working on vaccines for COVID-19. I expect this momentum to continue and R&D spend in the Indian pharma/medtech companies to increase along with government funding. It will certainly spur the healthcare sector to work on affordable, high-impact, world-class products over the coming years.
Is there any event in the past that you feel can help companies like yours find the guidance/inspiration to get through these tough times?
When I started Axio in 2008, the industry was reeling under the impact of a global recession. We struggled for everything – the funding was scarce, the market was down. And still, we survived! Thanks to our products proudly made in India for the global market. With a strong R&D structure, we bagged multiple patents in the wound healing, mucoadhesive drug delivery and hemostats space. And today, we cater to the Indian Armed Forces, BSF, NSG, para-military forces, hospitals and emergency services not only in India, but across the world.
My experience of working in the healthcare sector for all these years, serving doctors and hospitals, has taught me one thing: Healthcare is one of the most resilient industries in the world. Beyond the current challenge, there are massive opportunities for the future. We will come out of this stronger and more agile – ready to seize every new opportunity!