GST for preventive healthcare products should come down to 5 to 8 percent

Sanjaya Mariwala, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, OmniActive Health Technologies Ltd., India, and Founder President, AHNMI, will share his insights on the Indian nutraceutical industry and the steps to be taken to accelerate its growth to make India a prominent nutraceutical player in the world. The discussion points are mentioned below:

Currents trends in the nutraceutical industry

Looking at what this industry brings for mankind, largely it brings wellness and preventive solutions, and it’s basically preventive healthcare that helps in managing other healthcare costs. It also keeps you healthy so that you don’t fall ill, as the cost of treating illnesses is far greater than the cost of preventing illnesses. It helps you stay on top of your goals. An example is that all of us live longer than our ancestors. The average age of a person has gone beyond 80 today, I think, in large parts of the urban world. And people still retire at the age of 60/ 65, sometimes 70. But, you want to maintain the quality of your life till you survive, and you don’t want to suffer. What preventive healthcare helps you achieve is extending your quality of life at a later age. And that’s essentially what the major drivers are in the healthcare industry. I think the goodness of nature is recognized in treatment.

Leveraging tech-enabled solutions to continue green and sustainable agriculture

Consumer preferences can be doubled today. In the old days, we used to have focus groups for consumers to get together, look at products, and talk about what they preferred. Today, you can conduct focus groups on the internet and connect easily with consumers from all parts of the world, and you can cover 10,000- 20,000 people in a focus group, rather than having 10 or 15 people, which gives you more statistical accuracy. So, these technological solutions can be applied across markets.

The technological solutions that, for example, we have applied to the farms at the Farm Gate level, can track every farmer and his crops, predict what’s coming, and can develop payment solutions directly to the pharma through the banks so that the payments are assured and farmers are comfortable. An example is the variety of solvents that are used in organic solvents for extraction. Processes are slowly changing over from organic solvents to pure, simple solutions like water and ethanol or carbon dioxide, which are considered much safer and much greener, and this kind of shift is being driven by the industry, which is helping consumers feel far more comfortable with the products that they are consuming.

The impact of climate change

We all cannot be farmers. We cannot do what a farmer can do. Farmers have a very significant role to play in production, cultivation, and agricultural management. The farmer can grow good quality produce if we provide the right kind of seed. You can produce excellent and safe products if you provide the right kind of input in terms of fertilizers and pesticides. We teach farmers good agricultural practices so that they’re able to harvest the crop effectively and manage post-harvest practices in a way that the produce is safe and stays safe for human consumption. These are all significant roles that they have to play.

We have seen, for example, that we’ve been able to raise farmers’ incomes from something like ₹30,000 an acre to as high as almost 1,50,000 to ₹1,80,000 an acre effectively. All these scientific practices make tremendous contributions to putting the produce on our shelves. You know, most people don’t think about such things.

Buy a pack of one of our products or our customers’ products. Look at the batch. The batch number is traceable in our system in terms of where it has come from, and from which farm it has come. Also, we’ll be able to show you perhaps a video of how the farmer has cultivated that crop on his farm and how he’s harvested it, and how he’s made it available to us.

Social Initiatives and contributions

We’ve done a fair bit of work both through the association and as a corporate company, and one of the things I’ve tried to do is to encourage people within our organization to play an active role in deciding and doing the right things for both the industry as well as the nation. India has the unique advantage of having many agroclimatic conditions and we have many agricultural crops. Our farmers are hard-working, and a large percentage of our population is still dependent on agriculture and farming as their prime occupation. Maybe solution providers can come in and help them manage their water resources better so that water is saved, and water tables are restored and directed back to the farm in some ways, with the nitrogen balance in the soil preserved, and carbon credits made available. We can put fixed carbon back into the soil through effective practices. These are all various initiatives that a corporation can bring into this arrangement, and I believe those are the kind of policies that we need to encourage. We’ve also gone to the government and advocated the PLI scheme.

Policy changes and support for sustainable agriculture

Recognize that this industry exists and has the potential for growth. The government needs to give it a little boost. We don’t need subsidies. We don’t need cash handouts. We don’t need the government to give us freebies. What we want is for the government to listen to what we need as policy changes and for somebody to act on it. We need somebody to make sure that there is synchronization between government policy and the current and immediate needs of the industry in the next couple of years. The needs are going to change, so we need to continue to monitor the processes and manage them effectively along with the government and ensure that the communication channels are always open.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Scroll to Top