The Indian economy has observed a growth in the start-up sector in the last few years. The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) reports that around 1300 new start-ups were established in India during 2019. Majority of start-ups (that exist globally) are technology-oriented platforms. The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted economic activities. However, several start-ups have found their way out. Apart from the technology segment, various start-ups have forayed into medical equipment and personal hygiene segments.
A NASSCOM report titled ‘Indian Health-tech Products – Scripting a Promising Future’ had stated the Indian healthcare IT market was worth $1 billion during 2014 and pegged to grow by around 1.5 times by 2020. But the report added that the healthcare software market comprises only 9% of the total healthcare IT market. In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, health and hygiene awareness has increased in India. This has helped to expand the healthcare start-up market.
Additionally, the availability of medical equipment like ventilators, beds, and PPE kits was limited in India. New enterprises coupled with existing players have come forward to bridge the gap in supply. With weak personal hygiene habits in India, masks and face shields, medical goggles and gloves were not used regularly. Use of hand sanitiser was also limited to a small section of the society. However, the usage of these items has increased, giving traction to the medical start-up sector. As maintaining good personal hygiene is the new normal, many healthcare start-ups are now investing in the field.
Few start-ups are now concentrating on B2C products while others are looking at both B2C and B2B spaces. Some of them are also supplying directly to the state and central governments. Innovation and application of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) have been their key growth drivers.
Nocca Robotics, an IIT Kanpur incubated start-up,, has made an ICU-grade ventilator for Covid-19 patients. Their ventilators cost one-tenth of the imported ventilators. They have started to deliver products from June. Their speciality is that their ventilators are equipped with an ultraviolet filter chamber. This chamber automatically kills the virus exhaled by the affected patient and then releases the air outside which minimises the hazard for others. The company is expecting around 10,000 units of production till July.
Dozee, a south India based start-up is now converting normal patient beds into mini ICU beds with the help of AI-enabled sensor sheets that measures breath rate, heartbeat, sleep and stress levels. Dozee is now using their device in a few quarantine centres. The Rajasthan state government has placed an order with the company in absence of adequate ICU beds in the state’s hospitals and quarantine centres.
The Bengaluru-based medical device start-up InnAccel has developed SAANS, a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) ventilator machine for children. They are now in the process of upgrading their product consisting of a Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) system.
Saral Design, a Mumbai-based start-up founded by IIT Bombay and IIT Madras alumni, has started to work for women hygiene. They have also launched a machine named SWACHH 4.0 to produce face masks. The company has delivered more than a million masks to various hospitals. Their masks are priced between `4 -`10. After collaborating with the Marico Innovation Foundation, they have received a grant of `40,00,000 to strengthen their production.
Medikabazaar, founded by an IIM Calcutta alumnus, targets to provide a common platform for Covid-19 medical equipment suppliers and customers where people can search the required products online and compare their prices from different suppliers. It has a digital catalogue of around 4,00,000 products.
Aerobiosys Innovations has partnered with AgVa Healthcare for making affordable and portable ventilators for rural India. Another start up, Droom is developing a special anti-microbial coating named ‘Corono Shield’ that will restraint the growth of bacteria. This can be used on the surfaces of vehicles. Start-up MphRx is using its digital platform 'Minerva' to provide tele-consultations to Covid-19 symptomatic patients.
A report by Tracxn stated that India witnessed a 35% decline in new start-ups during 2019. It reported that funding in start-ups fell 81.1% in March, 2020 to $0.33 billion, which was $1.73 billion in March 2019. Healthcare start-ups are an open window for the overall start-up ecosystem in India that can attract a satisfactory capital inflow. For instance, Curefit, a healthcare platform with a $114 million investment, became the largest Venture Capital (VC) investment during the last quarter of FY 2020. This trend may give a limited support to the employment situation in the country.