Six months after COVID-19 changed our lives, the Indian market is flooded with at least 10,000 types of new products with claims of protection against the deadly virus. The products range from virus killing machines, in-house and outdoor sprays to keys and notes cleaning technologies, touch-free devices, oxygen concentrator cans, sanitisers for vegetables, home, offices or public places and designer masks.
According to Vivek Tiwari, CEO, MedikaBazaar, a healthcare exclusive B2B aggregator online platform linking manufacturers and suppliers to over 1,50,000 small to big hospitals and healthcare facilities, the platform witnessed over 10,000 new registrations of products related to COVID-19 care.
If mask supplies in India were only a hospital related affair prior to COVID-19, selling medical grade masks manufactured by a handful of companies like 3M, Magnum, Venus, now there are 1,000 plus manufacturers of masks selling over 8-10 million pieces a month. While all these masks are believed to shield from the virus, medical grade certified masks constitute only 1-1.5 million pieces a month.
Mask prices had soared to Rs 250-Rs 300 for a 3-ply ordinary mask during the lockdown due to shortage and high demand, but now they have cooled to Rs 30-50 per unit. With the public learning to live with the virus, a new emerging trend is designer masks by reputed fashion brands.
Another major emerging business category is that of disinfectants and sanitisers. Reputed medical companies to unknown MSMEs have launched at least 500 new brands of sanitisers, says Tiwari.
If PPE kits, ventilators and masks were the most sought-after hospital products during the early months of COVID-19, now the situation has changed with the emergence of scores of new manufacturers. "Now the main demand is for pulse oximeters, oxygen therapy systems. Even airlines like SpiceJet are selling oxygen concentrator cans. If there were only 8-10 manufacturers of respiratory products earlier, now there are at least 50 of them," says MedikaBazaar's Tiwari. He estimates at least 1,00,000 units of pulse oximeters and 50,000 units of oxygen concentrator cans have been sold in recent months.
Medical experts say many of these products with medical claims are imported and qualify to be classified as a medical device, which will require stringent quality scrutiny for selling in India. So far, the rules and regulations have been liberal in the case of such products and the Government is yet to start regulating them.
COVID-19 had caused stalemate in overall trade of healthcare products, which include pharmaceuticals and wellness products, declining from average $2-3 billion a month to about $300-$400 million a month during the lockdown. This was mainly due to logistics and labour issues. However, the trade has now bounced back to 70-80 percent of the pre-Covid levels. It is estimated that India consumes about $25-30 billion of healthcare products a month. Of this, organised B2B medical platforms like Medikabazaar and Colmed control 70 percent of the $400 million B2B online medical supplies market.
"If sales had plummeted to 15-20 percent during the lockdown, now sales have come back to 65-70 percent of the volume traded in the last year", says Tiwari. MedikaBazaar was started in 2015 and saw its trade volume grow 2-3 times every year in the past 2-3 years. The company saw an orderbook in excess of $250 million last year.
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