The existing wellness and nutraceutical market in India has an issue. Most of the products are solution-driven, which means when people fall ill, they take medicines and nutritional supplements to get well. But compared to the West, the preventive healthcare market at home is at a nascent stage. In fact, we are looking at reactive solutions and are not proactive enough to embrace a preventive healthcare regime. Our awareness of preventive healthcare is on the rise, but it is minimal, and until now, it is restricted to certain sections of the society. Therefore, most of the wellness or nutraceutical products which consumer goods firms or pharmaceutical companies sell are meant for solving healthcare problems.
Take the case of young children going outdoors in the summer. Most of the times, we do not consider how to prevent dehydration. In case we are feeling tired, do we consider what should be done to keep our energy level up? People from different age-groups face specific issues during summer while most of us suffer from respiratory problems or flu (influenza) in winter. However, we rarely consider how to prevent these seasonal ailments before we fall ill. Neither do we consider what immunity boosters should be used or which vitamins could help. In the West, people take flu shots before the onset of the flu season. In the US, many people routinely take zinc injections. That is what I call awareness. But in India, we wait until the entire family is down with flu before seeking medical help. If one takes the right mix of nutrients regularly, it can help prevent many of these conditions. Apart from these wellness products and preventive medicines, one should also opt for yoga, naturopathy, exercise to stay fit and ward off diseases.
However, it will take us many years to transform India's healthcare culture from reactive to preventive wellness. Instead of producing so many solution-oriented products, we need to focus on developing many more preventive products which will promote people's wellness over a long period and also bring down healthcare costs. Implementing this change could be very tough, though, as people in India do not want to spend or overspend when they have not fallen ill. But in the next 10-15 years, we may see a movement around disease prevention and the corresponding market will be big. At present, it is difficult to create that market, but spreading awareness could be the first step towards that direction.
(As told to P.B. Jayakumar)
Dr Sharvil Patel is MD, Zydus Cadila, and Chairman, Zydus Wellness