India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd on Saturday said it had entered into an arrangement with AgVA Healthcare to try and produce up to 10,000 ventilators per month to help bridge the shortfall of the life-saving medical device in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Maruti said AgVa Healthcare, which is an existing approved manufacturer of ventilators, would be responsible for the technology, performance and related matters for all the ventilators produced and sold by them. The company would use its suppliers to produce the required volume of components and use its experience and knowledge to upgrade systems for the production and quality control of the higher volumes.
"Any other assistance required would also be provided. MSIL would also help, to the required extent to arrange to finance and obtain all permissions and approvals required to enable the higher production. MSIL would provide these services free of cost to AgVa Healthcare," the company said in a statement. "The intention is to reach a volume of 10,000 units per month."
A ventilator is a mechanical breathing device that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs and are critical in the treatment of people with lung failure, a complication suffered by patients with severe COVID-19. It costs anywhere between Rs 5-12 lakh. Currently, India imports around 80-85 per cent of all medical devices for intensive care, including ventilators.
With the number of COVID-19 cases in India rising every day and the death toll reaching 20, the shortage of ventilators in the country is likely to get woefully exposed in the days to come. According to a Brookings report, if the number of cases spirals in India, it may need as many as 1,10,000-2,20,000 ventilators as early as mid-May. It estimated the number of ventilators today in the country at a maximum 57,000.
The Indian government has reached out to other companies including Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Motors and Hyundai to look at ways to manufacture ventilators expeditiously. Two days ago, Mahindra had said it had indigenously developed a low-cost Rs 7,500 ventilator and is talking to two PSUs in the sector for developing it further. Responses to a detailed questionnaire sent to Mahindra are awaited.
Hyundai has also said it has begun the process of importing COVID-19 advanced diagnostic testing kits that can serve 25,000 people in India from South Korea.
"We are committed to supporting the government's spirited fight against COVID-19 crisis. Our contribution towards supplies of advanced diagnostic testing kits will help over 25,000 people," said SS Kim, Managing Director and CEO, Hyundai Motor India Ltd. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support the Indian government with multi-layered CSR initiatives to bring back normalcy at the earliest."
Besides the ventilator production, Maruti is also looking into the possibility of producing masks and other protective equipment. Krishna Maruti Limited, a joint venture of MSIL with Ashok Kapur, would manufacture 3-ply masks for supply to the Haryana and Central governments. Production is expected to start as soon as all approvals are received. Kapur would also provide 2 million masks free of cost as his contribution.
Another MSIL joint venture Bharat Seats Limited would be manufacturing protective clothing as soon as all approvals are in place. "All manufacturing units would take maximum care to protect the safety and health of the workers in accordance with the government recommended practices," the company said.