30 Years in Healthcare in India & Counting, This Veteran Bats for Academia-Industry Alliance
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The health care needs of a developing country like India are immense. Does India have enough number of diagnostic centres? Or does it have enough number of startups working on making healthcare accessible? Entrepreneur India caught up with industry veteran Dr GSK Velu to know more about what the future of healthcare looks like in the country.
Hailing from a poor family of southern Tamil Nadu, Dr Velu completed his graduation from BITS Pilani and began working at the age of 19. The first-generation entrepreneur who stepped on the gas at the age of 21 says it was more accidental than inherited.
He started Trivitron Healthcare back in 1997, when Dr Velu decided to build a company on the premise of delivering cost-effective medical technology solutions and services to the underserved. The two-decade-old Trivitron started as a trading company in medical devices and moved to manufacture key hospital equipment.
Trivitron Healthcare claims to be the largest medical technology company of Indian origin with products exported to over 165 countries and with a revenue turnover of INR 750 crores. The company is internationally present in Africa, UAE, Europe and Middle East.
In 1998, Dr Velu co-founded pathology lab and diagnostic centre Metropolis. After having spent 18 years with Metropolis, he sold his shares to start a new diagnostic business called Neuberg Diagnostics.
In the first year, Neuberg Diagnostics became the one of the largest healthcare start-ups in India according to founder. “In the last six months, we consolidated revenue of INR 650 crore and in the financial year, we hope to close it to more than INR 650 crore, makimg the company one of the top four diagnostic companies,” Dr Velu said.
India is INR 40,000-cr industry in medical devices i.e. medical equipment. Almost INR 8,000 crore of this is produced in India and INR 32,000 cr is imported. This is actually growing 12 to 15 per cent per annum average. This will grow and become a 100,000 cr in no time. This means there is urgent need to focus on ‘Make in India’ when it comes to medical devices believes Dr Velu.
Dr Velu experience of 30 years running a laboratory and a medical device company makes him believe the problems in healthcare, particularly in multi-speciality or diagnostics field, can’t be catered by investors looking to make short-term profit.
If the private equity firm is looking at the reasonable result then health care is a good fit but if they are looking at a roller coaster life like other industries like e-commerce then probably health care is not the way. There might be few assumptions here and there but otherwise health care is a constant return,” Dr Velu said.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Dr Velu who also owns a family office, which invests into start-ups mainly in the health care industry, thinks India’s start-up culture in the healthcare space is yet to establish.
“Real innovation ecosystem is yet to establish because we see the funding is limited. Nobody wants to risk capital as availability in India is less. Europe’s and the US’ ecosystem is a lot better when it comes to funding start-ups. Here we are funding ideas, which are elsewhere invented and we are trying to do it in a more cost effective and slightly different way. So real innovation in health care is something we have a long way to go,” Dr Velu said.
Dr Velu feels that instead of making investors invest in healthcare and granting money for spending on R&D today, money should be given to universities.
Lots of money goes to IITs, the Indian Institute of Science and others, they are all doing a reasonably good amount of work but they don’t have proper industrial collaboration. So mainly ideas get cooked up there and after that never get commercialised and that’s where we are lacking.
In his mission of making healthcare accessible and affordable to the Indian population and overseas, Dr Velu urges industries to invest and start doing basic science research.
“Even China has done a fantastic work of linking academia with industry. This academia-industry partnership in health care is the way to go about in the long run,” Dr Velu said.