As an expert in advising companies looking to enter the Indian market, Rohit shares his insights into the key points and nuances that international businesses need to understand when exploring opportunities within the country’s healthcare system.
Can you give us an outline of your journey to becoming an expert in helping international companies to successfully navigate the Indian market and regulatory environment?
I have spent over 20 years working in cross-border trade and investment environments, with a particular focus on the Indian market. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with close to 1,000 SMEs over the past two decades. I have advised them on a wide range of issues regarding the India market across several major sectors, including technology, financial services, retail, infrastructure, healthcare and life sciences.
After completing my undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering, I went on to do postgraduate studies in management at XLRI, Jamshedpur and then my executive education at Columbia Business School in New York. I spent the early part of my career working on the trade aspects from a supply chain standpoint in the automotive manufacturing sector.
I then moved to advising international businesses on the Indian market at the consulting firm Tecnova. The work has given me a diverse perspective from a business standpoint to know how stakeholders operate in India, how businesses should calibrate their expectations in interacting with international companies and, importantly, to help them to understand the nuances involved in building up partnerships in the Indian market.
Of course, every business has different goals and expectations depending on the sector in which they operate. The healthcare and technology providers I have worked with have faced different challenges to those involved in manufacturing and marketing physical products, for example.
This work culminated in my being appointed to the UK-India Business Council (UKIBC) as an expert advisor on India and eventually being appointed to its India Board, where I worked for almost a decade fostering bilateral trade between the two nations.
What do you see as the sector specific challenges for healthcare and medical devices businesses looking to enter the Indian market?
Well, the primary challenge that any innovative company faces is how to best to ensure that their intellectual property is protected. For technology-driven businesses, not only within healthcare, it is also vital to ensure that any contractual agreements with Indian partners best serve their interests in this respect, from both a legal standpoint, but also for the practical purposes of business operations on the ground.
Secondly, as of October 2023, it is mandatory for all Class A (measuring and sterile), B, C, and D medical devices that you want to bring to the Indian market to have an import license from the government’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). Bleepa is registered with the CDSCO as a Class A (non-measuring and non-sterile) medical device.
Thirdly, you will also need to navigate national regulations around the way the product can be used, but, depending on where you hope to trade, there may also be policies at the state level that need to be considered. There is also taxation to consider. While there are certain taxes determined at a national, or federal, level, some taxes can also differ between different states, which may impact on the go-to-market strategy.
As an expert advisor for the UKIBC, my role was to investigate the market to make sure that overseas companies had the right intelligence around the different considerations around expansion into the Indian market. These included the market opportunity (the size of the market, growth drivers and competition), as well as how the supply chain would function, as well as the factors I described earlier – regulation, taxation, appropriate local partners, the best go-to-market strategy and what is needed to facilitate the execution of the opportunity.
Where do you see Bleepa making the biggest difference within India’s healthcare landscape?
A major chunk of India’s population lives in rural areas and remote settings that present challenges when delivering primary healthcare. Approximately 80% of the country’s population relies on government-funded healthcare. Publicly funded care focuses largely on the primary care needs of the population, with less resource dedicated to providing tertiary or specialist care.
This means that, in contrast to the UK, there is less in the way of efficient pathways and referral mechanisms. So, one of the ways in which Bleepa can help is to connect up those primary touch points for people seeking care and make the process of getting them to the right clinician, doctor or care workers for their medical needs easier.
For example, for a great many people living in rural areas, their first point of contact is likely to be with a community health worker. These people do not necessarily have the same level of training as a qualified nurse. These community health workers can then point people towards sub-centres, where auxiliary nurses, midwives or other trained healthcare workers can provide a level of primary care.
One step above these centres sit the primary healthcare centres, where patients will come into contact with trained doctors (known as medical officers). If the patients require further care they can go to community health centres, which will house diagnostic facilities and for more specialised procedures they can go further up in the chain to district hospitals
Now unlike in the UK, patients don’t have to wait to be referred through these different routes, they can attend any one of these types of care provider.
Within the private healthcare system, it is more of a free market, where the principle of general practitioners as gatekeepers to specialist care doesn’t really exist, so again private patients can interact with a specialist as their first port of call if desired.
With all of these scenarios, Bleepa can underpin the infrastructure to help clinicians and care workers pool their resources to use their time most efficiently and flexibly. In addition, the ability for different kinds of medical professionals to two-way communicate easily with one another can help to create a more efficient referral pathway and a better care management of patients.
If successfully implemented in public healthcare delivery, this means that – for example – a specialist’s time is not wasted if a patient presents to them with a problem or a need that can be met closer to the community level. Conversely, Bleepa can help patients in remote areas gain faster access to appropriate care by facilitating timely access to a specialist if their medical need is more serious, complex, or urgent than can be addressed at the level of a community health worker or sub centre or at primary health care centre.
A third key use case we foresee, and have already done a pilot for this, is around the way in which Bleepa’s communication and clinical image-sharing functionalities can aid faster screening for conditions where there is a particular impetus from a public health standpoint. I’m thinking particularly of the benefit it can offer in tuberculosis and cancer screening.
In the case of private healthcare systems providing tertiary care in India, use of Bleepa can greatly improve clinical efficiency. Bleepa can create a patient centric virtual clinical room for clinicians to access patients’ data, including radiology images, across multiple clinical sites. Its photo capture feature can facilitate moving paper records to cloud storage and make them readily accessible to clinicians. They can easily collaborate, communicate with the care team and fellow clinicians from anywhere, anytime, via two-way, secure chat messaging.
With Bleepa, multi-disciplinary team working can also be more efficient, with clinicians having all the pertinent information available in one place, and those involved can work remotely.
In contrast to complex hospital IT systems, I have no doubt that clinicians in India would like to work with Bleepa since it is a simple, easy to use, secure platform for two-way communication and access to clinical data that can improve productivity and give them more flexibility.
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Read the previous entry in our staff expertise series: