Bangalore: Years of work at the medical equipment division of US-based General Electric Co. (GE) gave S. Nandakumar and five friends both ennui and entrepreneurship.
So when they decided to pool skills to start a business, they addressed a gap in image-guided diagnostics that industry leaders had not cared to fill.
Today, Perfint Healthcare Pvt. Ltd’s robotic equipment PIGA, which allows precise positioning of needles for minimally invasive procedures, such as biopsy based on computed tomography, or CT, images, is installed in five hospitals in India. “We plan to install 20-25 units by March next year,”?says CEO Nandakumar, who thinks this would lay a “strong pilot foundation” even as the firm tests waters in West Asia, South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
“It’s precision is fantastic, and such a stereotactic device for the body was long needed because they have been largely available only for the brain,” says Srinivas Desai, director of radiology at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, one of the first users of PIGA.
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A stereotactic surgery involves use of three-dimensional?coordinates?from?the patient, CT and the positioning device.
Starting out as a product development service firm in October 2005, Perfint founders soon realized the Indian market for such services wasn’t big enough as there weren’t many original equipment manufacturers in the country and those in the US shied away from outsourcing to India due to regulatory issues. Perfint then shifted focus to products, and in mid-2006, started pursuing PIGA. This mobile needle guidance system currently helps in diagnosing small tumours or lesions, which otherwise are not easily diagnosed, let alone surgically removed.
Nandakumar says the first version of PIGA, which works with CT units, is suitable for lung and abdomen, but the next version would be for prostrate and urology procedures. He estimates the global market for this CT version at $500 million (Rs2,440 crore) by fiscal 2011. In two years, Perfint intends to come up with PIGA-MRI, which would work with magnetic resonance imaging and used in cases such as breast cancer. That’s about also when the firm plans to raise more money and enter the US market, says Nandakumar. The start-up is currently funded by $3.5 million raised from IDG Ventures India and Erasmic Venture Fund.
The Indian medical device market, around $2.5 billion by industry estimates, is dominated by imports. But in a specialty market, a new entrant has to sell the concept as well as the brand. “This area is dominated by super specialists like GE, Siemens and Philips, so initially it does require a lot of convincing,” says Desai, predicting Perfint will eventually “join hands with the biggies”.
Perfint Healthcare is one of the nominated companies at the Tata NEN Hottest Startups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can also be accessed at www.livemint.com/hotteststartups