Marico chairman bats for domestic production of affordable ventilators

  • The devices must be tested both for reliability and credibility, Harsh Mariwala has said
  • Imported ventilators can cost upwards of Rs1 million, while domestic companies have developed devices that are priced at Rs350,000 and can be used in ICUs

Goutam Das
Updated13 Jul 2020
Some made-in-India ventilators ran into rough weather recently, with hospitals returning them citing quality issues
Some made-in-India ventilators ran into rough weather recently, with hospitals returning them citing quality issues(MINT_PRINT)

Harsh Mariwala, chairman of Marico Ltd and founder of Marico Innovation Foundation, is batting for domestic innovation to produce ventilators, which are critical devices that assist people in breathing when lungs fail, at a low cost. More affordable devices could save lives during the covid pandemic and reduce a huge import bill. The devices must be certified by government bodies and properly tested for both reliability and credibility, he said during an interaction with Mint.

Some made-in-India ventilators ran into rough weather recently, with hospitals returning them citing quality issues.

“It so happened that some of the Indian manufacturers of ventilators did not do a good job of producing devices and that’s why Indian ventilators have got a bad name," Mariwala said.

Marico Innovation Foundation recently concluded a challenge that picked Shreeyash Electro Medicals (a manufacturer of newborn life saving devices), KPIT (a software solutions company) and Nocca Robotics (a robotics start-up incubated at IIT Kanpur) for allowing grants. "All the winners should get accredited and they should be certified by government bodies, which will add credibility and ensure what they are producing is reliable,” Mariwala said.

“The three companies are all very unique, and more importantly, they are able to offer their equipment at a fraction of the cost compared with the imported equipment,” Mariwala said. “It is a huge saving for the country. Affordability is a crisis when demand is going to increase dramatically. These three parties would play a role in supplying equipment which is reliable, tested and certified. Rural India can’t afford imported ventilators. This (the innovations) has come at the right time because covid-19 is now spreading to rural areas,” he added.

The machines selected for the foundation’s grant are easy to operate, Mariwala said. “They can be installed at home. Those made by KPIT can be managed at home or in smaller medical facilities. The other two are advanced ventilators which have to be used in hospitals,” he added.

Imported ventilators can cost upwards of Rs1 million. Companies such as Nocca Robotics have developed devices that can be used in ICUs and are pricing them at Rs350,00, Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the IIT Kanpur’s Department of Biological Sciences & Bioengineering said. Nevertheless, domestic manufacturers have to work harder at credibility now after the fiasco around poor quality devices offered to some hospitals, he stressed.

Nocca Robotics’ devices, for instance, have undergone endurance testing for more than 24 days at Ruby Hall Clinic, a multi-speciality hospital in Pune where doctors kept a regular log of the machine’s performance, Bandyopadhyay said. The devices are also being tested in Delhi hospitals.

Marico Innovation Foundation’s role doesn’t end with the grant. Depending on the company, the foundation would help in fast-tracking their accreditation and evaluation process and also open the doors to hospitals, Mariwala said.s

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