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    Indian Healthcare, Biocomposites- M+V Altios

    British medical device maker Biocomposites entered the Indian healthcare market twelve years ago. It eventually took six years for the company to break even in India, but according to Sumit Basu, the Director of Biocomposites India, those first years were by no means a wasted investment.

    “The Indian healthcare sector is one of the largest in the world and offers enormous potential due to its rapid growth. If you don’t want to invest in that as a company, you are missing out.”

    Biocomposites develops, manufactures and markets unique calcium compound devices which can be used to regenerate bone and target infection risks across a variety of specialties, including musculoskeletal infection, orthopaedics, trauma, spine, foot and ankle, podiatry and sports injuries. The products the company develops are highly innovative and therefore fall into a premium price category. Nevertheless, Biocomposites decided back in 2010 that it wanted to bring its product to the Indian market.

    “At the time, Biocomposites already saw the enormous potential of the Indian healthcare sector, but at the same time was aware of the possible hurdles that it had to overcome to become successful in the country,” Basu explains. “They therefore decided to work with a local representative from the outset, who not only had a good understanding of doing business in India but also knew the ins and outs of the sector. And I was chosen for the role.”

    Testing the Indian market with a liaison office

    Basu starts Biocomposites’ Indian adventure with a market survey to determine which specific locations the company will target. “I see a lot of European companies coming through that don’t realise how big and diverse India is. You simply cannot approach the country as one big market that you are going to conquer,” explains the Director. “To start with, we decided to focus on the major cities of Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata, because there were opportunities for our innovative and therefore more expensive products.”

    To further test the market and set up a sound infrastructure, Biocomposites then opened a liaison office in India. “A liaison office was the best choice for us in that initial phase, because we really wanted to take the time to raise awareness of our products,” says Basu. “But interest among surgeons grew incredibly fast and a liaison office naturally has restrictions, as you are not allowed to undertake any sales activities. Our solution was to import and sell the products through distributors and provide as much support as possible from the liaison office while also expanding the business to new locations.”

    A long-term strategy is the key to success

    According to Basu, the construction of a liaison office and selling through distributors may seem cumbersome, but it provided Biocomposites with the scope to overcome the start-up challenges that every European company faces in India. “In the medical device sector, products obviously have to be inspected before they can be marketed. In India, there are strict rules for this,” says Basu. “Our long-term strategy gave us the space to go through these kinds of processes without pressure. In India, it is not difficult for European producers to get their products approved but it does take time, on average a year.”

    According to Basu, the long-term strategy also enabled the company to position itself well in the market. “The Indian market is bit price-sensitive, so we knew that we had to initially market our product at a lower price to ensure that doctors would be introduced to it,” the Director explains. “That turned out to be the right strategy. We really went far below our European prices and closer to Indian prices in the beginning. Over time, the market pricing slowly increased. It took us five years to break even, but we never had to change our product. And as a result, we have really managed to establish a strong position in the market.”

    From testing the market to selling

    After three years of being bound by the limitations of the liaison office, Basu felt Biocomposites India was ready to establish a private limited company in the country. “The demand for our product was growing fast and the liaison office was really restricting the type of activities we could undertake,” explains Basu. “But you can’t set up a private limited company overnight. We needed a transition solution to help us set up all the systems that we needed to have in place to get our Pvt. Ltd up and running smoothly. That’s when we found Maier + Vidorno. They supported us by taking care of our accounting, supply chain management, warehousing, invoicing, you name it. Not having to worry because the back office was taken care of, allowed to focus on our core business and getting our Pvt. Ltd. off the ground. A great solution for companies that are getting started in a new market.”

    The potential of the Indian healthcare sector

    Basu has high hopes for what lies ahead for Biocomposites in the coming years. “The Indian healthcare sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country with a CAGR of 22%, which offers interesting opportunities for European companies,” says Basu. “The Indian healthcare sector is growing tremendously on many fronts. Not only is India’s population thinning and ageing, which has increased the demand for care, but the demand for better quality care is also growing. One of the reasons for this is the health insurance options offered by the government. More Indians are now insured and are making use of them, so the market is developing rapidly. For instance, you can see that hospitals are modernising to meet the higher demand. I see robotisation, the increase in new forms of treatment and also a growing demand for personal medical devices. The opportunities are huge.”

    Basu therefore strongly advises European companies in the sector to spread their wings to India. “You won’t find such a large and fast-growing market anywhere else. You can’t get that volume anywhere else. So take your time, determine your strategy and come and take advantage of the opportunities this market has to offer you.”