Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 31

The Thiruvananthapuram-based Terumo Penpol (TPL), the country's largest blood bag manufacturer and one of Asia's largest outside Japan, has turned 25.

The company, in which Japanese medical technology leader, Terumo Corp, holds majority equity, wants to be the leader in global technology and manufacturing, says Mr C. Balagopal, Managing Director.

NATIONAL LEADER

The focus would be on bringing out innovative devices, equipment and accessories of blood transfusion, Mr Balagopal, a former IAS officer, told Business Line here.

Erstwhile Penpol started out as the country's first to manufacture blood bags but has since become Terumo Penpol, a national leader in the field exporting to 82 countries.

Even as it undergoes a process of strategic expansion aided by tools of financial planning, it has an overwhelming focus on process up gradation and quality improvement.

When the current expansion is completed, the present factory will be the third largest site for blood bag manufacturing in the world, Mr Balagopal said.

JAPANESE AQUISITION

Terumo Corp bought into Penpol in 1999 by acquiring the shares of financial institutions and other investors, leaving only the promoters and itself as shareholders.

Private equity investors, too, had approached the as-yet unlisted company.

All announcements about new projects are made by the corporate office in Tokyo, Mr Balagopal said while being asked about diversification plans.

TPL products are used in the blood transfusion services sector and can be sold only to licensed blood banks.

“We do not manufacture or deal in OTC products that can be directly purchased by people,” he explained.

Looking back, he said TPL had had to fight its way up to make a presence in the domestic market that appreciated reusable glass blood bottles only.

GRITTY FIGHT

It proceeded to develop plastic granules of high quality and performance but six months into production, was faced with a challenge with sterilisation.

Customers reported discoloration of labels on several bags in different batches.

innovations

This led the company to developing an in-house sterilisation process.

The process took more than a year to perfect but the company resumed production.

Other innovations followed, including in packaging and post sterilisation treatment.

MARKETING STRATEGY

In 1989, it started exporting and followed it up it by setting up an R & D centre. But the general lack of interest in using expensive disposable blood bags was inescapable.

The company found it also impossible to change the established view that all medical devices manufactured in India were substandard.

The company managed to ride out both these problems by evolving a marketing strategy that managed to get a deep understanding of customer needs, Mr Balagopal said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 1, 2010)
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