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Indian companies dazzle the world with anti-Covid products

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on April 17, 2020

‘China gives virus, India gives the cure’ goes a nationalistic riff doing the rounds on social media – a reference to demand for made-in-India hydrochloroquine (HCQ) from several countries, including the US and Pakistan.

Well, the wisecrack might just as well be spoken a bit louder, because the global demand is not only for HCQ but a bouquet of other counter-Covid-19 products as well.

Soaring demand

From face shields to masks to PPE products to isolation chambers, the world is knocking at the doors of Indian companies for supplies. Oddly enough, the companies that are making these products have got into this business only weeks, if not days, ago.

For example, a Belgaum-based company called Vega Aviation has been in the business of making products such as packing cases, wastebins, mobile toilets, security cabins and home food delivery boxes with fibre-reinforced polymers and composites.

With technology from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the company has just begun manufacturing kiosks for sample collection from Covid-19 suspects. These kiosks are small chambers, like telephone booths, where the patient is inside but the doctor (or the clinician) is outside. The doctor collects blood samples by putting his hands in through fixed rubber gloves. One such kiosk costs about ₹1 lakh. Vega has the capacity to manufacture ten a day. Its Director Suhas Chandak says the idea is to ramp up production to at least 25 a day.

As soon as the market learned Vega was going to make these products, Chandak started getting calls from representatives of companies based in the US and West Asia, placing orders for the product. An overwhelmed Chandak told BusinessLine that Vega was thinking of increasing capacity to 60 a day. “But my priority is India,” he said.

Isolation chambers

Pune-based Raksha Polycoats also got into anti-Covid-19 business very recently. The company has been making various products for Defence and ISRO, but has just begun making isolation chambers for Covid-19 patients. Raksha Polycoats has capacity to make 500 shelters a month.

The company’s Managing Director, Abhijit Sarkar, told BusinessLine that he had received several enquiries from abroad.

A Hyderabad-based company called iMake, which is into rapid prototyping and 3D printing, also said it was getting enquiries from US companies for ‘full face shields’.

Mayank Dwivedi, Director, Directorate of Industry Interface and Technology Management, DRDO, told BusinessLine that these products would have a large and sustained demand from abroad even after the Covid-19 episode ends.

Ventilators

Asked if ventilators could be exported too, Dwivedi said DRDO, working with its industry partners, had developed various components for ventilators. For the immediate needs of the country, 30,000 units will be manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd.

Transfer of technology for other companies will happen later, because unlike for other products such as face shields, sanitizers and isolation chambers, ventilators is an extremely hi-tech item. Transfer of this technology is a longer process and it would be done in course of time. If there is overseas demand for ventilators, Indian industry will have a play.

Published on April 17, 2020

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