India has the potential to become a health and wellness hub

Deepak Sood | Updated on July 29, 2020

One of the biggest impediments to unlocking the true potential of the wellness segment is the lack of adequate infrastructure and an acute shortage of skilled human resources

The Indian wellness industry growing at 12 per cent per annum is expected to get a further boost in the coming years with the Government’s increased focus on health and fitness.

Since 2014, the Central Government has been laying emphasis on alternative systems of medicine and focussing on a holistic approach to meet emerging health challenges. The Government set up the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) to promote the country's ancient and traditional healing and wellness methods. Some of the techniques like Panchakarma of Ayurveda has become world-renowned for its benefits in preventive healthcare and its treatment of many chronic lifestyle disorders. Due to these initiatives, India has become the second-largest exporter of AYUSH and herbal products in the world today.

The Indian wellness industry, estimated to be around ₹49,000 crore, has the presence of several large players. However, the sector is dominated by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) capturing around 80 per cent of the market share.

Many challenges

The sector is, however, marred by several challenges today. As compared to the global wellness industry, which is estimated to be around $4.2 trillion, the Indian wellness sector commands a minuscule fraction and has a long way to go. One of the biggest impediments to unlocking the true potential of the segment is the lack of adequate infrastructure and an acute shortage of skilled human resources.

It is expected that by 2030, the country would require 2.07 million more doctors to take care of its increasing population. Additionally, as compared to the global average GDP spend of 6 per cent, India spends just around 1.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare. The Government has set a target of increasing the spending to 3 per cent of its GDP by 2022. However, if the Government aims to achieve its sustainable development goals, then funding for the sector needs to go up by 20-25 per cent for the next five years.

The Centre, since the last few years, has made notable changes to revamp the wellness sector. It has begun transforming the existing 1.5 lakh sub-health centres and primary health centres across the country, into health and wellness centres to provide comprehensive primary health care and establish a holistic wellness model.

A budget of around ₹3,400 crore has also been earmarked to be spent over the period of the next five years, to help set up and strengthen Ayush Wellness Centers under the National Ayush Mission. There will be several benefits to these wellness centres. For instance, there would be a reduction of the burden on the secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, especially given the rising stress on this health infrastructure amidst the unfolding crisis. The out-of-pocket expenditure would also fall due to the self-care model.

As mandated by the Government’s policy think tank, NITI Aayog, these initiatives would also help in the integration of AYUSH along with the Sustainable Development Goal of the Central Government — that is, good health and well-being for all its citizens.

India should focus on creating additional awareness on health and wellness in association with the Ministry of AYUSH, especially during challenging times like the coronavirus pandemic. Also, emphasis on initiatives like Make in India and Start-up India is going to give a further boost to the sector in the coming few years.

Supporting govt initiatives

ASSOCHAM has been making continuous efforts to support the Government on several health and wellness initiatives. We believe that promoting wellness is essential to drive productivity, efficiency and prosperity for the country. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of physical and mental well-being.

It is, therefore, imperative for India to promote a healthy lifestyle through holistic measures, with a focus on a healthy diet, regular exercises through yoga, basic hygiene, and also preventive healthcare. Some of India's ancient practices like yoga have the ability to mitigate stress and keep the body and mind aligned, reducing the threat caused by viruses, including Covid, and other ailments.

India has the potential of becoming a health and wellness hub attracting investments and creating additional jobs. In a post-Covid scenario, the Government and the industry can develop models whereby entrepreneurs can opt-out of their conventional businesses and grab opportunities that the wellness sector has to offer.

The writer is Secretary-General, ASSOCHAM

Published on July 29, 2020

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