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How A PPP Approach Can Make India A Leading Global PPE Manufacturer

Severe shortages of PPE were witnessed across the globe and led to rising demand for protective equipment. In 2020, the global PPE market is worth USD 55 billion. In five years, it is expected to be USD 92.5 billion.

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When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, it estimated that the global healthcare industry would need an astounding 89 million masks, 76 million gloves, and 1.6 million goggles every month to combat the novel coronavirus. It also indicated that global PPE manufacturing would need a 40 per cent boost to achieve this unprecedented target.

Severe shortages of PPE were witnessed across the globe and led to rising demand for protective equipment. In 2020, the global PPE market is worth USD 55 billion. In five years, it is expected to be USD 92.5 billion. Amid this worldwide shortage, India has an opportunity to leverage its vibrant start-up ecosystem, low-cost manufacturing infrastructure and widespread R&D facilities to become a leading player in the PPE industry.

India’s performance so far 

At the beginning of March, India had zero PPE production facilities. In two months, over 600 companies were certified to manufacture PPE, and the domestic market alone was estimated to be worth at least INR 10,000 crores. It took just 60 days for India to become the second-largest PPE producer in the world.

Among the 600 companies certified to produce PPE were not only big textile players but also several start-ups. With the lockdown disrupting business, ‘pivot or perish’ became the mantra of the time. Enterprises that earlier produced products as diverse as low-cost sanitary pads and military gear, among others, now pivoted to manufacture PPE at scale. For many B2B start-ups, the increasing demand for PPE from hospitals, clinics, governments and non-profits kept them afloat during this time.

The creation of the domestic PPE ecosystem would have been impossible without timely government intervention. Industry players have since attributed this success to the proactive response of the Ministry of Textiles in identifying the right manufacturers and testing facilities to establish a supply chain from scratch. With India’s domestic manufacturing in place, it will now take substantial public investment in R&D to help manufacturers to enhance their PPE quality to sell globally.

Creating an ecosystem

Public investment in innovation and R&D is one of the key drivers of a country’s economic growth. It creates new markets and sets the stage for private enterprises to thrive. Today, India has a ripe opportunity to drive its burgeoning PPE industry to new heights by investing in R&D that will help local manufacturers compete globally.

There have been notable strides in this direction. In addition to immediately identifying manufacturers to drive PPE production, the Ministry of Textiles has enlisted the support of R&D facilities across the country for PPE testing. Localised testing programmes were initiated, beginning with the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) in Coimbatore. It was later expanded to include the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) in New Delhi and the Ordnance Factories in Kanpur, Muradnagar and Ambernath, in addition to other facilities. These facilities helped accelerate domestic supply and enabled India to become an exporter by July 2020. 

While Indian manufacturers have displayed their ability to produce PPE at low costs, they still have room for improvement in terms of quality. This was indicated in a recent report by the Institute of Competitiveness – a part of the Harvard Business School’s global network of institutes for strategy and competitiveness.

In addition to highlighting India’s continued dependence on critical PPE components such as seam sealing equipment from imports, the report also advised the implementation of robust quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) procedures among all manufacturers. This would ensure consistency in PPE quality and reduce testing and rejection overheads, allowing businesses to scale globally. To achieve this, India needs greater R&D investment to enhance PPE quality.

At a time when global markets are spurring indigenous PPE production to meet domestic demand, Indian manufacturers must prioritise quality if they are to trade competitively. It will take a healthy ecosystem that involves public and private participation to transform India into a global PPE  manufacturing hub.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Harjiv Singh

Chief storyteller and serial entrepreneur, Harjiv is the Board Member at GlobalPPEMart India’s first dedicated B2B e-marketplace for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to connect buyers and sellers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in India and globally.

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