The past two years, highlighted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, further stressed the value of having resilient healthcare, as well as the advantage of cooperation among organizations, sectors, and even nations. Between India and the Philippines, for instance, great opportunities abound to optimize their long-running ties by cooperating to improve each other’s healthcare and medical services.

Such opportunities were explored during the India-Philippines Business Conference on Healthcare and Medical Cooperation, held for the first time as a hybrid event last March 23. Organized by the Indian Embassy, Manila and BusinessWorld, as a special edition of BusinessWorld Insights, the conference was attended by Philippine and Indian business leaders and representatives in the healthcare and medical fields online and on-site, at Shangri-la at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

In his opening remarks, Amb. Shambhu S. Kumaran, Ambassador of India to the Philippines, highlighted that the “deep-seated vulnerability” of the two countries in terms of supply chains, exposed by the pandemic, requires building partnerships grounded on trust, especially as there are untapped capabilities seen on both sides.

“As two democracies, we recognize that our people need accessible healthcare. They need affordable healthcare, and they need healthcare to be available. This is only possible if we look at the value of partnerships looking beyond the immediate value to the transaction, to society,” Mr. Kumaran said.

Philippine Ambassador to India Ramon S. Bagatsing Jr., meanwhile, encouraged Indian investors to invest in the Philippines as immense opportunities emerge and several incentives await them. “It is to be expected that in light of the current pandemic, Philippine health expenditure will continue to rise due to cost expansion and spending on health services by government and private entities, which in turn opens a window of opportunity for local and international pharmaceutical companies to [meet] these gaps,” he said.

Karthik Rajagopal, a co-chair at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, highlighted that the two countries have a big potential to collaborate in health technology; while Arun Kumar Garodia, senior vice-chairman of India’s Engineering Export Promotion Council, noted that the Philippines is an important market for medical devices, which he noted has become “a sunrise sector” in India.

The discussions that followed delved deeper into engagement opportunities in healthcare services, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.

During the session on healthcare services, Dr. Karan Thakur, vice-president for public affairs at integrated healthcare provider Apollo Hospitals Group, shared that they look forward to bringing its expertise in medical technology, mobile health technologies, and clinical care to the Philippines.

Also, Vikram Vuppala, founder and CEO of NephroPlus, India’s largest dialysis network, shared that they would like to improve access to dialysis in the Philippines, as their company did within India. “What my team tells me is the dialysis capacity is a little bit lopsided when you compare it to the size of the population. Our vision in the Philippines is to address that lopsided supply and demand..,” he said.

Christian S. Argos, president and CEO of Maxicare Healthcare Corp., also noted that health technology is a striking opportunity for cooperation as such services are seen to support the medical community in allocating limited resources. Rafael Jaime Recio, head of corporate strategy and development at AC Health, observed that the emergence and acceptance of new healthcare delivery models provide ample opportunities for cooperation.

Within pharmaceuticals, M V Ramana, CEO for Branded Markets (India and Emerging Markets) at multinational Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, finds opportunities in localizing the production of pharmaceuticals to achieve self-sufficiency. To make this much possible, however, approval process can be accelerated to make partnership with Indian companies more convenient, as Lakshminarayana Neti, chief operating officer for operations planning at India-based Biological E. Ltd., stressed.

“If the countries can mutually respect each other’s regulators, and then if they can accelerate the pathways for approvals, that would help us to serve the market of the Philippines,” he said.

Higinio P. Porte, Jr., senior vice-president and chief manufacturing officer at Pascual Laboratories, Inc., and Christopher M. Bamba, business development director of Lloyd Laboratories, Inc., both highlighted the Philippines’ capability in research and development, and technology transfer in partnering with Indian companies within the field.

Medical devices, for Association of Indian Medical Device Industry founder and forum coordinator Rajiv Nath, is the “next big story” in India after IT and pharmaceuticals. But for the country’s numerous manufacturers to fruitfully collaborate in the Philippines, Mr. Nath continued, easier and more affordable registrations are needed.

“We think that there can be a mutual recognition agreement between the Indian and the Philippine governments whereby…certification for medical devices…can be used to fast-track their registration process,” he explained. “We also seek that there would be an MoU whereby registration cost could possibly we lowered for India companies coming into the Philippines.”

Among the medical devices companies becoming a part of this “next big story” are BPL Medical Technologies, whose products range from imaging to home care, and Remidio Innovative Solutions, which builds smart medical devices to improve eye-care access. These were represented by CEO Praveen Nagpal and Vice-President Bhargav Sosale, respectively, during the forum.


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