Amid the second wave of the pandemic sweeping across the country, demand for crucial medical equipment has gone through the roof with many states reporting a massive shortage.
Among the medical instruments that have vanished off the shelves of medical stores across the country are oxygen concentrators. More than two dozen companies including Hesley, Sora, Philips, Equinox and Dr Morpen sell the device within a price range of Rs 22,000 to 2.7 lakh and above.
However, due to a huge mismatch between supply and demand, the product is being sold in the black market at three or four times more than its original price.
Ashutosh Verma, Founder, Exalta India, one of the companies manufacturing oxygen concentrators in India, spoke to Outlook to explain the current crisis.
Q) Can you provide a rough estimate of the total number of oxygen concentrators manufactured/assembled daily by all the players in India and how much is the everyday demand for the device?
I can tell you about our production, demand and supply and from that you can estimate the national demand for the device.
First of all, there are very few companies that manufacture oxygen concentrators in India. Most of them are importing from China and other countries.
The daily demand for the device has risen exponentially during the last few weeks. My company alone, receives 2,000-10,000 orders everyday. Earlier, we only manufactured 10 to 15 concentrators per day but now we have ramped up production and we manage to manufacture 80-90 concentrators per day.
The demand for the device is different in different areas and it is determined by the rate of infection over there.
Q) What do you suggest needs to be done to enhance production to meet demand?
Availability of raw material is a major issue which we are currently facing. There needs to be a proper organization to channelize the demand and supply of the raw materials. Also, there is a need for proper testing equipment. Zeolite shortage is a big hindrance to make PSA oxygen plants or small concentrators. Further, due to custom fee, low GST, and unavailability of raw materials, import of concentrators is more feasible than manufacturing them here.
Q) What support do you expect from the government?
The government should set up an organization which can monitor the demand and supply of raw materials.
Q) What are the components that you import from other countries and how easy is it to import them right now?
Except for Zeolites which are microporous, and alumino silicate minerals commonly used as commercial adsorbents and catalysts, we are not importing anything else. The rest of the components are made in India.
Q) Why aren’t we importing a bulk quantity of ready-made products to meet the demand?
I don’t think there is a need to import huge quantities of raw materials right now. All we need is to channelize the work and overcome the issue of raw material unavailability so that we meet the rising demand.
Q) It is well-known that oxygen concentrator companies have increased the cost of the device overnight. Isn’t it opportunistic? Shouldn’t you rather sell the product on minimum profit margin as these are life-saving machines?
There has been a slight increase in the price not because we are trying to be opportunistic but because we have scaled up production which has increased our costs.
Scaling up production has resulted in increased labour, electricity and various other costs.
We are already selling our devices at the least possible price without trying to make much profit.