’India is important for investment and growth’: Amal Kelshikar


Abbott has been operating in India since 1910 and is one of the leading healthcare companies in India. It provides consumers with diverse range of diagnostics, medical devices, nutritional products, and branded generic pharmaceuticals.

Over the past several years, Abbott has built a leading presence in India, with now approximately 14,000 employees – its largest employee base outside the US. The company has made consistent investments in India through its people, products, innovation, partnerships and infrastructure that have enabled the company to develop, manufacture and distribute high quality products to serve the unique needs in India.

Abbott has invested in pharmaceutical manufacturing plants in Goa and Himachal Pradesh (Baddi); a pharmaceutical development facility in Mumbai; a Nutrition R&D centre in Bangalore; and a greenfield nutrition facility opening in Jhagadia, Gujarat, this year.

Abbott in India offers a variety of nutritional products for infants, children, active adults and people with special dietary needs. These include PediaSure (complete, balanced nutrition for children), Similac and Similac Advance (milk formula for infants and children under 2 years), Isomil (soy formula for lactose intolerant babies), Ensure (adult nutrition for healthy aging and hospital use), Glucerna (nutrition for people with diabetes), Nepro (nutrition for people with kidney diseases), Mama’s Best (nutritional supplement for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers) and Prosure (nutrition for people with cancer). In an email interview Amal Kelshikar, Coun- try Head & General Manager, Abbott Nutrition International (India), shared his views about the greenfield nutrition facility coming up in Jhagadia, his plans for the growth of the company and nutrition market in India. Excerpts:

When is Abbott’s production plant in Gujarat expected to commence operation?

We’re working through the process preparations to open Abbott’s first greenfield plant for nutrition products at Jhagadia – we are excited about being a part of establishing a local man- ufacturing footprint for nutritionals and becoming a part of the local fabric. The plant is expected to become operational later this year. 

What products will be manufactured in the Gujarat facility?

Out of the portfolio of Abbott’s nu- trition brands available to the Indian consumer, PediaSure, our nutrition offering for children (2-10 years), will be the first product to be manufactured locally. Over time, we will add products from our adult nutrition and medical nutrition portfolio. 

What are the achievements of the research centre in Bangalore?

The Abbott Nutrition R&D facility at Bengaluru has been spearheading our efforts to better understand and deliver on the Indian customer’s needs and expectations. The state-of- the-art R&D centre is home to more than 50 researchers and scientists and its key focus is on development of science-based, affordable nutrition products for the country, while also enabling expansion of Abbott’s nutrition product portfolio. The analytical lab is equipped with technology for a broad spectrum of nutritional analysis ranging from micronutrient to micro- biological testing. 

The centre taps into local expertise to focus on product design, development and delivery specifically for the Indian consumer market, even addressing local taste and texture preferences with new flavours and formulations. Among the products being developed for the Indian market are meal complements for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Overall, key focus areas are maternal nutrition, paediatric nutrition and diabetes care.

Where do you see Abbott in the Indian market, now and in future?

Abbott is a broad-based healthcare company with over 125 years of legacy, powered by science and innovation – this differentiates us in many ways. We operate across the spectrum of healthcare and that means we are able to serve healthcare needs across the continuum. In India, Abbott has leading positions in the businesses and categories it operates in. This is true of established pharmaceuticals, paediatric, enteral and medical nutrition, medical devices and diagnostics.

Abbott has been in India since 1910. This long presence has provided us with an in-depth understanding of the country’s health issues and nutrition needs. Science and innovation, which is the bedrock at Abbott, begins with an understanding of the needs of the local people — the health challenges they face and the opportunities to help them live healthier lives. This is what differentiates us. 

We believe that products built on science and innovation, that add value to the consumer and address their day-to-day needs, will continue to power Abbott’s journey in India. 

How is Abbott structuring its business?

Globally, Abbott’s businesses are divided into four roughly similar-sized categories – nutritionals, established pharmaceuticals, devices and diagnostics. Having almost equal-sized businesses means very well-balanced portfolio distribution. Each business seeks to be a leader in its own markets, however Abbott’s diversified businesses also leverage cross-divisional synergies wherever feasible, to drive efficiency and seize opportunities. 

What business strategies is Abbott planning?

Abbott occupies leading positions across the categories it operates in, in India and across the world. Our busi- ness strategy is focused on our consumers and customers and not the competition. We deliver value to the customers by being relevant to their needs. Win- ning the hearts and minds of our cus- tomers by engaging consistently with them, and strengthening our connec- tion to the community by investing in local manufacturing and R&D wher- ever relevant, are some of the ways in which we enrich the value we bring to our customers.

What would be your primary objectives towards nutrition business with the changing trends?

Over the past 125 years, Abbott has achieved success in every decade because it anticipates healthcare trends and uses science to create innovative products that matter. Staying relevant to the needs of customers is a primary objective across our businesses. 

For example, in our nutrition business, our consumer studies and research in India have revealed critical insights that bring home the importance of a scientifically formulated, balanced source of nutrition for kids. With more than 20 years of clinical research supporting its benefits, PediaSure, our nutrition drink supplement offers children a complete, balanced source of nutrition needed for healthy growth. We believe PediaSure delivers on the consumers’ needs by providing 100% of the daily required intake levels of vitamins and minerals as well as probiotics and prebiotics to support a child’s immune system. 

Listening to the consumer is an everyday process for us and the insights we gain add to our learning. We continually invest in consumer surveys to understand trends and behaviours. For example, our activation team reached out to 2,00,000 mothers all over India last year to better understand their concerns around child nutrition. 

A majority of moms in Indian metros are concerned about their children being fussy eaters and the impact of fussy eating on their height and weight. Our communication to moms addresses this concern through a scientifically proven programme called ‘six steps to happier mealtimes’. Our social media outreach engages over 20,000 mothers and the quality of what we share is truly differentiating.

Are you looking at inorganic growth by acquiring any business unit of other companies?

Abbott’s global nutrition portfolio has some of the biggest and most well-recognised brands. Over the past few years, we have brought them into India, in alignment with Indian customer’s needs. Our primary task is to realise the potential that our present portfolio offers by enabling a wider reach and distribution. That’s why Abbott Nutrition’s focus over the past few years has been to expand the commercial organisation, set up the R&D and manufacturing facilities and leverage the legacy that Abbott has built over the past many decades. 

Abbott has had a presence in India for more than 100 years and is always looking for better ways to serve the changing needs of patients and cus- tomers. India is important to Abbott for both for investment and growth, and we will continue to evaluate op- portunities that fit with our strategy; however we don’t speculate on future investments.

How do you look at the Indian nutrition market and its growth?

The overall nutrition market in India comprises a large number of categories that range from antioxidants to vitamin supplements to infant formulas, tonics and appetite stimulants, milk food drinks, mineral formulations and slimming preparations. Categories such as milk food drinks (nutrition supplements added to milk) span across paediatric and adult categories. These, along with medical nutrition products are witnessing a positive growth of about 11% per annum (estimates), based on growing awareness and spending power. 

In India, Abbott offers a variety of nu- tritional products for infants, children, active adults and people with special dietary needs.

What kind of new nutrition trends you see as future of this business in India?

One of the significant trends we see is the customer actually looking beyond just the flavours and colours that a nutrition supplement adds to milk. Consumers are reading labels more than ever and carefully evaluating what the product offers. This awareness is leading to more of a focus on science. Abbott’s foundations are rooted in science; for us, science is our DNA and that is how we differentiate ourselves.

Other trends include the creation of new packaging and formats to suit the modern lifestyle and the enhancement of traditional recipes to improve nutritional value.

How important is clinical (medical) nutrition as a segment of Nutrition Business in India and its prospects of growth in India?

Medical nutrition is a very important segment for a country like India. India’s burden of Non-Communicable Diseases is substantial. Medical nutrition can play a very important role in alleviating this burden. A WHO and WEF study states that by 2015, India will face a massive economic burden of $236 billion because of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Hospital malnutrition in Indian set- tings is also a concern. A study con- ducted by Abbott across 13 Indian hospitals has established the importance of oral nutrition supplementa- tion in reducing malnutrition in hospitalised patients.

Abbott has also initiated a Hospital Centre of Excellence programme across 30 major Indian hospitals to set up world class nutrition protocols. Today 70% of the engaged hospitals have shifted from their earlier practice of using blenderised feeds to scientif- ic feeds, guided by Abbott’s medical nutrition team.

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