23 November 2016 | Column | By Sanjay Mariwala, MD, OmniActive Health Technologies
Indian nutraceutical industry
The Indian nutraceutical industry is currently in its initial stages of growth and is still undergoing definition, both at the industry and regulator level. Market trends have shown a steady double digit growth rate for the industry going forward. This is being driven by rising awareness levels among the Indian consumers, who have growing disposable incomes and a greater focus on preventive healthcare. Demand is also rising as medical practitioners are increasingly co-prescribing nutraceuticals with regular drugs.
All major industries go through four stages of evolution: initiation, growth, maturity and decline. Currently, the Indian nutraceutical industry is in the transition phase between initiation and growth. It is imperative at this stage that industry players and regulators work in tandem to sustain this momentum. The key to sustainable growth is by encouraging innovation in products, technologies and applications, as innovation provides new and better solutions to market requirements across spectrum, both current and new.
Historically, India is home to a plethora of documented traditional knowledge and ancient literature. We have a traditional medical system in the form of Ayurveda and alternative healthcare. Botanically also, India hosts a wide variety of plant sources which have been proven for different health benefits. Globally, both Indian and international manufacturers are working to incorporate these in their portfolios with innovation in technology and science.
Areas for Innovation
Innovation is possible across the spectrum; the need is to identify holistic innovation strategies. Some of the possible areas are identified below:
• Innovations in science and technology will help identify and provide benefits of the ingredients with improved bioavailability, efficacy and without compromising the integrity of the actives. It will also help industry understand health benefits through new mechanisms of action which can be made available to the larger population.
• Innovations in application format will help the same product reach a wider consumer base and provide customization to meet the varied needs of the Indian consumers.
• The manufacturing sector can help innovate new processes which provide safe ingredients at competitive costs to consumers.
• The agricultural sector can help by focusing on making available crops of medicinal and nutritional value in abundance
The end result is a win-win situation for consumers, regulators and industry where we are able to manufacture and consume products which are efficacious, safe, proven by science, customized and cost effective.
The Innovation Ecology
Innovation requires a conducive regulatory environment. Regulatory support in times of increasing growth and innovation needs to be more towards self-regulation and productive collaborations between the industry and the regulators. A robust regulation that is defined by guidelines that protect and support innovation through strong IP will provide confidence to industry to invest.
Also, enforcement of regulation needs to be clear and timely. Through defining and enforcing clear guidelines, the regulatory body can empower the industry players to work on innovating and collaborating. The onus of maintaining and upholding guidelines can be put on the in-dustry players to enable them to take ownership.
The other crucial element for fostering innovation is the requisite infrastructure. This includes global standard re-search facilities and laboratories that can be built through collaborations, both of which must be available to industry players. Building manpower skills in science, technology and research will provide a strong base of professionals who understand the industry and work towards providing new and innovative solutions to consumers.
Financial support, especially for smaller players, will ensure that they have the resources to focus on innovation.
Our industry, which is still nascent, also needs support through incubation and development. This will help nurture our companies to grow and innovate at these initial phases of development. Developing this infrastructure can be based on collaborations between industry and regulators and managed in a similar manner.
Another major thread for holding this together is communication between all major stakeholders on innovation, regulation and available resources. The idea is to make the required stakeholders share ideas and updates and collaborate to provide the most innovative solutions to the market.
Given the nature of the nutraceutical industry and stage of Indian industry, innovation will be the key factor which propels growth. Industry and the regulators will need to work together to create a platform for the manufacturers to capitalize on and help Indian industry grow and progress.