This healthcare expert explains the resurgence and growth of India’s Ayurveda and nutraceuticals industries

Sanjay Mariwala, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, OmniActive Health Technologies, describes the Indian market outlook for Ayurveda and nutraceutical ingredients and products, and explains how the country should leverage these industries to become globally-competitive.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Indians to place emphasis on preventive healthcare. As Indian consumers increasingly reject chemical-laden medicines made from artificial substances, the Ayurveda and nutraceuticals markets are picking up steam.

The Ayurveda market in India is expected to grow from around $4 billion in 2018 to over $9.5 billion by 2024, according to a ResearchAndMarkets report. A study by Assocham and RNCOS estimated the nutraceuticals market in India could reach $8.5 billion by 2022 from $2.8 billion in 2015.

“COVID-19 demonstrated those who took precautions to prevent the disease were able to manage the pandemic effectively, but those who didn’t faced a much harder time or even succumbed,” says Sanjaya Mariwala, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, OmniActive Health Technologies, adding:

“The cost of COVID-19 treatment showed how financially devastating and crippling an illness can be. Cost of hospitalisation has become something everyone wants to avoid, and people have realised it is best to adopt preventive measures.”

Nutraceuticals, which come in the form of chewables, gummies, lozenges, etc., contain vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibres, probiotics, amino acids, etc., and can play a vital role in immunity boosting. Similarly, even Ayurvedic medicinal products that are made from herbs, plants, and other naturally-occurring ingredients can play a major role to boost immunity.

In an interaction with SMBStory, Sanjay Mariwala explains the Indian market outlook for Ayurveda and nutraceutical, and how the country should leverage these industries to become globally-competitive.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

SMBStory [SMBS]: How has the healthcare model transformed from sick care into wellness and preventative measures?

Sanjay Mariwala [SM]: When we talk about preventive care and holistic wellness, those words imbibe the feeling of longevity and gratification. Changing healthcare models are nothing but a reflection of changing lifestyle, which is increasingly becoming competitive and stressful day by day.

Medical research estimates that 90 percent of illnesses and diseases are stress related. With the world changing at the speed of one click, everyone is constantly living under pressure, resulting in health complications and chronic diseases.

Lack of cure for chronic diseases and the side effects of conventional medicines contributed to people resorting to traditional medicines.

Another interesting contributor to this shift is wellness tourism. People from the West are attracted to Indian wellness programmes related to Ayurveda, naturopathy, and yoga. Foreign travellers are also coming to India and studying Ayurveda along with religion and philosophy at premier universities like Nalanda, Taxila, and Kashi.

People are looking at these traditional medicines as their go-to treatments, and young entrepreneurs are also exploring it as a profession. This industry is immensely contributing to create awareness about the importance of unwinding, destressing, and most importantly, preventive science. It will be no different in the post-pandemic era too.

SMBS: How is this trend causing a resurgence of Ayurvedic and natural brands in the market now?

SM: Increasing urbanisation, while it added to lifestyle disorders, also aided awareness. Everything today is available at one click. The less known subject of Ayurveda is getting explored more mainly because a sea of information is accessible online.

Amplification and acceptance of preventive healthcare due to the Google era coupled with COVID-19 are the reasons for this resurgence. Unprecedented events compel us to rethink and reassess not just our strategies, but also the way we perceive things.

Rapidly changing lifestyles with people becoming more conscious of their nutrition intake and reducing the affordability of hospitalisation costs are naturally resulting in a rise in demand for natural solutions.

People are becoming more conscious and aware of prevention and overall wellness. Health is no more about medicines; it is now a way of life. Everything is about going to the roots and opting for organic and natural. This is one of the biggest contributors to the resurgence.

SMBS: How are nutraceutical companies mastering the science behind plant-based natural ingredients and launching new products?

SM: There are many skilled botanists working in forests looking for plants and interviewing tribals and adivasis on what they use for a certain illness. Such plants, when identified, are brought to a modern lab and each component of the plant is studied to understand how it works in a human system by biochemists who simulate the human body chemistry in the labs.

These results are then shared with regulatory groups that monitor and track the status of the chosen isolate of the plant in terms of safety and regulatory status around the world. Thousands of pages of texts and documents are reviewed and a safety document is prepared. Then, formulation experts are handed over the project to determine the best formats in which this isolate can be delivered into the human system and stabilise it.

Optimum bioavailability is designed into the dosage and a human clinical design is documented. When an ethics committee approves it, a clinical trial is carried out, and nine months later, a new product is ready to be launched. The whole process takes at least 18 months.

This is what the R&D of a nutraceuticals company does.

SMBS: India has an abundant supply of raw materials to make such products. How can we leverage this to become a global supplier for nutraceutical ingredients?

SM: The heritage of Ayurveda is the intellectual property of India. However, globally, a much larger number of patents and registered trademarks on Ayurvedic products are in the name of other countries. It has attracted the attention of the global population, especially the developed countries for ages.

Data says that at the end of 2019, Europe and the United States (US) were the two major herbal product markets in the world, with a market share of 41 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Despite a strong foundation of Ayurveda in India, there is a lack of a well-defined policy on globalisation of Ayurveda and nutraceutical products, lack of infrastructure, limited incentives, and impetus to innovate limited the growth in this space.

We need an ecosystem that is integrated and forward-looking. There is a need to develop a code of conduct, a roadmap to make Indian origin products as the preferred products, and sharply define the nutraceutical sector and its products.

We also need to establish HSN codes for the industry, establish a centrally powerful authority to help interface on intra-ministry issues and resolutions, and create an export body for the industry.

Additionally, a strong PPP approach may be a game-changer. The government must explore research and development in this field and deploy the PPP model to deliver the benefits of these nutrients to the undernourished population of our country.

This will boost domestic consumption and hence the size of the industry. My recommendation would be to establish a cross-ministerial task force under a Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that creates a plan and sets a goal to make nutraceutical into a $25 billion industry for India and leverage the huge export potential the industry offers.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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