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Updated on: Monday, January 10, 2022, 01:24 AM IST

‘Nutra sector creates strong overall healthcare sector’

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After showing signs of slowing down, Covid-19 has returned to Mumbai and the rest of India with a vengeance. As people are once again forced indoors, the focus returns to boosting one’s immunity through health supplements. The Free Press Journal spoke to Sanjaya Mariwala, a leading manufacturer of nutraceuticals in India who founded OmniActive Health Technologies Ltd, and who is the chair of the nutraceutical sub-committee of FICCI and the founder president of the Association of Herbal and Nutraceuticals Manufacturers of India (AHNMI), on the challenges ahead.

Outlook on the overall healthcare sector for 2022 including preventive healthcare…

As per the October 2021 report by the US-based Grand View Research, the global nutra market is projected to reach $8,26,426.3 million by 2028, expanding at a CAGR of 8.9% over the forecast period.

The consumer belief that improper diet results in an increase in costs on pharmaceuticals are anticipated to boost the demand for nutraceuticals. This would also help the government as it would result in lesser expenditure on healthcare and low social security costs. A rise in disposable income, increasing consumer awareness concerning health issues, and urbanisation will further boost the growth.

The manufacturing sector, in general, is constantly incentivized by the regulators through various drives like Make in India, ease of doing business, PLI, and so on. To prepare the sector for the expected increase in demand - both domestic and global, India needs to prepare by giving due recognition and attention to the sector. If focused and dedicated schemes are extended to the nutraceutical sector, it will help not just the Nutra manufacturers, but also Agri-based companies and farmers. An increase in demand for the Nutra raw materials, herbs, and botanicals will offer more employment and better economic benefits to the farmers contributing to the government’s agenda of doubling the farmers’ income by 2023-24. The government has formed a nutraceutical sector task force and I am highly optimistic to see more actions in favour of the sector in the year to come.

Important regulatory measures that can transform and enable rapid growth in the nutraceuticals industry…

The nutraceutical sector offers significant opportunities for India across the value chain from farms to formulations. The industry is contributing to strengthening the overall healthcare sector by preventing diseases and acting as a gatekeeper. However, the industry is still grappling with gaining due importance by the regulators. While we need to do a lot of work in the nutraceutical space, we should focus on 3 important things to ensure increased investment in the sector.

· Define and have independent HSN codes for the nutra products, lay down standardized rules and practices that are in line with international standards to ensure ease in exports, and most importantly, have a dedicated ministry or at least a desk under the Ministry of Commerce for the nutraceutical sector. This will bring speed in the execution of various matters that are critical to the growth of the industry.

· PLI scheme should be extended to the nutraceutical sector. PLI scheme if carefully crafted with an integrated approach for the nutraceutical sector can significantly boost the agriculture sector too. Similarly, as compared to the pharma sector, nutra products are taxed higher. We need to look at giving equal importance to the nutraceutical sector and bring more progressive taxations in line with the pharma products.

· We must revisit some of the overlapping and discouraging laws like the Biodiversity Act. Some of the rules under this act are discouraging FDI, limiting further growth, and investment by the industry players. Simplification of the processes, a balance between conservation and research, and eliminating the overlapping clauses from the act are required on an immediate basis.

What was the idea behind setting up AHNMI? What role does the association play in the nutraceuticals industry?

As I mentioned earlier, the trend is shifting and there is a rise in awareness, especially given the pandemic. Preventive care is gaining importance and hence making an opportune business case for India. Globally, the demand for nutraceutical products has seen significant growth of ~9% CAGR in last 5 years and is expected to see the northward movement in years to come. With the regulators driving “Make in India” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, we have lucrative opportunities to expand the sector’s offering with more value-added products. This is possible only when the manufacturers are in sync with the vision at the top.

Intending to bring more connectedness and collaborated efforts, we decided to form a manufacturers’ association. The Association of Herbal and Nutraceuticals Manufacturers of India (AHNMI) is thus created with an aim to discuss the issues with the regulators and bring solutions to grow the sector in scale and size. The underlying is to provide a common platform to all stakeholders and voice their concerns before the relevant authorities. The AHNMI is making all the efforts to work with the authorities to bring structured regulations, definitions for the products, and give the industry its due recognition.

How is OmniActive Health Technologies creating a positive impact in the lives of farmers? Any impact of farm laws being repealed on nutraceuticals industry?

It’s too early to say anything about the farm laws getting repealed. The amendment around contract farming could not see the nation-wide implementation, however, it is one of the effective ways to improve the quality of raw materials and the same time increase farmers’ income. Way back in 2010, we experimented and ventured to opt for vertical integration through contract farming under a program “Seed to Sell”. We started growing the specific quality of marigold flower on 1,000 acres, to begin with, to extract lutein from it. Today, it is extended to 10,000 acres of land cultivation giving us ~45,000 tonnes of marigold flowers, touching the lives of more than 9,000 farmers and multiplying their income from Rs 25,000-30,000 per acre to Rs 2-3lakh per acre in less than 10 years.

CSR contribution made in personal capacity or OmniActive that helped with the growth of nutraceuticals industry?

At OmniActive, we are actively working on four key themes i.e. improving Vision, improving nutrition, improving hygiene, and improving farmer productivity.

In the village where we are growing our marigold flowers and where lutein production starts, we initiated the “Improving Vision Program”. Under this program, we conduct eye health camps to identify the needs, provide free glasses and surgical solutions like cataract surgery based on the needs. In less than 5 years period, we have conducted 14 eye camps, 680+ patients treated for cataracts and 800+ people are given the glasses.

Under improving nutrition programme, we focused on women and children for iron deficiency and anemia, which is a serious concern in rural India in general. Through this program, we conducted different workshops to create awareness and check-ups. 1600+ women have gone through the check-ups so far. ~550 women were identified as anaemic and we ensured treating everyone by providing them dietary supplements, educating them on eating habits, and also helping them grow iron-rich vegetables at home.

What was the idea of launching OmniActive Health Technologies way before nutraceutical sector received much importance in India?

OmniActive was set up with a clear purpose was, and remains, “to improve lives by enhancing nutrition and wellness, and leveraging the most innovative science and technology to meet consumers’ demands while adhering to the highest scientific standards of quality”. The young generation is more aware and receptive towards various nutraceutical products. The trend is now shifting from replenishment to daily fulfillment when it comes to nutrition. Capturing this shift early on, we entered the nutraceutical segment through OmniActive in 2006. We currently are into five main categories, i.e. active wellness and physical performance, metabolic health and weight wellness, vision, cognition, and mental wellness, daily energy and productivity performance, and specifications driven specialty extracts. It is with great pride that we say that OmniActive today holds 38 patents, has applied for 60 more, derives 99% of its revenues from exports, and lists heavyweight customers such as Pennsylvania-based health and nutrition-related product manufacturer GNC, direct-seller of dietary supplements Amway, specialised eye care company Bausch and Lomb, and mass market giants Costco and Sam’s Club, and many other innovative companies that have launched interesting products and platforms in the nutritional space.

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Published on: Monday, January 10, 2022, 01:24 AM IST
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