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by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

MedTech in APAC – Harmonizing Hazards and Rewards for Rapid Expansion

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Being the third largest medtech market in the world, Asia-Pacific (APAC) is becoming an investment hub for medical technology companies globally. Owing to the economic growth of the region and increasing income of the local population, healthcare affordability and quality are on the rise. These are the ground reasons that drive medtech companies to focus on APAC for growth and business expansion. But having access to many local markets in this vast and diverse region seems a hard nut to crack for the medical device businesses. Singapore, with its favorable business environment, which vigorously defends intellectual property rights, currently seems to be the geography being eyed by major medtech companies. Though Singapore is well-positioned as a gateway to region’s medtech sector, entering other markets in the region is still challenging. With differences in the regulatory frameworks bundled with lack of clear reimbursement strategies, medtech companies find it strenuous to meet the requirements of the regional markets. In order to witness growth, it is imperative for medtech companies to focus on the growing opportunities for industry-wide collaboration, intending to create strong platforms for growth in APAC.

In 2015, APAC was the third largest medtech market in the world, after the USA and EU, accounting for over 22% of the global revenue which stood at US$398 billion. The region’s medtech industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing globally and is forecast to surpass EU by 2020 to become the second largest market behind the USA.

The high potential of APAC is fueled by the highly populated south-east Asian countries (China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, have a combined population of 2.8 billion), aging population (by 2050, Asia population will constitute 25% of the world’s elderly aged 60+), strong economic growth, increased spending power of the middle class, and reduced costs by manufacturing medical devices in the region rather than importing. The medtech revenue generated in the region was US$88 billion in 2015, expected to reach US$133 billion by 2020, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6% over the period of five years.

Companies want to seize APAC’s potential for rapid development of medical devices by investing in the right geography that would support their expansion plans. One such location that offers the right environment for medical device players to grow is Singapore. In Asia, Singapore is the innovation center for medtech players due to its business-friendly regulations.

Companies want to seize APAC’s potential for rapid development of medical devices by investing in the right geography that would support their expansion plans.

The country brags of presence of leading medtech companies such as Medtronic, Baxter International, AB Sciex, Becton Dickinson, Biotronik, Hoya Surgical Optics, and Life Technologies that set up their manufacturing plants and R&D units here due to strong patent laws and easy policies to set up and manage a business. For instance, in 2011, Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical devices manufacturers, opened its first pacemaker and leads manufacturing facility in Singapore, which was the company’s first Asian site manufacturing cardiac devices. As the number of heart patients in APAC rapidly increases, Singapore is a perfect base to offer modern medical facilities to patients across emerging Asian markets.

Medtech in APAC

The medtech sector in Singapore is growing mainly due to government schemes that focus on investing in the sector. With initiatives such as Sector Specific Accelerator (SSA) Program that identifies and invests in high-potential medical technology start-ups (an amount of US$70 million has been committed for the formation and growth of such businesses) and EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board that invests in innovative healthcare IT, services, devices, and therapeutics companies, the Singapore government supports the growth of medtech innovation in the country.

The medtech sector in Singapore is growing mainly due to government schemes that focus on investing in the sector.

Apart from setting up committed bodies, the Singapore government in 2015 announced that it would invest US$4 billion in biomedical sciences research for the period between 2015 and 2020 to strengthen the county’s position as Asia’s innovation center.

While Singapore is a favorable location for medtech manufacturing and R&D, it is still a young market that is witnessing problems similar to the ones seen in other APAC countries. Many countries in the region are also capable of contributing to the technological health innovation but face challenges in broadening their reach and lack assertiveness to develop innovative ways to reach a broader range of patients.

Medical device regulations are the key challenge faced by device manufacturers in the Asian region. Med tech industry is regulated by strict guidelines through each phase of product or service development. In several Asian markets, there are no clear guidelines for device manufacturers that classify medical devices as simple or complex, or even mention how to handle them. Irregularities in clearly laid guidelines for introducing and using such products often create problems for companies to come up with advanced solutions in new geographies of the APAC region. Each country has different regulations for quality control, product registration, and pricing, and these are frequently unclear and inconsistent. This is a considerable concern for medtech players planning to set up a shop in the APAC region.

Medical device regulations are the key challenge faced by device manufacturers in the Asian region.

Another hiccup that the manufacturers face is the lack of definitive reimbursement structure. With new innovations in the healthcare domain, expenditure on medical technology is expected to grow but lack of transparent compensation schemes is a major hindrance. Medical device firms, across APAC region, face the challenge of limited clarity on payment structure of technological products and services. For instance, for medical products such as pacemakers and heart valves that are readily available, the reimbursement cost is generally available, but for progressing techniques or products like LVAD (left ventricular assist device), no coverage guidelines have been established. With this lack of clarity on the structure and level of reimbursement on such advanced products, medtech companies find it difficult to place their products in the market at a competitive price.

With unclear regulations and reimbursement policy structure, the medtech companies face a hard time in the APAC region. Competition from local players also add concerns for these players to survive in these markets. Partnerships of local medtech companies with funding firms and other players are on the rise. Domestic companies often partner with private equity firms that invest in and support the local players to innovate and expand. For instance, Huami Corporation, a manufacturer of wearable fitness monitoring devices, attracted investment from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone player, to develop a device that monitors health (tracking the number of steps walked, number of sleep hours, calories consumed, etc.) selling at a sober price of US$15 as compared to the average price of more than US$150 of its competitive brands including Apple and Samsung.

With unclear regulations and reimbursement policy structure, the medtech companies face a hard time in the APAC region. Competition from local players also add concerns for these players to survive in these markets.

Challenges for entering such a diverse market will take time to overcome, but companies are on the lookout for growth platforms and seem to be willing to leave no stone unturned to capture new opportunities. One such opportunity that multinationals can use to their advantage is partnering with regional stakeholders to access the APAC market. These collaborations are not limited to medtech companies or players in the healthcare domain, but are extended to a broader range of players including regional governments, regulatory bodies, educational institutions, insurance companies, and other technology companies.

Med tech companies are partnering with pharmaceutical players to access local market and widen their network. For instance, in India, Roche, a Swiss healthcare company dealing with diagnostic devices, got into a marketing partnership with Indian drug manufacturer Mankind Pharma, to extend the availability and market penetration of its blood glucose monitors, Accu-Check Go, in tier 2 and tier 3 towns making use of Mankind’s extensive local distribution network. Partnerships are critical for multinational players to rapidly and efficiently increase their geographic presence in the APAC region.

Another opportunity that medtech companies can seize to grow is the appointment of local staff in the regional management. Local people have a better market understanding and know how the system works. The decision making capabilities, if lie in the hand of local leaders, can work in favor of the companies as these leaders better understand the way the market functions. Balancing the availability of local talent and brand’s global assets, medtech players can be successful in developing products as per market needs. A mix of local resources and international talent in crucial to oversee operations in unstructured and fragmented markets such as APAC.

EOS Perspective

Correct assessment of the market needs is critical for any business to be successful. For medtech companies, APAC has been a challenging landscape due to fragmented market, as well as unstructured and complex regulatory environments. But with the focus being shifted to the dynamic and fast growing economies of APAC, the medtech market is positive to grow as the region offers scope of development and growth mainly due to aging population and growing income of middle class.

With challenges unique to each geography in APAC, medtech companies are focusing on partnering and collaborating with local medtech players and other stakeholders in the region. With strategic partnerships, global medtech players can reduce the intensity of competition faced from local companies. Collaborating with the right partner in different aspects of product development ensures growth, right product placement, and speedy market expansion. Association with regional entities are expected to increase, witnessing strong growth of the players in the medtech space.

The regulatory landscape in the region is highly fragmented and needs restructuring. Independent organization such as Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed), formed in 2014, assigns itself to strike a balance between medtech companies wishing to enter the APAC market and other regional agencies aiming to improve the standard of healthcare offered to patients. Efforts such as these may bring coordination in the regulatory landscape, but it will take long to come to general consensus on similar laws of conducting business in this field.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Thailand: Endeavoring to Become Asia’s Next Luxury Shopping Stop

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As purchasing power growth is slowing down in mature markets such as the USA and Europe, international brands and luxury retailers are seeking expansion opportunities in dynamic and rapidly developing Asian countries. Thailand is fast becoming a destination of choice for several luxury brands owing to robust demand, developed urban infrastructure, and low cost of establishing a business. Increasing number of tourists indulging in massive luxury spending as well as mushrooming high-end shopping centers are slowly coalescing to establish Thailand as a premier luxury shopping hub in South East Asia.

Luxury goods sales in Thailand are likely to reach US$ 2.2 billion by 2019 owing to improved economic conditions, retail expansion, and plethora of international brands entering the country. This growth has also spurred as Thailand offers several other benefits to luxury brands and retailers such as low rent and investment cost, and strong government support. Retail infrastructure is also witnessing a rapid growth, with expansion of several shopping malls and outlets.

Thailand - Asia’s Next Luxury Shopping Stop-1

Despite the bright growth prospects and encouraging retail development, there are several factors that are inhibiting this growth. For instance, the high luxury goods tax is a major hindrance to retail sales. Other factors such as counterfeit products, fragmented market, and political instability in the country are also adversely affecting sales.

Thailand - Asia’s Next Luxury Shopping Stop-2

EOS Perspective

Thailand faces a strong competition from other commercial centers such as Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, yet it is slowly emerging as a premier market for luxury products due to its unique ability to offer goods at more competitive prices owing to relatively lower overheads. Additionally, China and Hong Kong are the two most penetrated markets by high street brands in Asia, and are approaching saturation. Several luxury brands are halting further expansion in the two countries amid sluggish sales. Consequently, this has opened doors for Thailand which is slowly becoming a target market for retailers to expand operations.

Nevertheless, luxury retailers in Thailand face a major setback due to the 30% luxury goods tax, which discourages even affluent shoppers. Limited domestic purchasing capabilities further hinder sales, however relatively low housing costs leave a considerable disposable income in hand, which marginally helps to spur luxury spending.

Based on our analysis, certain strategies can be adopted to succeed in the Thai market – widening distribution channel by opting for online retailing, choosing the right target audience, designing an effective marketing strategy, and tapping the M-commerce boom in Thailand.

 

Thailand - Asia’s Next Luxury Shopping Stop-3

 

While Thailand still remains behind many of its peer countries in terms of luxury retail development, it is likely to become one of the leading Asian markets in medium to long term, increasingly hosting several prominent international luxury brands and registering tremendous retail sales growth.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Ultimate Convenience Indian Style – Why Do Ready-to-eat Meal Producers Have a Difficult Job in India?

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After a long day at work, a tasty meal is every hard working man and woman’s dream. But, cooking such a meal late in the evening – more of a nightmare. Enter ready-to-eat meals. Throw a packet in the microwave and your main meal of the day is steaming hot in under five minutes. What could be faster, tastier, more convenient and cheaper than that? Many options, Indians respond.

The healthy growth of ready-to-eat (RTE) consumer meals (i.e. microwavable pouches containing ready dishes) has become a success story across many countries, where lifestyles are getting busier, disposable incomes are increasing and women are becoming an integral part of the workforce. The RTE industry is taking several emerging economies in Asia by storm, as dynamic demographic and economic transformations occurring in many of these economies drive increased interest in convenience sought in matters of food by the region’s inhabitants. The trend, though, is of uneven magnitude, with rural communities largely remaining deeply traditional about home-cooked food, besides having very limited financial capacity to afford RTE products or a microwave oven. However, the growing preference for such meals is so strong amongst middle class groups, that, overall, the RTE segment across Asian markets has become an attractive area of opportunity for food companies.

Ready To EatRTE foods sector is one of the most dynamic growth sectors in the packaged foods markets across Asia, and on a global scale, Asian consumers exhibit the highest interest in RTE meals. A 2007 AC Nielsen study revealed that seven out of top ten markets with the highest propensity to purchase RTE meals are Asian countries, with Thai consumers emerging as the world’s biggest fans of RTE products.

Surprisingly though, India does not feature in the list of top 10 RTE markets. Unquestionably, the country does enjoy most of the RTE foods market growth prerequisites – fast developing economy, expanding modern retail channels, dynamically growing middle and upper class, rising nuclear family format, soaring participation of women in workforce, rapidly rising incomes and the growing reality of hectic lifestyles driving the demand for convenience.

So where is India in this picture? Why does its name not appear in the list of attractive RTE meals markets? Why do India-made RTE food products have a bigger market internationally than domestically? What are the challenges that RTE producers such MTR Foods, ITC Foods, Heinz India or Haldiram’s face in their home territory?

The fact is that although there is a market for RTE products in India, its size is modest and its growth is slowing down. AC Nielsen estimates the Indian RTE market growth slowed from 44.9% in 2010 to 28.1% in 2011 (reaching INR 506 crore, or about USD 110 million). In comparison, the Thai RTE market grew by 105% during 2005-2010, with a strong, upwards trend that is set to persist.

The reasons for such differing dynamics are many, largely due to cultural background and the Indian consumer’s mindset. Here are six key reasons why RTE foods producers have a difficult job in the Indian market, reasons, that might make them reconsider RTE expansion plans:

  • Traditionally, Indians are accustomed to hot fresh food served straight from sizzling pots, mainly because of easy and cheap access to domestic help and primary cooking ingredients easily available for purchase. RTE meals, despite their convenience, have a hard job competing with home cooked food.

  • Busy Indian consumers look for speed and convenience, and there’s plenty of options in the food services sector – countless cheap order-in and take-out options, that also offer great advantages over RTE meals, especially as these are freshly cooked, a factor of great importance to Indian consumers.

  • Unlike in many other countries, RTE foods in India are more expensive than most order-in and take-out options. This, paired with the preference for freshness, tends to put RTE products at a disadvantageous position.

  • Despite growth in modern retail format, majority of Indians still do their food shopping in traditional stores, which have limited space and interest in carrying novelties such as RTE foods (organised food retail is estimated to still account for only about 3-5% of the total retail market).

  • Considering the hot climate, Indian consumers tend to be reluctant to trust the safety of a ready meal that has been stored and transported out of temperature-controlled supply chain, especially given the largely inefficient supply chain management.

  • Some RTE meals, which do require cold storage, also fall prey to inefficient supply chain management and frequent power cuts, which lead to rise in production costs, in turn translating into higher RTE product prices resulting in lower demand for such products.

In spite of the many challenges, the Indian RTE market is growing, though at much slower rate than once anticipated. Indian attitude towards meal from a pouch is changing, with growing social acceptability to consume such foods and to prepare meals in the microwave.

Producers are optimistic, as the mere size of the potential customer base offer vast opportunities, even with slower y-o-y growth. But they also remain cautious, citing improvements in supply chain and distribution management, growth in modern retail format, continuous growth in consumers’ disposable incomes as the main changes needed to occur for the Indian RTE market to actually take off. However, given that many of these transformations have been occurring over the past years, perhaps these form just a secondary problem. Perhaps the key prerequisite for RTE market growth is the change in the Indian consumer’s mindset – change that is the slowest to occur and hardest to influence by producers.

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