Virtual India-ASEAN Healthcare Trade Fair to be Held from February 22 to 24

Posted by Written by Yashoda Kapur Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a move to strengthen economic and commercial partnerships in the healthcare sector, India is encouraging ASEAN companies to participate in the virtual India-ASEAN Healthcare Expo and Summit that is scheduled to be held between February 22-24.

The expo will be organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) with support from the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC). The purpose of this expo is to connect prominent business leaders, top industrial executives, regulatory agencies, and key stakeholders in the healthcare sector as well as senior government officials in India and ASEAN. The AIBC will assist ASEAN companies during the expo and arrange business-to-business (B2B) meetings.

Co-chairman of the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) Datuk Ramesh Kodammal said that the trade fair will be a good opportunity for ASEAN companies to explore business deals with India, and consequently contribute towards strengthening the economic and commercial partnerships between the healthcare, medical devices, and pharmaceutical sectors of the two regions.

Comparing India and ASEAN healthcare markets

India’s healthcare market

India’s rising health awareness is a major driver of its growing healthcare market, which is expected to be worth US$372 billion by 2022 (growing from US$160 billion in 2017).

In particular, India’s pharmaceutical sector is the largest producer of vaccines in the world and by 2024, is expected to be worth US$65 billion. India could also become the world’s second largest manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines after the US, as per industry analysts. India could be a strong trading and investment partner to ASEAN in this sector; the drugs and pharmaceutical sector is among the top 10 sectors attracting foreign direct investment into India. 

In the healthcare industry, India allows 100 percent FDI under the automatic route for greenfield projects. For investments in brownfield projects, up to 100 percent FDI is also permitted, but under the government approval route.

For medical devices, India is among the top 20 global markets; the market is expected to increase at a 35.4 percent CAGR to reach US$50 billion in 2025 from around US$11 billion in 2020. (To know more, see Medical Devices in India: Key Considerations for Foreign Investors, Importers.)

Out of ASEAN’S 10-member countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are India’s top five trading partners, with Malaysia and Singapore specializing in medical trade. In 2019, the total value of trade between India and ASEAN amounted to US$842 million, and trade with Singapore was the highest at US$27.85 billion.

ASEAN healthcare market

Along with Malaysia and Thailand, Singapore is home to around 100 healthcare centers, all of which have been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), considered the global gold standard for patient care and safety. Nearly one-third of the global 11 million medical consumers, including Indians, travel to ASEAN to access the region’s private hospitals, consequently becoming a major source of income for these hospitals.

Malaysia, however, has established itself as ASEAN’s preferred destination for medical tourism due to its 40 percent lower charge of medical fees compared to the US and UK, increasing private investments by its government, and the overall efficiency of its private healthcare system.

In 2019, Malaysia was visited by over a million medical tourists and gained a total revenue of over US$433 million. These achievements were possible due to the establishment of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) by the Ministry of Health in 2005, which dedicated itself to designing, facilitating, and promoting the country’s healthcare travel industry by the enforcement of public-private partnerships both at home and abroad. A public-private partnership refers to the long-term arrangement between two or more public and private sectors.

Additionally, Malaysia’s pharmaceuticals sector was valued at US$1 billion in 2019 and covers about 100 companies in three categories – generic drug manufacturers, over-the-counter (OTC) manufacturers, and research-based pharmaceutical manufacturers. Generic drug manufacturers meet 30 percent of Malaysia’s domestic demand, with the rest being covered by imports.

India’s medical tourism industry

Yet, India has also established itself as a medical tourism destination in recent years. India has expanded its e-tourist visa regime to include medical travel. Medical attendant visas are also issued to ease the travel process for medical tourists and the extent of duration could be up to six months.

In 2015, India ranked the third most popular medical tourism destination in the world, with the industry valued at US$3 billion. The number of foreign tourists coming into the country on medical visas was nearly 234,000 that year – the top sending countries from the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa. By 2017, the number of medical tourists had increased to about 450,000. 

According to a joint NATHEALTH-PwC industry report from 2018, the cost of medical treatment in India was less than 1/10th that in the US. As per industry analysts, the medical tourism segment generated approximately INR 4 billion (US$53.36 million) per month in the Delhi National Capital Region alone (pre-pandemic).

Scope for bilateral trade and commercial engagement

The two regions, India and ASEAN, thus have ample scope to do business with each other – cooperation in technology, public healthcare, and pharmaceuticals to mention a few key sectors. This has become more important as the pandemic underscored the need for urgency to strengthen and diversify industrial supply chain linkages, promote knowledge sharing, and align industry best practices.

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