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J. Mitra and Co. Pvt Ltd is one of the pioneer Indian in-vitro-diagnostic Company, to get drug manufacturing licenses for critical in-vitro diagnostic tests like HIV, HBV, HCV in rapid and ELISA formats in India. It presented with the innovation of differential detection of HIV 1 and HIV 2 in single rapid kit format. These products which despite enormous competition, are still the market leaders even after two decades. J. Mitra recognizes its prosperity only with the prosperity of its clients and in its duty towards delivering quality. J. Mitra is not only appreciated by its customers in India for its quality of products in vitro diagnostic arena, but its products also enjoy a brand-equity worldwide and It exports these products to 45 different countries.
The organization’s managing director, Mr. Jatin Mahajan has been working tirelessly for more than two decades in the company. Here I am sharing with you some of the excerpts of the Interview with him.
Take us the genesis of your professional and personal journey. How did you get associated with the company? My father Lalit Mahajan had a vision of making India self-reliant in the space of healthcare and in-vitro diagnostics. This resulted in J Mitra & Company becoming established in 1969, and quickly becoming a leading player in the IVD space. As the economy grew and liberalization happened, it became apparent that the rules and regulations in the country were not in favor of home-grown companies.Joining my father in his noble pursuit was a natural decision.Realizing that the next phase of expansion and growth had to be driven through a concerted marketing push, I completed by MBA and took over the helm of the company 21 years back. It was at this juncture that I was mandated to drive the next growth impetus for the company.I undertook the onerous task of taking the company fully global, to carve out newer markets so that the onset of relatively cheaper (though at times, lesser quality) imported diagnostic products would not hamper our growth.
I focused my attention towards further consolidation of the domestic business, while continuously increasing the international footprint, driving business strategy, Sales & Marketing, product development and customer service through constant innovation and automations. The journey has been all about increasing our footprint and market share in international markets.This 50-year old organisation has grown from strength to strength, identifying the changing business dynamics and adapting and innovating to meet the ever-changing needs of the masses.
J Mitra & Company has been steadfast in its dominance of the IVD segment, not just in India, but across the overall international arena. It is present across all the continents, and its dominant presence includes regions like – Europe, Latin America, Middle-East, Africa, SAARC, South-East Asia – a total of over 45 countries
Give a brief about the milestones and awards achieved by your company.
Here I am sharing you the detail year wise achievements by J Mitra and Co.
Click to enlarge the picture
What are the difficulties that you find in managing the diagnostic Industry? As a company, we have been able to address most of the concern areas. Our story has been about constant analysis, introspection, innovation and transformation. To meet the onslaught of the international biggies, we made our own systems and processes very sound and robust – aggressive automation to mitigate the risks of human error; focusing on enhancing our CRM to keep complete tabs on customer requirements and pain areas; a robust logistics system that ensures minimal time lag between production and delivery to end-customer, thus reducing the need for extensive storage facilities as well as mitigating the losses that happen at warehouses.
We have a very stringent audit and reporting mechanism that not only highlights impending issues, but also ensures that performance enhancements are driven at all levels. We continue to identify the industry best practices, and ensure its implementation and adherence within our organisation. We have continued to focus on our people’s wellbeing and progress, and they have continued to be the champions within the organisation driving its continuous and steadfast growth. Marketing has been another key focus area.
We continue to expand into newer markets while further consolidating our presence in the existing ones. We continue to maintain strong connects with the clientele, understanding their needs, and endeavouring to address them as much as possible.But policy issues have continued to hamper our work, especially the inverted tax policy wherein raw materials are taxes more than finished products in our segment. This results in imported IVDs facing an unfair advantage over home grown domestic products. Ease of business and single window clearances and financing for projects has been another set of concerns, coupled with over-dependence on imported raw materials. Another aspect of concern has been the availability of samples on which to run tests – this is one issue that has seriously hampered our turn-around time for developing and testing kits for various diseases. There is a need to formulate a proper policy in this regard and ensure further development of the home-grown IVD segment.
With the Diagnostic Industry gradually being directed, what are your desires from the govt? Various industry bodies, including AiMED have jointly approached the Finance Ministry (CBEC) to cut down import duty on raw materials and hike import duty on finished goods, which is the lowest in India amongst the BRIC countries. Just to cite an example, ELISA finished products (HS Code – 38220019 List 4 Sr. No. 32) have 0% duty and 5% IGST, whereas the raw material for ELISA kits under the same HS code attract 5-20% import duty plus 12% IGST – tilting the balance away from the home-grown manufacturers.The availability of samples for testing is another great concern, and has to be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Various aspects critical for winning the race in the global healthcare space are – ensuring a cost advantage over other nations, faster government permissions and single-window clearances, ease of doing business, adequate financing, competent infrastructure and soft loans with longer repayments. Other focus areas are – creation of large clusters with common infrastructure, facilities, subsidies for technological upgradations so that there is higher sustainability and economies of scale.
This is a long-standing concern of both the industry and the policy makers, but Governments have continued to drag their feet on the subject rather than take concrete result-driven, time-line specific actions. Speed is of great essence – if India has to succeed in capturing a significant portion of the market up for grabs, they have to display aggression and garner the first mover’s advantage. An opportunity like this is not likely to surface for a long long time.
What are the dangers made by the widespread mushrooming of pathology labs in the nation? I do not see a danger in the proliferation of the pathological labs in the country – in fact, it is a boon for the masses. Across the world, the emphasis is on ensuring that the distance between patients and point of care is mitigated.
While the bigger corporate pathological laboratories serve larger cities and metros, the smaller pathological laboratories are reaching the neighborhoods and rural and semi-rural areas. NABL as a quality-certification and assurance organization is ensuring that they bring all large and small pathological laboratories within their ambit, and ensure that the smaller labs provide the same / comparable test quality as the bigger ones.
Sometimes it’s just not possible to get everything on your to-do list done. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do? Innovation and business foresight are extremely important for the survival of any business. A robust business continuity plan is a must to mitigate the negative impact of large-scale disruptions. Standard operating procedures help in ensuring that most of the concern aspects have been thought of, ideated, and actionable defined. Flexibility and adaptability must be incorporated in the business ethos. For us, to mitigate heartaches in a business arena, we have focused on 4 key areas
Integrity and Fair Play – We are always fair in all our dealings. Consequently, most of our partnerships, relationships, workforce have stood by us permanently, in many cases from the very beginning. Our employee retention is one of the best in the industry. We retain the best talent and partnerships available in the country which has its own positive rub-off on our overall market performance Quality – There is no #2 position when it comes to quality. We utilise the best-available raw material, competent manpower to ensure that our products are the best. And we deploy stringent quality control and testing to ensure that we meet the quality norms as laid down in European and American countries. We always endeavour t be the gold standard in IVD solutions R&D, Innovation and Perseverance – Extensive R&D ensures that our products provide the best all-round benefits to both the users and the end-patients – in terms of price-point, accuracy and ease-of-use. Since these innovations are very costly and time-consuming, it has been our perseverance that has seen us through. Staying ahead of the Competition – Business foresight ensured that we stayed ahead of the competition, and continued to expand into newer markets and with newer products. We also continued to strongly implement our intellectual property rights so that our business interests are not adversely impacted. Our corporate culture ensures that people are entrusted and empowered to take decisions, based on predefined guidelines. Thus, there have been very few bottlenecks, all resulting in almost trouble-free business operations. One challenge that we recently faced was that related to Corona and lockdown – but we were able to tackle it satisfactorily with immediate support from the government which recognised our operations as one that should be classified under the essential services. We were able to continue operations with limited manpower availability, and constraints on the supply and logistics side
The outbreak of the coronavirus is posing a challenge to many businesses, how is J Mitra affected with this pandemic? I have a very positive outlook for our healthcare industry – the corona outbreak has provided us with a unique opportunity. There is a possibility of the world focus shifting to India as the primary producer and supplier of APIs, IVDs and generic drug, provided we are prudent enough to act fast and cash in on the situation. India has the potential to become the alternative supplier to global drug manufacturers due to growing distrust and possible sanctions against them. There is going to be a major perception shift. Most of the healthcare segment companies have been behind the scene or ancillary companies.
They have been either unknown or not given too much of importance. The current scenario has drawn a lot of focus to the healthcare industry and its contribution. Its criticality and yeoman services are being re-established, recognised and appreciated.In the history of mankind this is probably the first time when diagnostics industry has been in the absolute spotlight. We have suddenly moved from under the carpet to over the carpet necessity.The world has recognised the need for early warning systems in the healthcare segment – currently for Covid-19, but this trend is going to continue for all forms of diagnostics in the time to come. There is expectation of phenomenal growth for the diagnostics industry. Being a leading exporter of IVDs to the global market, we are likely to enjoy a sizeable chunk of the global buyers seeking these test kits apart from our existing product lines.Our cost-effective, society-conscious and ethical business dealings will further cement our reputation and relationship with our publics.