When the going gets tough, Indian start-ups get going


Healthcare and medtech start-ups in India are finding ground-breaking solutions to problems faced in all stages of dealing with the pandemic.


  • While the world is waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Indian innovators are trying to stay positive and find innovative solutions to beat the virus.

  • Several healthcare and medtech start-ups like Mylab, GFF Innovations and Accura Polytech are finding ground-breaking solutions for protection, prevention, screening, testing and sanitisation and treatment.

  • The Department of Science & Technology has approved setting up of a body having an aggregate cost of $7 million to scout and support innovations which address COVID-19 challenges in day-to-day life.

The world is being challenged by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than it has been ever before. Engineering, science and technology are expected to have a critical role to play in finding out solutions to this global pandemic through the creation of devices, diagnostic tools, new vaccines, and information systems, accompanied by strategies to help the communities and the nations manage and deploy various resources to combat the pandemic situation.

Funding innovations

In India, the Department of Science & Technology has approved setting up of a body, called the Centre for Augmenting War with the COVID-19 Health Crisis' (CAWACH), having an aggregate cost of $7 million (Rs 56 crore) to scout, evaluate as well as support innovations and start-ups which address COVID-19 challenges. The United States - India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) has been inviting proposals for joint US - India S&T based entrepreneurial activities that address the objectives of 'development and implementation of unique tools, technologies, and systems to address the challenges related with COVID-19. This includes diagnosis, monitoring, health and safety, information, and communication and public outreach'. Categorised as Ignition Grants, the invitation is aimed at encouraging out-of-the-box and creative practical ideas from the community, which will help to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid spread of the pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge for healthcare systems globally. As the virus has already led businesses across major industries to close their operations, several healthcare and medtech start-ups are coming ahead to fight the pandemic. Here is a glimpse into what is happening in the space: On the testing side, Pune-based start-up Mylab Discovery Solutions became the first Indian company to get commercial approval for its testing kits. The company has already dispatched its first batch of testing kits to the diagnostic labs located at Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Goa, and Bengaluru. The additional funds from Serum Institute India's CEO Adar Poonawalla and Abhijit Pawar, the Chairman of AP Globale, an impact investor group, have increased its production capacity by 20x. On the protection side, GFF Innovations will soon bring to market a machine for non-thermal sterilisation of clothes, facemasks, PPEs, and medical waste. The machine is typically similar to a washing machine; however, it doesn't require water and non-thermally sterilises the clothes. SINE IIT incubated Ayu Devices has developed a wireless digital stethoscope that helps doctors and pulmonologists to monitor and screen the COVID-19 patients/suspects while using PPE so that they do not get infected. The stethoscope is already being successfully used by doctors at hospitals like Apollo. On the preventions side, Bengaluru-based Bione has created a COVID-19 focused Microbiome test that is combined with AI and predictive analysis tools. They can provide customised recommendations to the individuals to fortify the microbiome and hence become more immune and be able to combat the deadly COVID-19. Ahmedabad-based Accura Polytech has created a fumigation and sanitisation chamber that can provide full-body sanitisation within a short walkthrough. This easy to transport and install chamber is made from all weatherproof UPVC. Earlier in 2001, the company had developed modular houses and delivered these in record time for relief and rehabilitation work during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. FICCI has prepared a comprehensive list of such innovations and is constantly updating it. While the world is waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Indian innovators are trying to stay positive and find innovative solutions for protection, prevention, screening, testing, sanitisation and treatment. When the going got tough, the tough (innovators) have really got going big time.

Dr Param Shah is Director - UK of FICCI.
*Disclaimer: The views expressed herein constitute the sole prerogative of the author.

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