The second wave of COVID-19 exposed India’s medical oxygen problem, as demand for the critical gas wasn’t met in many parts of the country, primarily due to issues in the lack of supply. During the horrendous months of April and May, patients and their family members fought to source not only hospital beds but life saving gas in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators across the country. It was then, the concept of portable oxygen cans became popular and available in pharmacy and grocery stores.
However, startups like UCS Wellness realised the importance and need of portable oxygen cans way before the pandemic hit the country and launched Go2 therapy’s 99% pure oxygen cans in 2018. As hospitals and families gear up for the third wave of the deadly virus, companies are witnessing a surge in the demand for portable oxygen cans. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Alankar Saxena, Co-Founder and CEO, UCS Wellness Pvt Ltd talked about the business of bottled oxygen, its readiness for the expected third wave and more. Excerpts:
What has been the surge in sales for bottled oxygen since the beginning of the second wave ?
There was a sharp surge in the demand for portable bottled Oxygen can during the second wave. We saw a demand of 7x-8x during the peak of this wave. Though we noticed some decline in demand after the curve flattened, it was still 2x-3x of the pre-wave demands as people who were recovering needed Oxygen at home.
How much demand are you expecting before/during the third wave ?
I personally do not foresee the third wave to be as chaotic as the second one considering that the government has taken a lot of measures to ensure that the impact is minimal. Even if the third wave strikes, it won’t be severe but the demand for portable Oxygen cans is expected to increase by 4x-5x.
What kind of growth are you expecting in the general wellness market growing in the next 3 years?
As per FICCI’s latest estimates, the wellness market in India is approx. $ 7 billion. Thanks to the government’s push on ‘Ayush’ and a large millennial population, the market is going to grow at anywhere between 15-20% CAGR. I am estimating the general wellness market to be close to $ 11 billion in the next 3-4 years.
How do oxygen cans help in self treating breathing ailments at home/work?
Portable Oxygen cans can reduce the dependency of patients on inhalers. Inhalers usually relax the muscles of the airways into the lungs, making it easier to breathe. However, the chemicals and sometimes strong steroids present in the inhalers have severe side effects in the long run. While products like gO2therapy are not a replacement for an inhaler or any prescribed medicine, they can well reduce their reliance on inhalers and steroids.
We do not encourage self-treatment and strongly advise to visit a medical specialist as soon as people come across any kind of breathing ailments.
How a market for niche but lifesaving products like Oxygen shall make its way in people’ medical kits ? Who are your primary consumers ?
Almost every household in India has some basic medicines like painkillers, pills for stomach aches & colds, etc. Portable Oxygen cans are the new ‘must-have’ products in every home medical kit. This is a new product for India and people need to be educated on why keeping a life-saving product is more significant for them to keep handy than anything else in their medical kit. We are running constant campaigns for educating people on the same and the results have been encouraging.
In the pre-Covid times, our primary consumers were the young population between 22 and 35/40 years of age, living in the metros or tier-1 cities. However, during the pandemic, practically anyone and everyone was a consumer across the length and breadth of the country.
What role has the pandemic played in reshaping the general wellness industry in India.
The pandemic has shaken up almost every consumer category & has influenced new consumer behaviours. The general wellness industry has seen a particularly marked change in the behaviour of household consumers as they adapt to life without gyms and fitness studios and reconsider overall what it means to be ‘well’ in the times of a pandemic. People are now more observant towards what they eat and how they can stay fit so as to remain as far as possible from a doctor’s clinic as possible. The significant rise in stay-fit-at-home equipment is a testimony to this. So is the increasing demand for healthy foods and new products like portable Oxygen cans. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and once it is under control, it would have changed India from being one of the least preventive-care concerned countries to a significantly higher amount of population adopting preventive healthcare practices, giving a surge to the general wellness industry.
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