A David all set to take on the Goliaths in stent-making

A David all set to take on the

SMT is banking on ‘Supraflex’ to compete with global players such as Abbott
At the lobby of Sahajanand Medical Technologies’ headquarters in Surat, a digital counter comes into view showing a strange number — 14,19,953, and counting. For SMT promoters and staff, this figure is a matter of pride. It shows the number of their coronary stents successfully implanted in patients. The journey to this number started in 2004, when SMT led the way with biodegradable polymer drug-eluting stents (DES). What made it special was its ‘Made in India’ tag, a big step in the coronary stent segment. (Cardiac stents are wire-like devices used to unblock clogged arteries. DES are coated with medicines and placed on a biodegradable polymer platform.) Cut to 2018 — SMT has launched its fourth generation stent called Supraflex. And in a milestone of sorts for it, a global study found Supraflex to be clinically at par with market leader Abbott’s Xience. This international finding, the SMT top brass believe, will catapult them into the big league of stent makers dominated by Abbott, Boston Scientific and Medtronic. But the journey to this milestone has been filled with financial and technical challenges, says SMT managing director and second generation of the promoter family, Bhargav Kotadia.

The making of SMT
Years ago, his father and SMT Founder-Chairman, Dhirajlal Kotadia, scripted his own tryst with destiny. Hailing from Saurashtra’s Junagadh district, from humble beginnings, Dhirajlal experimented with his career after completing his diploma in sound and electrical engineering. His first job was also his last, at a Mumbai speakers company. It lasted three days and here he resolved to put his energy into building his own business. Through engineering, re-engineering and marketing, Dhirajlal created an indigenous laser-technology machine for diamond cutting and polishing. And in the mid-1990s, this ‘invention’ became a sensation, earning him fame and money. “He was good at reverse engineering. First, he would learn how to make and then he would make it better and affordable for the masses to use,” says Kotadia, and this attitude led him to make stents locally. He developed a machine to make stents and set up a small room-like factory in 2001, with four assistants. Slowly, SMT gained ground as a locally-made affordable stent, pitted against expensive ones priced at ₹2 lakh. SMT’s Surat manufacturing facility has the European CE regulatory certification and is powered by young scientists, technicians working in multiple shifts to keep the production running. With machines and techniques designed in-house, Kotadia says, “Each of our stents has equal efficacy and safety.

So much so that we used an off-the-shelf stent for our founder chairman!” As against the capacity to make about 4,00,000 stents a year, plans are on to increase production to 1.2 million in five years by investing about ₹250 crore in a new facility at Sultanpur, Telangana. “We have a range of products in the cardiology, vascular and coronary market. About 90 per cent of our business comes from stents, hence it is our bread and butter. We are also bringing more advanced features in cardiology,” says Kotadia, referring to a deal with US-based Cordis earlier this year to develop heart valves, among others. SMT, which is part of the diversified Sahajanand Group, aims to close March 2019 with revenues of ₹300 crore. Plans are afoot to increase its international footprint, including in the US, where it has initiated discussions and expects to start clinical trials shortly — a growth strategy that will require more funds and a possible listing on the stock market, about three to five years on. 

Source : www.thehindubusinessline.com

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