Interview with Asif Rahman

Asif Rahman
Asif Rahman
India Head
TT: What is the market size of reusable healthcare textiles globally? What is MIP's market share in that?

Right now our approach to this market is totally different. We are not going by standard norms of doing a survey of what is the market size, what is the size of pie we can eat up, who is our competitor; we are actually not going that way. It is a very different approach we have taken for this market. Our company is the top ranked in Canada, the United States and Europe. For the first time, we are launching in Asia. MIP has taken India as a pilot project for Asia. So we are trying to introduce the products in the Indian market in a small way like having a floor in a hospital like Fortis and Breach Candy having 20 beds using MIP products. On a running basis, getting into a lifecycle cost, ease of handling, getting feedback from housekeepers and all those data are more important to us at the moment. So it is not a sales-driven but an experience-driven approach for the market at the moment.

TT: What are the advantages of reusable medical textiles over their disposable counterparts?

First of all, it is definitely the cost in a big way, because when you are talking about disposable medical textiles, then definitely the cost is higher as you use and throw. But when you use reusable products, then the cost comes down.

The second issue is when you are talking about reusable materials, then we also look at the handling cost, the ease of handling and how to lower human touch during the entire journey of medical textiles from housekeeping to cleaning, washing and coming to the bed again. We have introduced textiles that do not require ironing, which reduces cost and electricity. Third, composition of the material is 35 per cent polyester and 65 per cent cotton. But we have engineered the loom in such a way that the polyester comes at the bottom of the sheet and the cotton comes on top. So whatever portion comes under human touch is cotton, that is something unique. 

There are a lot of things we have added in our products. For example, in a hospital, it is very difficult to manage the inventory. The products that we are giving here comes with an RFID chip. So the housekeeper may see on a screen that how many bedsheets are in the stock, how many are in use, how many are in laundry or if any staff member is carrying a pillow cover in his bag and approaching the gate, then he can immediately call the security. This leads to prevention of theft.

We have recorded a huge number of lost items through housekeepers every month. On an average, we lose 10 bedsheets, five pillow covers. MIP products come with a chip wherein you can track each and every item.

There are other similar benefits added to the product and it is not just a normal bedsheet.

TT: What are the reusable medical textile varieties you manufacture and distribute? What is the science behind their creation? What raw materials go into their production?

It is basically anything on bed/nurse/doctor/patient in terms of textiles; we manufacture everyting. The technology is re-engineered after talking to thousands of housekeepers to bring more ease of handling.

To give you an example, if you look at any hospital or hotel about how they put the bedsheet -at all the four corners they tie a knot so that the bedsheet does not move. Our bedsheet is called an envelope sheet-you just put it as an envelope on the bed (it has got an elastic right at the bottom), it takes very less time and there is no need to untie the knots when you send the bedsheets for washing. It cuts down time.

The raw material composition is 65 per cent cotton and 35 per cent polyester-that is the standard. But looking at the requirements of different countries, we customise the raw materials used in our products. Like in Paris, the products are made of 100 per cent cotton as they want it that way. They dont want 35 per cent polyester.

There are certain brands of hospitals who want a composition of 65-35 or 50-50 and some want 100 per cent polyester. And we also customise each of the products with the logo of the hospital brand, so that is another added benefit. For example, if we are making our products for Fortis, then everyting comes with a Fortis logo; it's embroidered.

TT: Which are your major markets? Which new markets hold lot of promise for you?

Right now we are focusing on India. I am the main contact person for entire India. My next immediate target is definitely Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka. India is going to be the hub of Asia in future from medical textiles perspective.

TT: What are the new developments you are coming up with in your niche?

The new developments that we have added are basically called as OTRT system, basically a curtain system. When you visit a hospital, you will notice that the patient is always surrunded by curtains on two sides. Changing the curtain is a very tough task. Somebody comes with a ladder, goes on top, pulls the curtain down and replaces it with new curtain. In some hospitals, we found that they change the curtains in six months, some every month. Whereas in European countries, they want to change it after every patient, because anything can hold germ. Therefore, we have come up with a system named OTRT, where a nurse herself can change the curtain in 30 seconds by standing on the floor. It is a very new technology that we have introduced. We call it soundless curtain, i.e when we move the curtain, there is no sound. Thus whenever a patient is discharged, eveything is changed-the bedsheet, pillow, pillow cover, curtains etc. This way, infections do not persist in the room.

What are the new developments you are coming up with in your niche?
TT: What are your expectations from the Indian market?

We want to reach every part of India in smaller quantities, something like 10-20 beds in a hospital, where we want them to experience the product. This year that is our plan; let them experience, let them understand the difference, let them discuss within the community. Then next year, we will see how we plan our business. We may probably come up with a manufacturing unit in India.

TT: What are your marketing strategies for the Indian market? What are your expansion plans?

We have just done an event in Mumbai where actor Ameesha Patel was our chief guest. After the event, we received some enquiries from Breach Candy Hospital (Mumbai), Artimis Hospital (Gurgaon) and Fortis. We are working on those. At the moment, our targets are very low-key, that is to hit a specific hospital with a direct approach-taking an appointment, going there with a display kit, give them a presentation where you have a mixed gathering of 20 people of clinical doctors (who approve the product), executive housekeepers (who handle the product) and head of procurement (who buys the product).

We have already started with Delhi National Capital Region and we are going to take part in the upcoming Medical Fair India, to be held from March 5 to 7 in Mumbai.

After the fair, we are going to take one of the hospitals in Mumbai as a training centre where we are going to train housekeepers about how to use our product, how do you manage time to change the whole bedsheet and pillow covers, and how to use our carrying trolley without putting the bedsheet on the floor. We are going to train nurses and the housekeeping staff.

We are already in discussion with a few big hospitals in Lucknow, which is our third target city and then Kolkata. We are looking for hospitals and caregiving centres who look for quality and understand how to use top-line products from the US or the European market. 

We are targeting not only big hospitals, but also middle and small category hospitals because when we do the price comparison, we see that they are not very far away from the price that they are paying. Thats something which is a good news for us.

We also had a couple of meetings with government and army hospitals and they are showing great interest in our products. We are in both the sectors at the moment, government as well as private.

TT: What are the hurdles you see in realising your goals in India?

It is basically the methodology being used by each hospital, because we found certain places, which we do not want to name, are using disposable items thrice, such as a sanitary pad bedsheet, which is primarily for patients who are bleeding, in which the bedsheet is not damaged. The one we provide is reusable, you can wash it and reuse. But the same thing is used in many hospitals as a disposable sheet. But if they find that the sheet is not damaged, does not have any blood spots etc, they are giving it to other patients as well and not discarding it.

The second point is being in the comfort zone where hospitals buy from old suppliers they have a long connection with. Very few people are there who want to try out something new. We need people who want to take charge and want to try something new. There needs to be a shift in the mindset.

Another problem is the hierarchy. For example, if the vendor is introduced by the owner, then procurement or housekeeping does not want to touch it. But we are able to find people who are taking ownership and can convince the owner to approve application of the product for 10 beds. We are only looking for those 10 beds kind of things.

Since this company is over 30 years old and quite established across the globe except Asia, it is not looking for a money-driven approach at the moment. We have just launched in India on December 13. We have no targets, nothing to hurry and have a very relaxed approach as of now. It is rather like: let us go and get some appreciation, interested people.

Another issue is, we are sending a team of our foot soldiers off the ground to Birmingham for 15 days to get higher training on the products. Then we would like to come back and start a Train-the-Trainers programme under which we will start teaching hospitals, nurses, caregivers and even go to the laundry to teach how to handle our products.

TT: How big is your team in India now?

We have a team of 10 now. Two of them are fresh graduates having no experience of medical field, seven of them have some kind of medical background but not core background. We are not looking for  experienced medical personnel at the moment, because we are looking for fresh brains who can be tuned as per MIP culture.

TT: Are there any competitors in the Indian market yet?

Not really. What is going on is going on. We have brought in some fresh air. Once we are able to hit the chord in the market, we are sure that the demand will generate automatically, because the first shout will come from the user department.

Are there any competitors in the Indian market yet?
TT: Why is India lagging behind in implemention of such hi-tech medical textile products?

There are a few trends of the Indian market. If you look at the top housekeepers, they generally come from a hospitality background like working for some hotels, etc. So the back-end management of these items-pillows, bedsheets, towels and pillow covers-is somehow following a similar way of functioning in the hospitality or hotel sector. Hospital and hospitality both have become the same. If you talk about the front-desk and the back-end management, the only difference is that in one place you go for relaxation and entertainment and in the other you go for treatment. So the doctos are the only differentiating factors between the hospital and hospitality sectors. Even some hospitals look like a 5-star hotel. So the culture is same, and hence the maintenance and housekeeping culture is also the same. It is there we are trying to hit, that medical textile cannot be equal to hospitality textile. Neither it has a similar way of functioning. (PC)

Published on: 27/01/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of