Ten thousand acres under cultivation, 45,000 tonnes of marigold production, touching the lives of 9,000 farmers and multiplying their income from around Rs30,000 per acre to nearly Rs3lakh per acre—this is what we conceived and delivered in less than 10 years. And this was just for one of our products—Lutein—the key ingredient to manufacture nutraceutical formulations for eye care. Given that we required a specific quality of marigold to extract quality Lutein, we ventured into cultivating the crop ourselves.
Nature-based science is deep-rooted in India, and there is a huge export potential yet to be tapped. Like marigold, there are many natural herbs and flowers rich in medicinal properties, like curcumin from turmeric or piperine from black pepper. India is the dominant supplier of such plant materials and ranks among the top three producers in the world. India's overall contribution to the global nutraceutical market, however, remains minuscule, at just about 1-2 per cent. At $4 billion today, nutraceuticals have immense potential to reach $9 billion in the next five years.
Everything, including health care, saw a digital transformation during the pandemic. There was another fundamental transformation—the resurgence of the preventive care model. Patient care has shifted from hospitals to homes. And, prescription-based consulting has become customised and personalised. And, this shift has triggered significant growth potential for the nutraceutical industry.
The current ecosystem, including the regulations, is well-defined and robust in the US, the European Union and Japan. China, despite similar complexities as India, captured 14 per cent of the global trade. So, radical changes are a must for India. Availability of natural resources, labour, research talent and business community make it possible for India to be present across the value chain—wfrom farms to formulation. While opportunities exist, the key to meaningful conversion lies in making the environment conducive for industry players and building a strong ecosystem. A collaborative approach is the only solution.
We need to recognise that to succeed in this space, a new model of agriculture-linked enterprise needs to be created and nurtured. Entrepreneurs still wait for the government to fix crop availability and the cultivation of raw materials. We experimented with marigold cultivation in 2009 and expanded it to paprika in 2015.
India is one of the mega-diverse countries, harbouring nearly 7-8 per cent of the recorded species of the world, and representing 4 of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots. India is also a vast repository of traditional knowledge associated with biological resources. While regulators will have to continue to provide support through reforms, ease of doing business and other policy incentives, businesses will have to step up and invest enough to make India a global hub for the nutraceutical industry.
The future of the nutraceutical industry is promising. What is essential for us is to bridge the regulatory gaps, make all constituents equal stakeholders, build a common agenda and align them to achieve the goals.
The writer is executive chairman and managing director, OmniActive Health Technologies.