Business Opportunities in Medical Textiles (Meditech)

Meditech products are textile products such as bandages, wound dressings, hospital linen, surgery material etc that are used in medical services. The market is estimated to be around Rs. 4000 crores1, growing at 8-9 percent annually. Meditech is a very attractive opportunity in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (AP) as they have flourishing health care industries and access to cotton (AP-Telangana combined are third largest in the country). AP already has a Textile policy and Telangana is in the process of launching its new Textile policy.

Meditech Products

Meditech products can be broadly divided into four categories (see picture 1), the first two categories account for more than 70 per cent in value. Key products include surgical dressings, medical sutures, sanitary napkins and baby diapers.
Picture 1: Meditech products

These products can be woven or non-woven. Woven products such as bandages, dressing material are made of natural cotton and other fibres. Non-woven fabrics are made mostly from poly propylene, which is bound together through chemicals process. The examples of non-woven products include sanitary napkin, diapers, and surgical masks. The market for non-woven disposable products is growing faster as compared to woven products due to their higher resistance towards infection (as they are single use items) and ease of use.

Business opportunities

There are two categories of players: integrated manufacturers and convertors. Integrated manufacturers weave the fabric and then convert it into medical product, whereas convertors buy the fabric and make medical textile products from the same. Most small businesses operate as convertors. Below table shows some of the opportunities for small businesses in the Meditech area.
Table 1: Business opportunity-Medical disposables

Surgical gownFace MaskSanitary napkinDiapers
Machine (Price Rs. Lakhs)1025150175
Capacity (Pieces per day)50030001500010000
Manufacturing cost per piece (Rs.)50-700.501.55
Investment required25-30 lakhs35-40 lakhs3-4 croresmore than 5 crores

Source: A presentation by South India Textile Research Association (SITRA)


Marketing the product remains the biggest challenge, as most of these products have to be marketed directly to the hospitals. Each hospital has its own set of standards in terms of the colour, shape, size of medical disposable. Further, the working capital cycle can be fairly long with hospital taking as much as 3 to 6 months to make payments. For some of the products such as diapers, sanitary napkins that are sold in retail market, one has to compete with established multinationals such as Procter and Gamble, (P&G), Kimberly Clark.

The Road ahead

The rising number of hospitals, awareness for health and hygiene, increasing disposable incomes and favourable government policies are key drivers for the industry. The existing level of penetration for medical disposables remains very low, (for example only 12%2 of Indian women use sanitary napkins) offering immense opportunities for new entrants. Also heavy advertising by large companies has increased awareness of such products among rural area as well. The key would be in making the products affordable to large number of people. The success would depend on understanding the market, product innovation and differentiation and ability to tide over long working capital cycle.

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