A Father, 78 years Old on Life Support A Mother, 75 years old Obese, highly Diabetic, Lung Pumping very Low. Onset of Pandemic, COVID – 19
We were never into manufacturing of medical supplies, but when we ordered personal protection kits for our Joint family and my father who is above 75 years of age and living on life support systems, a harsh reality stuck to us.
In the month of March 2020, we searched all options of Masks, Sanitizers, PPE kit, Eye wear and Face-shields to figure our recurring order for our home & Office consumption to meet my budget and quality parameters.
Mostly relationship of pricing and quality was found inverse, meaning extremely poor quality locally produced was sold at crazy prices due to huge demand, cheap quality imported products were being dumped at exorbitant pricing and brands like 3M were being sold at exorbitant premium and somewhat not affordable even for an upper middle-class family.
Our thrust went higher to explore the manufacturing capacities available in India & to my surprise most entrepreneurs were hesitant to build capacity, saying that this price delta & demand is temporary and short lived. They were happy in trading to make quick gains and not invest in Research, product optimisation and qualitative scaled up manufacturing.
Under the desperate need to produce and make available quality product and right pricing and also see a potentially strong and viable business here, we ordered a few moulds try my luck to meet the objective by talking to our supplier networks in Korea, Taiwan and China. They supplied us at 6-7 times higher than the normal price, since demand worldwide from manufacturers was shooting up gradually. Even the imports of the same was not viable as air freight was 8-9 times higher but we still went ahead and invested. Even the raw material availability and pricing was a big pressure at this time.
My friends in Healthcare and Pharma Industry, who were currently buying cheap and “Kachra” stuff at higher price with limited choices or options available locally. Line of direction was clear, scale and make product available for all channels and sectors.
We got only 75 worker permission due to lock down and I stayed in my factory working 18-20 hours a day during the first week of start of the production when mould arrived. Motivating employees, keeping their Covid fear away and managing their sanitization needs was a big challenge, so we hired a nearby closed factory of my friend to create dormitory and community kitchen set-up for them. Lot many times policeman stopped us while going to our factory besides having permissions in place, so almost 9 days at stretch I slept in my office cabin in the factory. To keep our workers motivated we decided to give them food , fruits and recreational facilities ( TV) in the temporary Dormitory created and believe me I enjoyed eating together with them , because we all were on a common mission to make right product available at the fastest possible speed and also capitalise on the demand in market at the same time.
Soon, buyers started contacting us when they found most of the State government and hospitals were looking for quality products as demanded by doctors and health-workers. It confirmed my belief that this demand for right quality at right pricing is here to stay for longer period and we can safely build up large capacity to manufacture these items. This gave birth to our brand – SANFIT, meaning SANitise to stay FIT. A brand from Sanson, a partnership LLP, run by 2 brothers, Kailash Jain and Goutam Jain (myself).
Wow , we got it right and with certifications like GMP , SEDEX, ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, and then BIS for each product category that we got into, we became the one of the largest suppliers with 172 Customers , 12 State govt supplies through frontline marketing companies approving our product range and all leading airlines in India buying safety kits, 3 ply and N95 masks, PPE, Chemical Splash Goggles and Face-shields from us. Our focus was manufacturing so we promoted distribution channel to do most of the sales, because it was difficult to manage both during unprecedented time of Covid19. With repeated marketing to over 2800 healthcare and Pharma companies and regular participation in Government and private tenders, SANFIT by SANSON got established as a large and major player in this category Nationally.
We put our own money to the tune of 10-12 crore in this new venture. Being a completely new entrant in the market, with no prior experience, it was indeed a big risk. But our young team, zeal and enthusiasm to make it happen and capability to research world-wide market for Popular product categories and design, demand prediction in India, Gap Analysis and continuous focus on product improvement and innovation, drove us far ahead from our competition, yet to catch up on manufacturing.
Blue Ocean Strategy worked for us and by the time everyone could jump into this, we had already created massive capacity to achieve economies of large scale. With a per month capacity of over 2 million goggles, 5 million face shields and passenger safety kits, 5 million surgical masks, 2 million N95 masks and 200K PPE coveralls and all duly BIS, Highest Standard for Safety, approved, SanFit become the ONLY player in this category to have all this under one Roof. With Viruses manifesting in various forms, developed fear for life and evolved and newly imbibed culture for personal hygiene and sanitisation, this market is ready to grow multi folds across the globe, thus giving SanFit by Sanson an upper edge and also a huge available and growing market to grab. All of this happened in flat 6.5 month is somewhat a pleasant surprise to all our well wishers but we swear by our Team’s commitment and passion to make it happen.
Parallelly with its newly acquired but in-depth market connect and information, SanFit is now ready to venture into affordable Sanitary Napkin, under pads and adult diaper category besides other disposable Healthcare consumables. A big demand from Tier-3 and Tier-4 towns and aspiring rural India who can’t afford branded sanitary pad. Current market size is of US$ 500 million and again we are not competing with biggies here and our price bracket will be INR 4-5 per pcs. We want to develop a niche market which has just moved from Cotton / Cloth to PAD and eagerly looking for upgrade to next quality level but highly sensitive to pricing point on monthly consumption budget.
Our young team, Vaibhav Jain, Ankita Parakh, Rakesh Mutha, and a few others supported us in research, digital distribution (D2C) strategy, personalised & localised customer support and we are analysing rolling out subscription model to fit the product in every pocket by curtailing margin leakage in inefficient supply chains.
Export market always excited us, but it requires a completely different level of certification, team training, capital intensive machinery and highly competitive price point. We need to build a much larger and futuristic infrastructure to attract multinational players who are already inclined towards India for their global sourcing. Scaling up may or may not happen with our family funds only and we may look at external money in Brand SanFit after our Phase 2 of scaling up when our next/new factory starts production of other Health care and Sanitary disposables.
Our experience of working with large MNCs like Unilever, Perfetti, Colgate, PepsiCo, Glaxo, Nestle, Dominos and other FMCG majors in the past helped us a lot in our deep understanding of process, automation, pricing, compliance and productivity. We are confident that with God’s grace we will crack the new code and provide quality but affordable product to our front-line warriors, doctors, nursing staff, women, care givers and our with life protection gears.
Success comes with lot of sweating and we are grateful to our team who stood up with us in this tough time and decided to take the plunge for innovation as a case for survival of business and sustaining source of their own income. I know that every MSME has its own story of success or learning, but Covid-19 came to us as big learning, in words of Ms. Helen Keller “ A Bend in the road is not the End of the Road, provided we are ready to take the turn.”