`Weak rupee may push medical equipment prices`

New Delhi: A weakening rupee may adversely impact the country`s medical equipments market, as it is largely dependent on imports and the prices could shoot up if the downtrend continues in the Indian currency, experts say.

The companies are also deferring their major medical equipment purchases in the wake of declining rupee value.

"As medical equipment industry is primarily import- dependent, rupee depreciation is going to impact the industry," consultancy firm Tecnova India`s Associate Vice President Ankit Suri said.

Suri, who heads pharmaceutical and healthcare practice at Tecnova, said imports become expensive as rupee depreciates and "so there is a general sentiment of deferring the major purchases or to wait and watch the situation.

"As buyers defer purchases, growth of industry is impacted," he added.

India imports 65-70 per cent of its medical equipment which includes items such as catheters and pacemakers, orthopaedic and prosthetic appliances, breathing and respiration apparatus and dental equipments.

"India majorly depends on imports of high-end medical devices such as imaging equipment and high-end medical implants. The fall in rupee will make the high end equipment more expensive. As of now, though, the companies have continued to restrict from increasing the prices," PwC India Leader (Healthcare) Rana Mehta said.

According Tecnova, medical equipment market is estimated at USD 3.5 billion and is estimated to double in size by 2015 owing to a substantial number of healthcare facilities.

The rupee, which has devalued to as much as 56 rupees to a dollar in the recent past, has caused serious concerns for many companies dependent solely on imports.

Diabetic device company Ypsomed said the currency scenario was putting pressure on prices.

"We cannot increase the prices of our product as there is tough competition and the market is not willing to increase the prices. On the other hand, the government is trying to further reduce the prices of diabetic devices," Ypsomed India Country Head Sanjay Rajpal said.

"As a result of rupee devaluation the margins on our product is very thin and I have to rationalise my purchases. We are planning to introduce two more products this time but my transfer price/cost are so high I had to postpone the plan," Rajpal added.

However, weakening rupee may benefit the manufacturers and exporters of medical consumables in the country.

"60 per cent of the consumables are exported by our local manufacturers who will tend to gain as result of fall in rupee," PwC`s Mehta said.

"The consumables are exported majorly to African and Middle east countries," he added.