The country that once faced a shortage of personal protective equipment, is now the second-largest manufacturer of PPE kits in the world. India manufactures more than 5 lakh PPEs and more than 104 lakh N-95 masks per day. The PPE industry in India is a Rs 7000 crore industry in the making.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) are protective gears designed to safeguard the health of workers by minimizing exposure to any biological agent. It includes goggles, face-shield, masks (Surgical/N-95), gloves (surgical/examination), coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), headcover, and shoe cover.
Journey from shortage to 5 lakh
Personal protective gears play a vital role in combating the coronavirus. However, when the outbreak started in the country, India felt a shortage of protective gear including masks. However, the Ministry of Textile stepped in to lead the assessment of the availability of all protective wear.
According to Invest India’s report on PPE, from zero, India produces nearly 450,000 PPE kits every single day. In 60 days, the PPE industry in India witnessed 56 times the growth. Until May 31, 2020, the total production of PPE body coveralls from indigenous sources had crossed 1.1 crores.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India manufactures more than 5 lakh PPEs and more than 104 lakh N-95 masks per day.
Ramping up the textile industry
The Ministry of Textiles stepped up to meet the demand for PPE kits in the country. The Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) launched an outreach programme, wherein it invited fabric and garment manufacturers to develop suitable products and build manufacturing capacities on a war-time basis.
They initiated communication and discussions with the manufacturers and met their queries and concerns in all the ways possible. An emergency control room was set up to monitor the production and supply of medical textiles (N-95 mask, PPE coveralls, and melt-blown fabric).
At present, there are 10 laboratories in the country for testing and certification of PPE coveralls for Covid-19. According to Smriti Irani, former Minister of Textiles, after receiving WHO guidelines on PPE, in less than a month’s time, 14 manufacturers cleared rigorous technical testing and started manufacturing indigenous PPEs for our frontline health workers.
Decline in PPE imports
Initially, India had to completely depend on imports for PPE kits. In January 2020, there were only 2.75 lakh PPE kits available, owing to timely import. Furthermore, buffer stock is also maintained at the Centre-State level and domestic orders are placed in advance to meet emergencies, thus reducing the stress and need for import of PPEs.
The domestic production of PPE in India has increased from about 2.5 lakh PPE kits per day to 5 lakh PPE kits per day.
In terms of manufacturing hubs, Bengaluru, Karnataka amount for nearly 50% PPE coverall production. In addition to Bengaluru, these are also being manufactured by approved production units in Tiruppur, Chennai, and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Phagwara, and Ludhiana in Punjab, Kusumnagar and Bhiwandi in Maharashtra, Dungarpur in Rajasthan, Kolkata, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram and few other places.
During this period, India also witnessed innovative solutions to the growing demand for protective gear, such as the manufacturing of disinfectant masks, machines that could disinfect the PPE kits making them reusable. It saw the coming together of organizations and institutions, both private and public to meet the demand. The Indian Navy formed a team to design and produce PPEs.