India has decided to liberate foreign direct investment (FDI) in the medical devices sector from the conditions imposed on its pharmaceutical cousins. This begs the question : to what end? To recap, from January 21, FDI in medical devices will qualify for automatic approval of up to 100 per cent. Notably, this is irrespective of how the FDI flows into the country – via new investments in manufacturing/research (‘greenfield’) or the buyout of existing assets (‘brownfield’). This is unlike the pharma sector where brownfield investment is conditional, not automatic. Until now, medical devices were bound by the same FDI rules as pharma.
A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release evinces the fond hope that the move will encourage FDI inflows into medical devices thereby strengthening the hand of a “huge pool of scientists and engineers” who have the “potential to take the medical device industry to a very high level.” It says rather dismissively that the “domestic capital market is not able to provide much needed investment in the sector.”
Uninformed observers can be forgiven for inferring that a misguided FDI policy was a key obstacle that stood between India’s medical device sector and greatness.
Not true. Continue reading