Breaking barriers: Nutra firms benefitting from UK, India partnership in healthcare sector

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The flag of UK (left) and India. ©Getty Images
The flag of UK (left) and India. ©Getty Images

Related tags India Optibiotix Apollo Hospitals Group

Nutra firms say they are reaping the rewards of the UK and Indian governments facilitating trade partnerships, with the UK’s OptiBiotix Health and India’s Apollo Hospitals Group, which also operates over 4,000 pharmacy outlets, two recent beneficiaries.

The two countries are fostering partnerships across different sectors, from healthcare to telecommunications and IT.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that businesses from both countries have confirmed more than £1bn (US$1.25bn) in new investments and export deals during his two-day visit to India.

One of the deals is between UK’s nutra firm OptiBiotix Health and India’s Apollo Hospitals Group, in which an exclusive sales agreement has been signed.

OptiBiotix Health is the firm behind blood pressure and cholesterol lowering probiotic product CholBiome​ and NutraIngredients-Asia Awards 2019’s weight management Ingredient of the Year Optibiome/SlimBiome​.

Prior to the new deal, it has already established a working relationship with India’s third-party manufacturer Zeon Lifesciences and has also formed its Indian subsidiary known as OptiBiotix Health India.

The deal with Apollo Hospitals Group will see OptiBiotix launch its range of weight management products under the brand GoFigure in the former’s pharmacy outlets shortly.

Consisting of meal replacement and healthy snacking products, the SKUs under GoFigure contain the ingredient SlimBiome.

OptiBiotix range of GoFigure products
The range of GoFigure products. © OptiBiotix

The initial product launch will consist of meal replacement shakes and powdered beverages and the range sold will be expanded over time.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Stephen O’Hara, chief executive at OptiBiotix Health, said that the partnership with Apollo Hospital Groups “would not have happened”​ without the government’s assistance.

He explained that this was because there would be challenges in identifying the right firms to work with and have access to the potential business partners “at the right level”.

“Having access to the key people within Apollo at the board and ownership level makes it far easier if you have an early commitment from the people who work at the senior level within the company.”

“We’ve had lots of support from the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry, UK] when they became aware of us. Critically, they saw the opportunity that some of our products bring health benefits to India, and they were able to make contact at a senior level with a number of companies across India, so it was high level introductions, which is always a benefit," ​O’Hara recounted how the firm first got in touch with Apollo about three to four years ago.

“I think it's important that from my point of view, we're bringing something quite new to India, which be facilitated by the British government. All our products have science, clinical studies, and an IP. They're not commoditised items, they're quite novel items, and they have a real benefit,"​ he added. 

Local presence, regional impact

The set up of OptiBiotix India will also support local employment and the firm has plans to build a manufacturing base further down the road.

Dr Taru Jain, who joined OptiBiotix as business development director last year and oversees the firm’s operations in India, added that the local operations will allow the firm to better cater to local needs.

This include modifying the product flavours to suit local palettes, such as mango, Indian strawberry and vanilla which were launched by local partners containing its SlimBiome ingredient.

“What we've opened up is that we can engage to serve the Indian consumer on various levels. Earlier we could only licence [our technology to third party manufacturers] if we are not functioning in India.”

“By having the entity specifically in India, we've opened up various things. So now we can create unique solutions that are perfect for Indians,"​ she said.

The company also plans to launch Cholbiome probiotics in India and intends to purchase the required specialised production machine for manufacturing via its third party manufacturing partner.

OptiBiotix CholBiome
The range of CholBiome products. ©OptiBiotix

India will also serve as a gateway to other parts of Asia.

“We're not just looking at India, we're looking to move beyond India, into the Asian market. You want to have partners onsite who can take you not just into India, but also have the right regulatory and quality product to take you into the Asian markets,"​ O’Hara said.

Types of partners

Asked the types of business partners that it hopes to work with, OptiBiotix highlighted credibility, pharmacy and science expertise, as well as extensive consumer reach.

“You want to work with a partner who understands healthcare, so you're not looking for a partner who's just a commoditised partner, and Apollo has hospitals, pharmacies across India.”

“They also have scientists who understand the issues, so they are a very good partner for us.”

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