Recently, in a village in north-west Bihar, nine children fell sick of whom three died after being administered vaccines under the union government’s universal immunisation programme (UIP).
According to a report by Outlook India, experts and some auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) believe that the deaths were caused due to the spoilage of the vaccines, which was a result of a break in the cold chain.
While these vaccines are required to be stored at optimum temperatures at all times, the resident officer of the Primary Health Centre where the vaccines come from says that the area has serious electrical issues.
This isn’t a one-off incident; when a vaccine travels from the manufacturer to the end consumer, its temperature needs to be maintained at all times to ensure the vaccine remain efficient. Failure of the same not only poses dangers of wastage, but in many developing countries, could lead to deaths of those administered such vaccines.
This is one of the global development problems that the world is facing today, and some startups are trying to tackle them, including Statwig.
Using blockchain and IoT
Founded by Sid Chakravarthy, the idea of Statwig is to trace and track products to identify inefficiencies in the supply chain and fix them.
Having worked with Cisco on new technologies, Sid Chakravarthy wanted to deploy technology and help improve the efficiency of the supply chain. He identified healthcare and agriculture as two areas that were in dire need to better logistics, and founded Statwig in early 2017.
Globally, nearly 50% of vaccines go waste. Most of this is even before the vaccines reach patients or doctors. And the main reason for this wastage is failure in the supply chain management.
At a time like this, the importance of traceability of an entire supply chain network right from the manufacturer to the end consumer is pertinent.
And with technology such as blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) being adopted a lot more, there is some ray of hope in improving the condition of the cold chain supply network not just in India, but across the globe.
Statwig uses Blockchain and IoT to provide an end-to-end traceability of products from manufacturers to customers.
It has created a platform that lets all parties involved in the supply chain track goods at all times and even be able to trace back to any point.
There are sensors on the products that give real time information all along the way.
Blockchain technology has the ability to record failure at any point and the data generated cannot be tampered with. This helps companies and consumers track where the failure is happening and work on preventing them.
The technology records every transaction right from when the product leaves the manufacturer till it reaches the end consumer.
All one has to do is to enter a product ID, and it shows you the entire journey that it’s been through, on the web platform created by Sid and his team.
Sid Chakravarthy, founder, Statwig
Focus on Europe
Statwig is working on pilots with several customers in the healthcare, agri space and even global foundations that help several developing countries with medical facilities, including vaccines.
Still very new in the industry, the startup is being incubated at T-Hub in Hyderabad.
It is currently focusing on completing pilots and bringing more customer on board. Currently, most of its clients are based out of European countries like Germany.
“The top seven of the 10 logistic businesses are in Europe. So I feel that when we implement at a large scale with established players there, it becomes easy to implement it across the world. Moreover, we found a lot more traction in Europe. Having said that, we are also engaging with a lot of Indian logistic players,” Sid says.
In fact, according to a report, the cold chain tracking and monitoring market share of Europe accounted for more than one-fourth of the overall market in 2015. It emerged as a prime region for cold chain tracking and monitoring market owing to augmented global trade and strong economic environment.
“Startups like Tagbox or Statwig save hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacturers, logistics providers and exporters. These startups enable smarter supply chain planning, by collecting data from their sensors coupled with client’s ERPs, generating insights on shipment risk profiles, identifying root causes of supply chain failures and predictive risk mitigation. The market can accommodate more than one player as it's in B2B niche segment, it’s not like winner takes it all like social media or consumer internet play. ,” says Sanjay Mehta, CEO of Investor.
India still remains a challenging market because infrastructure is not fully in place yet - be it roads or connectivity. Sid says that this will change in 3-4 years and could increase traction in the Indian market.
The Indian market
And this is true to quite an extent. The government too has recognised the importance of improving India’s cold chain network.
Under its universal immunisation programme, the health ministry has planned over 27,000 cold chain points for storing and distributing vaccines.
It has even launched eVIN, an electronic vaccination intelligence network system, which will help healthcare workers better understand where vaccines are stored, whether they are in adequate quantities, and confirm that they are stored at the recommended temperatures.
When it was launched in partnership with United Nations Development Program, the vision was for it to be operational in 160 districts across three states - Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
From a business point of view, the opportunity for this industry is clearly very large, especially given the government’s push.
Globally, the cold chain tracking and monitoring market was valued at $149 billion in 2015 and is estimated to reach $426 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 16% from 2016 to 2022.
The same report states that while the food & beverage segment held highest share of more than 40.0% in overall market, healthcare is expected to grow at a faster pace, given the increased investment in developing cold chain monitoring devices and software for maintaining specific temperature required by varied vaccines and drugs.
And while the opportunity is large, Statwig is not the only startup in this market.
In India alone, there are other players like Numadic, which lets you track vehicle location, monitor temperature at all times, track vehicle performance and alerts in case of any issue. This is very similar to the business model of Statwig.
There are also logistics players that are looking at integrating technology into their services to make them more reliable and efficient.
While Statwig is still figuring out its pricing strategy, what works for it is the fact that it is piloting in European countries with larger logistic players. This will ensure its technology and platform is of high quality standards, which other companies, especially in India, will prefer over players who only have experience with other Indian clients.
The best prospect for not just Statwig, but other companies in this space is the fact that the opportunity and market out there is large.
While vaccination is one important area, there is a lot of scope in the agri and food space as well.
And being technology providers, this makes them sector agnostic and will let them cater to industries right from healthcare to logistic companies to technology companies – the list goes on.
However, what will be pertinent is how these companies price themselves and what their go-to-market strategy will be.
“Typical challenges in this space is if the startup does not have a 3-5 years of product road map to build defensible IP, which can give them unfair advantage. For example, there are startups in west like IOTA which are working on IOT+Blockchain IP creation. We need to see Indian startups looking ahead of the technology curve to succeed,” adds Mehta.
In Statwig’s case, Sid says that once the company runs a few successful pilots, it will have a better idea as to what works best for them.
This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.