This Chennai-based technopreneur is making low-cost ventilators for COVID-19

As cases in Tamil Nadu continue to rise, several experts have come forward to state that there will be a greater need for ventilators in the coming days.
This Chennai-based technopreneur is making low-cost ventilators for COVID-19
This Chennai-based technopreneur is making low-cost ventilators for COVID-19

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in Tamil Nadu, several health experts have raised concerns about lack of ventilators available to support those who might be more critical. TNM spoke to Chennai-based Krishna Kumar, the founder of Kriti Kare, which produces low-cost ventilators within the country.

“There are currently three models of ventilators available on the market at present; of these, the ACUVent is what is largely required now, as it is what is used for those with severe cases of COVID-19,” he explains.

Ventilators are machines which help individuals who are unable to physically breathe due to an issue with the lungs. They work by pushing air into the lungs. In many people with COVID-19, who are very sick, the lungs are affected and they are unable to breathe efficiently. In the market, currently available ventilators range from Rs 10 to 15 lakh, depending on the type of ventilator and the manufacturer who produces them. Krishna Kumar’s company however sells ventilators at a market price of Rs 2 lakh.

“The model of ventilator which is currently sought, for those who require ventilatory support is a basic model which uses high pressure gases (usually oxygen) to provide proper respiratory support,” says Krishna Kumar. This model produced by his company is called ACUVent and can be used on both children and adults. It is designed in a manner so that it doesn’t take up a lot of space and can also be loaded onto an ambulance for emergencies. It uses oxygen gas blended with air from the environment to provide 50 to 100 percent oxygen delivery to the individual requiring it for support.

“The biggest advantage with this ventilator is that it doesn’t require too much maintenance, and doesn’t contain expensive parts which need to be replaced routinely. Earlier, there was not as much demand so we were making about 50 ventilators a month. Now, with the pandemic, there is more demand. Ashok Leyland has given us their support, so we will be able to increase production in view of the increased demand,” says Krishna Kumar.

In addition to having access to a larger manufacturing unit via Ashok Leyland, the ventilators produced by this company are made with locally sourced components, which in turn allows for them to sell the ventilators at Rs 2 lakh each.

“Generally speaking, India isn’t a place where the components of a ventilator are produced. These materials are generally shipped in from Germany or Japan or some other country. The current restrictions have also made it difficult to procure some components, however we are looking to make do with our own equipment, produced in India itself. With the new production facilities, we are aiming to manufacture anywhere from 400 to 500 ventilators a month, which can be increased to 1,000 per month if the need arises,” adds Krishna Kumar.

Earlier in April, Tamil Nadu health minister C Vijayabhaskar, reportedly stated that there were 3,000 ventilators available in the state and that the government was looking to procure another 2,000. However, given the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 since then, several doctors have expressed concerns that ventilatory support would be needed for more patients in the near future.

“Right now we can say we have just enough ventilators, but as the number of those requiring ICU admissions for COVID-19 increases, there is a large chance that there will not be enough beds, much less ventilators. It is something that definitely needs to be addressed quickly,” says one doctor from Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital in Chennai, who did not want to be named.

As of Sunday evening, there have been 31,667 cases confirmed in the state with 269 deaths having occurred due to the disease in the state.

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