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COVID-19 impact | High demand for face masks, PPEs driving growth in companies like Garware

"Starting from the month of March, we have seen a 40 percent surge in our supplies to the medical and hygiene industry, which will continue till June 2020 and beyond as well," said Anand Kulkarni, Vice President of Global Sales, Garware Bestretch.

May 14, 2020 / 11:27 PM IST

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to high demand for face masks and personal protection equipment. Due to this, suppliers of materials and components for making face masks and PPEs are witnessing high growth.

For instance, one component that is critical to face mask is the ear loop. An ear loop made with cheap rubber materials will not only hurt the ear but can cause allergy to the user. Now, most face masks, including N95 respirators, are using the elastic flat rubber tapes or cords, that provides comfort to the user.

There are only a handful of manufacturers in the world who make both the latex (natural rubber)and latex-free (synthetic polyisoprene) elastic tapes at scale.

One of them is Pune-based Garware Bestretch.

"Starting from the month of March, we have seen a 40 percent surge in our supplies to the medical and hygiene industry, which will continue till June 2020 and beyond as well," said Anand Kulkarni, Vice President of Global Sales, Garware Bestretch.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Garwal has received business deals worth Rs 10 crore since the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Considering the current situation of high demand, the company anticipates to cross the Rs 100-crore mark by the end of this year in face masks and PPE segment for rubber component supply," Kulkarni said.

Garware has supplied elastic tapes in India and acorss 75 countries, including US and Europe. Garware counts world's largest N-95 mask manufacturer 3M among its customers.

Garware also manufactures and distributes elastic bands for personal protection equipment along with respirator valves for N95 face masks.

In 2018, Garware expanded its manufacturing footprint to US by acquiring Fulflex.

Its factories in Pune and Vermont have been ramping up production meet supply commitments.

Supply chain disruption

However, Garware too was affected by lockdown restrictions. Most of its raw materials come from overseas and it said it had to deal with delays at the ports.

"For certain raw materials, we maintain inventory for several months. However, for other materials, we rely on our supply chain to deliver

within established lead times. At this point, for some raw materials, we are experiencing a 1-2 week delays," said Kulkarni.

Garware sources its key raw materials from South East Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, Russia and USA.

Garware also supplies elastic material for home textile and other customer specific applications.

"Although the medical division business is doing well, our other verticals have taken a hit," Kulkarni said.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: May 14, 2020 11:12 pm

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