Maharashtra Ayurved Centre, which has just begin operations, has ambitious plans of bringing the benefits of Ayurveda to the masses. A report on the progress made so far and plans underway By Shalini Gupta
In 2008, the AYUSH department, under the health ministry selected two states – Maharashtra and Kerala, as the ones leading in propagation and practice of age old ayurveda, that is increasingly finding global acceptance. As a part of this, a public-private partnership (PPP) project was to come up in Pune, with a modern drug laboratory to ensure quality control of ayurvedic products in addition to facilities for raw material processing, packing and labelling of the drugs. 60 per cent of the project cost was to be borne by the Union Government, while 40 per cent of the capital investment was expected to come from private partners. Maharashtra Ayush Cluster based in Pune as it is known today, also joined the scheme by Bharati Kisan Sangh (BKS), so that its member farmers could cultivate ayurvedic medicinal plants which were then processed at the cluster.
A cluster-based approach
With ayurveda being a micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) industry, there are challenges such as huge investments, manpower costs, time constraints and administrative issues in setting up a facility under one roof. A cluster based approach was thought to be an effective and sustainable strategy for competitiveness enhancement of MSMEs, since it leverages the geographical proximity of the enterprises on ‘collaborating while competing’ principle. This ensures that the process is participatory, cost effective and provides critical mass for customisation of interventions. Today Maharashtra Ayurved Centre (MAC) has its head office at Pune and factory at Kolewadi, (25 km from Pune on Mumbai-Bangalore National Highway No. 4) spread over three acres. Approximately, 16 crores has been invested in the facility with 53 entrepreneurs already holding equity in the project from all the sectors of ayurveda. The centre received approval in 2009, construction began in 2010 and the project got ready only in 2014. While the operations began this year, the same year when it also received licenses.
Elaborates Sunita Belgamwar, Chairman, MAC, “The project is designed in such a way that all the stake holders of the ayurveda industry will have something to share and grow. Cluster being the conglomeration of stake holders is based on the principles of collective growth and inclusive capitalisation. MAC is focussed on skill building, branding and entrepreneurship. We have received Rs 600 lakhs worth of grant till now which has been fully utilised.” A paeditrician by profession, she was always eager to explore natural treatment modalities for her patients with tender immunity. Ten years back, the phenomenal results which she received during her trials with some ayurvedic medicines awakened her inquisitiveness and she hasn’t looked back since then.
Skill development and training
Beginning August this year, MAC will begin two fellowship courses to train personnel mainly for meeting the needs of industry. In the raw material course the students will be acquainted with various types of the raw material including their Identification, storage, processing and packaging so that it is ready for manufacturing of ayurvedic drugs. The drug manufacturing course will acquaint students with all the machinery usage as well as regulations in the manufacturing of ayurveda drugs, principles and methodology used during manufacturing, FDA licensing issues etc. Each course shall have an intake of five students from BAMS, BPharm and shall run for a duration of one year.
“I always wished of doing an ayurveda project which has huge socio-economic value and is connected from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. This came true when the cluster scheme was announced. Meeting thousands of ayurveda physicians, students, manufacturers, traders, farmers across India and abroad in the last 10 years, has provided a lot of insight in the system and some clarity on what is needed for the 21st century to adopt the principles of this beautiful life science to stay healthy on this planet. After Herculean efforts for the last few years, the dream has become reality now with the cooperation of all the companions who walked in,” she says emphatically. The facility has manufacturing set up for all dosage forms like powders, tablets, capsules, oils, ghee, kadha, awaleha etc., and has just begun operations. Belgamwar adds that MAC will only launch products which are proven to have impact on the masses while improving their health. Regular proprietary products will not be manufactured by MAC. The centre currently is home to 25 manufacturers associated with ayurveda, vriksha ayurveda and veterinary ayurveda. MAC Pune has signed MOUs with ASSOCHAM, TAFSA (South Africa), EUAA (Germany), AIPCE (UAE), NAMA (US) and AILATMA (Latin America).
The facility has a common quality control laboratory which has testing facilities like analytical lab, toxicology centre, process and product validation laboratory, raw material testing and standardisation laboratory to enable better quality assurance and control to compete globally at affordable cost. “We are working on nutritional products based on millets as well as nutritional drinks which can replace coffee and tea habits and reduce addiction alongwith nutritional grain mixes which are wholesome. In the pipeline are formulations for herbal cigarette and ghutka with powders of medicinal plants based on concept of dhumvarti and tambul in ayurveda which enhances capacity of lungs thus reducing the incidence of lung and oral cancers,” informs Belgamwar. Many fundamental research formulations are underway to replace daily chemical exposure of the people.
A preventive science
When asked if she finds the marketing of ayurveda products difficult, given that the branding of modern medicine has since trumped this age-old science, she says, “Ayurveda is to be promoted as preventive healthcare and branding a product for curative purposes, will hamper its traditional value. Being an individualised treatment based on prakriti, any mass produced formulation branded by a company will act on 40-50 per cent of patients and not all, as in the case of allopathy which is a generalised curative therapy.” “I sincerely appeal to all ayurveda physicians not to dilute its individualised treatment approach, which is the essence of ayurveda. There is no need to revive it as the world has understood it’s importance.”
The manufacturing facility includes a common platform for tableting, capsulation with high speed GMP machines, soft gel capsuling and a common packaging and labelling facility to improve product presentation, reduce costs towards individual investment and address the issue of capacity utilisation. With this approach, it has tried to address any gaps that may arise.
Belgamwar is strongly defiant of those who are of the view that ayurveda is not evidence based. She feels that there is enough subjective evidences for thousands of years including text book references and testimonials around the world. “A herbal source which is organic or live in nature, makes it very difficult to know its exact composition, for e.g. all the active ingredients present in tulsi in a lab-based setting. Does the absence of such objective evidence mean the science is not evidence- based?,” she questions. “Allopathy formulations are dead chemical material and hence non organic, so very easy to prove. It is a generalised science treated on signs and symptoms (all types of fever will be treated by paracetamol) whereas ayurveda is individual specific and disease specific (every fever will have different medicine based on prakruti and disease pathogenesis),” she reiterates further. Unlike allopathy, ayurveda uses preventive healthcare methods with drug usage being only 20 per cent of it. Hence comparing it to allopathy is not fair.
In a bid to promote the products manufactured, she has also tapped the power of e-commerce through the website www.ayurways.biz which shall help the stakeholders showcase their products for global sale. She also talks about the concept-based ayurvedic stores MAC aims to bring to Pune within next year. “Using ayurveda principles and herbal raw material, industry is producing thousands of FMCG products, nutraceuticals, supplements, OTC products for humans ,animals and plants. If all these are brought under one roof and used daily, it can reduce chemical exposure substantially. This is the objective of Ayurways health store which shall focus on holistic lifestyle through products. We are planning to open 10 stores in Pune in this fiscal year along with e- commerce support,” she adds.
She is confident as well optimistic about the future, though there have been challenges in the past. She explains, “It has been a great learning so far despite the challenges faced with the fact that it was a government funded project, PPP concept etc. The sector too is secretive and hasn’t opened up. Coming together for betterment of the science for global spread is missing. Patience, perseverance and hard work were the key elements to handle them”. “I strongly believe that ayurveda can bring our nation in the leadership role across the globe earning billions of foreign exchange if government capitalises the opportunity by a systematic plan,” she concludes.