‘We have grown into today’s statute by focussing on two basic factors, namely cost-effective solutions and unlimited service support’

By : Sanrad Medical Systems
Email: som@sanrad.in
Posted on: Friday, January 27, 2012

‘We have grown into today’s statute by focussing on two basic factors, namely cost-effective solutions and unlimited service support’

India’s major medical imaging company, Sanrad has forayed into the 1.5T superconducting MRI segment by launching one of the most innovative Japanese magnet technology from Mitsubishi. In a candid interview, Som Panicker, Vice President, Sanrad talks about the company’s new venture and their future plans

Can you briefly explain about Sanrad’s history and its growth path to the present day?

Sanrad was founded by Ratish Nair, almost 20 years ago as a very small service provider for CT scanners in Mumbai. Today, it is the fourth largest medical imaging equipment company in India with more than 320 CT installations and 15 MRI installations. It was a long journey for us to become one of the most reputed medical imaging company in India with 70 employees and many offices across the country. We mainly deal with factory refurbished CT scanners from Japan consisting of single, four and 16 slices, as well as permanent open MRI models in 0.3T and 0.45T from MDT, US. We have grown into today’s statute by focussing on two basic factors, namely cost-effective solutions and unlimited service support. Our best marketing is done by our own satisfied customers and our prices are reasonable. Lastly, we do not end the relationship with a sale, in fact our relationship starts with every new sale.

How long has Sanrad been in MRI business and what are your strengths in this sphere? Why didn’t you get into refurbished MRI machines like CT?

Sanrad has developed a successful business model in cost-effective imaging solutions in CT. We have crossed 320 CT units this year, which is a major land mark for our company. We have launched MRI equipment business in 2006 with brand new permanent MRI from MDT, USA with higher order, active, shimming technology for the first time in the world. We have already crossed an installed base of 15 units this year including the first MRI at Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Island for Mata Amritanandamayi Trust. The success of cost effective permanent MRI gave us confidence and when the demand increased for superconducting MRIs from our own CT customers, we have explored the possibility of bringing a state-of-the-art superconducting MRI from a principal company based in Tokyo.

When our CT installations increased, we identified a growing demand from our own CT customers. We did not want to start refurbished permanent MRI as it would have lead to problems in maintaining quality and reliability. Since MRI is a fast growing field with new sequences every day, we do not want to start selling the old technology even though it is cheaper and selling refurbished MRI is not the same as selling factory refurbished CT scanners from Japan. In CT, we never face a problem of spare parts or support but in refurbished MRI, it would have been difficult to procure spares and give support.

Right from beginning, we were very particular that we will not do business in refurbished MRI, both in permanent MRI, as well as superconducting, as the technology is ageing, as well as the issue of spare parts will damage our good reputation. Also in CT, the technology used in basic imaging is same for four or 16 slice irrespective of new or older helical models, whereas in MRI, every year there are new sequences and quality improvements and faster scans developed and a 10-year-old refurbished MR model cannot serve this great demand for improved quality.

We have done a market study and did a home work on customer expectations and the problems in refurbished MRI market and finally decided to launch a brand new super conducting MRI.

What made you enter into superconducting MRI, especially when established companies are ruling the market?

We are dealing with permanent MRI since the last five years and most of our first customers have done very well with those units. Now they are in a position to upgrade to 1.5T MRI. Also, a good number of CT customers are interested in 1.5T MRI and we are very confident of building up a customer base if we have a good 1.5T MRI to market. We do not want to invest in refurbished 1.5T as most of these systems give more trouble than advantages to customers. Finally, we could find a very good reliable technology from Japan.

What exactly is Helium Less? is helium used at all in this magnet?

Helium is actually used, but very less refilling is done with helium liquid and the manufacturer claims that the product needs no filling in the first 10 years under ideal conditions. This MRI is based on Mitsubishi Magnet, which has many unique features including one of the shortest bore lengths available today.

What are the unique features of 1.5T MRI?

Our new 1.5T MRI System is based on very unique, high efficiency, zero boil off magnet from Mitubishi magnet with short bore length. Its main features are: compact and ergonomic magnet design; large bore diameter; shortest bore length; superior magnet homogeneity; zero helium consumption; high definition imaging; ultrafast sequences; powerful gradient System; digital spectrometer and lowest power consumption

What impression do you have on Indian MRI equipment market?

Indian MRI Equipment market is growing at around 14 per cent and the sale of new superconducting MRIs have almost become 70 per cent compared to refurbished (superconducting and permanent MRIs) and new permanent MRIs put together. This naturally got our attention and we were looking for an international partner to bring a world class quality product into the Indian market and this MRI model is our answer to it.

What are your product models in 1.5T?

We are launching two variants for our superconducting 1.5T MRI, the high-end version and the basic version to cater both institutional, as well as individual investors.

The high-end version will be a fully loaded system with all hardware and software features with 16 channel whereas the basic version will be a basic model making cost effective imaging possible for customers who would have otherwise opted for high-end permanent MRI or landed up with a unreliable refurbished superconducting system.

Tell us about your principal company and their activities in the MRI field?

It is a company involved with superconducting MRI development and spectrometer design for many years with offices and research facilities in Japan and Korea. They were long time technical partners with a major MRI manufacturer in Japan and have designed many systems and components for them. They have many installations in Korea and Japan. Later they became an independent company and pioneered in Spectrometer Design and MRI coil design for several manufacturers worldwide. By the end of 2011, they have more than 40 MRI installations in Korea and Japan including two 3T MR systems. They have recently entered into a research development programme with Korean Institute of Science and Technology and is developing a new MRI PET equipment.

What are your market plans for 1.5T in India?

We have identified that the market requirement is slowly shifting from permanent MRI to super conducting MRI even in smaller cities and so we need to offer both high-end models, as well as basic models to cater the needs of the Indian market where the paying capacity varies.

With atleast five of our CT customers going for the Basic Version shortly, we are optimistic about our prospects for 2012 and we do have few high-end customers as well. We need to work out about the configuration and hardware options, which may be completed in next two months.

Who are the key players in super conducting MRI in India, where do you place yourself in the market?

Obviously Indian MRI market is dominated by the MNCs like Philips, Siemens and GE and there were no other major players in offering brand new 1.5T MRI. With our entry into the market in 1.5T segment, we will be the 4th major player offering both basic as well as high end variants in new 1.5T MRI models and we assume there is a great potential for cost effective 1.5T MRI with new technology and superior image quality. We are not finding any major threat from any of these MNCs as we can develop our own MRI prospects from the areas where we have a strong market presence.

What are Sanrad’s future plans?

We have just entered 1.5T market segment and it may be too early to predict so many things now. We have long time strategy to continue in high-end superconducting MRI and will launch 3T variant in the next two years. Our principal company in Japan is very actively developing a new integrated MRI PET and that will take us forward in the Indian market. Other areas we plan to focus in near future will be MRI guided HIFU and standalone HIFU.