Terumo Penpol: Ushering in the Winds of Change

An hour long conversation between a young bureaucrat and a passionate scientist at the Sree Chitra Institute in Trivandrum ushered in the winds of change in India’s medical devices industry. The bureaucrat was C Balagopal, an IAS officer and the scientist was A V Ramani, head of the R&D department at the Sree Chitra Institute. The year was 1983, a time when India was totally dependent on importing equipments to meet the demand of hospitals and medical institutes.
In hindsight, that conversation was a momentous one because it resulted in the setting up of a company that is today one of the biggest manufacturers of blood bags in the world. Today, its products are found in more than 80 countries across the globe, testifying to the fact that the Indian medical devices industry has the quality demanded by international customers. Today, the company, Terumo Penpol is seen as a leader and innovator in its segment.

The Years of Struggle: Terumo Penpol began its existence as Peninsula Polymers (Penpol) Pvt Ltd and its factory in Trivandrum began production on March 26, 1987. By 1989, the company had sent out its first export shipment and set up an R&D department. However, the company faced a period of struggle. There were issues with quality in the batches sent abroad. Penetrating the domestic market was also proving to be a tough task. The first objective of the company was to bring about a change in consumer attitude. Hospitals in India were happy with the glass bottles they were using. These could be reused and this very Indian habit of recycling everything proved to be an obstacle in Penpol’s growth. Where customers did change over to blood bags, they preferred to go in for the cheaper imported blood bags which had begun to flood the market. The importer lobby was strong and Penpol found itself fighting an uphill battle.
The Learning Curve: But the setbacks proved to be a part of the learning curve. It steeled the company’s determination to focus on quality. The initial batches produced by the company brought in customer complaints regarding discolouration of the bags. India also did not produce medical grade plastic granules, again leading to quality problems. Penpol faced the problem head on. Entire batches of the product were recalled. The company shut down production while it developed its own in-house high grade plastic granules and better sterilisation systems. Consequently, when the company restarted its production it was able to manufacture products that met international standards. Since then, commitment to quality has been the growth mantra at the organisation. Over the years, the product range has expanded to include portable tube sealers, Terumo automatic component extractor, blood storage cabinet and blood transfusion sets.
The Productive Partnership: In 1999, Penpol entered into a partnership with Terumo Corporation of Japan and the company was renamed Terumo Penpol. A renowned manufacturer of quality medical products, Terumo has a presence in 150 countries. Its 20 factories employ more than 14,000 people worldwide and the company is a pioneer in development of products like implantable left-ventricular assist systems, artificial vessels, minimally invasive surgery devices and nano-capsules. The synergy created by this partnership was tremendous. Terumo Penpol began with the vision of becoming a leader in global technology and manufacturing, bringing out innovative devices, equipment and accessories of blood transfusion. Over the years, it has succeeded in remaining committed to this vision. The proof lies in the company’s achievements.
• Terumo Penpol products are now used in 82 countries across the world.
• Its factory on the outskirts of Trivandrum is the biggest of its kind in Asia.
• The company’s R&D centre has won national acclaim for its work and has published 20 papers and taken over 25 patents.
• The company has introduced several new innovative products
• The company’s Service Support Group is today a differentiator in the market. Its attention to quality and customers needs has steered this business to grow in unexpected ways.
The Visionary Management: Mr Yoshihiro Kimura, as Chairman& Managing director provides leadership and direction to the company’s growth plans. With his extensive international exposure, he has been able to successfully expand the company’s business in various export markets. Mr C Balagopal resigned as managing director of Terumo Penpol in April 2013. However, as the Senior Advisor, Business and Market Development, he still remains the guiding light for the company. As Executive Director, Mr C Padmakumar is responsible for manufacturing, sales and marketing, service, logistics and procurement. Other directors on the board include Mr Kenjie Sekine, Director and Senior Executive Officer, India Business; Mr Hiroshi Nagumo, President, Japan and APAC, Terumo Transfusion; and Mr Hirotomo Morita, General Manager, Fujinomiya Transfusion Factory, Japan
For a company that owes its existence to a chance conversation, Terumo Penpol has truly come a long way. Its path to success has not been entirely smooth, but it provides a lesson to young entrepreneurs that perseverance and willingness to take the plunge into uncharted waters can make you the precursor for change.