LifeCell International—Stem cell hub of the world
LifeCell International was incorporated in November 2004 with the concept being completely new to India. Initially, the greatest challenge for the company was creating awareness of this concept. Being one amongst the first few to enter the country with umbilical cord blood stem cell banking, Lifecell had the responsibility of educating more than commencing banking operations and that was their focus for the initial years. The challenge became tougher when they realised that even the medical fraternity was not familiar with the concept of stem cell banking. Hence they first decided to focus on eight prime cities where literacy, lifestyle, knowledge, exposure and overall healthcare awareness was much better than rest of the country.
Mayur Abhaya, Executive Director, LifeCell International, says, “The awareness level was extremely low, rather I would say, there was no awareness on this concept both amongst the general public and the medical fraternity. We had to look at educative journalism and look at PR as a vital link to do this. Today, it gives us satisfaction when we see that we have more than 12,000 clients who have stored their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells with us. We consider it as a great achievement to get such a huge clientele within a short period of three years.”
Now, doctors are well informed and people are somewhat aware of this concept, though not to a great extent. The company commenced its operations in Dubai only last year, and since the local regulatory affairs are different, they have not started focusing on full-fledged market penetration. However, they do see good business coming and will be enhancing their operations during the current year. “Our operations in Sri Lanka have been set up recently, and we are looking at centres in neighbouring countries for setting up operations in 2009,” he adds.
In the private banking segment, Lifecell has competition from a few regional local players and few national companies who are active in this business, for instance Reliance Life Sciences and Cryo Banks India. However, the company has positioned itself as a comprehensive stem cells solutions provider comprising banking, research, therapy and clinical applications. This has enabled its clients to see value add in its system and decide to bank their child’s future with Lifecell. In terms of therapy, Lifecell has competition from Reliance and few service providers like Life Line Hospitals and other leading hospitals that provide stem cell therapy as an integral part of their service. “However, to our knowledge there is no therapy centre focused only in providing stem cell solution similar to TriCell center at Sri Ramachandra Hospital,” says Abhaya.
Products and strategies
LifeCell currently has two products to offer—the primary product is umbilical cord blood stem cell banking and the other being stem cell therapy solutions for needy clients through TriCell Stem Cell Center, set-up in association with Sri Ramachandra Medical College, Chennai. The company would be adding one more service shortly which, according to Abhaya, is going to become the absolute medical revolution.
LifeCell’s basic marketing strategy is to first educate the public on the concept, have their buy-in and then motivate them to bank their baby’s cord blood stem cells. “We strongly believe that we should be selling the concept and creating awareness first and not to take the business approach of pushing the product on our clients. That is why all our communication, advertisements and collaterals are focused on customer education and does not talk on the business/investment perspective. We take it to the next level only after having the customer’s confidence on the concept,” says Abhaya. The company has conducted more than 250 continuing medical education (CMEs) across the country to penetrate concept awareness and knowledge enhancement amongst doctors.
LifeCell has an exclusive technology tie-up with Cryo-Cell International. The company has an exclusive privileged access to Cryo-Cell’s technology, which has been tested and proven for nearly two decades. Abhaya says, “This further strengthens our presence in the country in terms of technological expertise apart from our associated activities in research, clinical applications and therapy.”
According to Abhaya, Lifecell would now be launching a new service shortly. The company sees this new service, which would be announced shortly, to be a revolution in stem cells and will throw open a larger mass of people to cover their health from future ailments. On the R&D front, the company would be investing heavily in exploring newer avenues of clinical possibilities using stem cells and link such findings with clinical trials collaborating with leading international institutions for such trials. It would also be investing in the establishment of a public bank for stem cells for the benefit of people who have missed out on the opportunity of umbilical cord blood private banking and to throw open access of such blood to the needy. Abhaya concludes, “We would be further integrating the link between these functions in the next few years to see the success of stem cells in as many clinical applications as possible in making LifeCell International ‘the stem cell hub of the world.’