Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Design Digest

“We spent over five months to redesign the kit for easy home use”: Mylab’s MD on CoviSelf antigen test kit

CoviSelf grabbed attention with a full page ad few days ago. A chat with Mylab’s Hasmukh Rawal about its category first brand campaign.

You can do your Covid test at home and get your results in 15 minutes for Rs 250. That’s the upfront proposition of CoviSelf, a DIY Covid-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) kit launched by Maharashtra based biotech company Mylab Discovery Solutions.

CoviSelf happens to be the first DIY Covid test kit to be launched in the consumer market. The brand also launched its first ad campaign helmed by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar.

While Mylab has had its presence in sectors like tests and screening (for human diagnostics, food safety, agriculture, and veterinary medicine), CoviSelf happens to be its first consumer facing launch. The company received necessary approvals from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its self-use Covid test kit last month.

The kit includes a swab, test card, extraction tube, disposal bag and a user manual. While users aged 18 years and above can use it themselves, users aged between 2-18 years require an adult to do it for them.

The outcome on the test card is analysed by the scanner in the CoviSelf App to register and report results.

But it wasn’t always as simple. The contents of the kits were originally designed to be used by trained hands at path labs and hospitals.

In conversation with afaqs!, Hasmukh Rawal, managing director of Mylab Discovery Solutions, says that the kits had to undergo a major design overhaul to be feasible for the consumer market. They happened over a period of five and a half months.

“We have been looking for ways to make it simpler, easier to use and more effective for home testing. The idea was that an 80 year old granny or an 18 year old villager should be able to do it just by reading the instructions and watching demo videos. It should have minimal room for error.”

Hasmukh Rawal
Hasmukh Rawal

For lab use, the buffer fluid (solution used to dip swabs for testing) is provided in a bottle. Technicians have to pour the right quantity (3-4 drops) into the tubes for testing.

“Regular consumers cannot gauge the right measure, so, we came up with a pre-filled tube with the required amount of buffer fluid. We moved to a nasoswab from the nasopharyngeal swab because it was cumbursome and caused discomfort.”

Next was reducing the size of the swab’s breakpoint and getting it closer to the tip. Once the swab is used, the tip goes into the buffer fluid in the tube and is broken inside it. The tube is then capped with the cap attached locking the the swab tip and pathogens inside.

The tube’s cap also doubles up as a dropper head. “It has to deliver a precise amount of fluid on the test card without oozing or spilling.”

The test card carries a bar code and test outcome on the card is analysed by the AI based scanner in the CoviSelf app. Once it is read and loaded on to the app, the card cannot be reused. There is also no chance of mistaking the samples. The app can include multiple profiles of tested users.

It also reports the results to the government immediately. In case of a positive outcome, the report will be valid in all healthcare centres.

The brand’s ongoing 360 degree ad campaign is aimed at educating consumers about the correct way of using the test kit and introducing the company to the masses.

“We spent over five months to redesign the kit for easy home use”:  Mylab’s MD on CoviSelf antigen test kit

Over that, Akshay Kumar also made a snug fit as the brand endorser. The star has been pretty visible in brand communications relating to Covid.

Kumar led the immunity charge for Dabur Chyawanprash, chased Covid out of toilets with Harpic, vouched for at-home Diwali for Lodha Group, chalked out a 5-point plan to ‘beat Corona’ (with Ficci, IAA and IBF) and most importantly, told us how to behave in the Covid world on behalf of the government.

Rawal says that the company had concerns about consumers conducting the test themselves right from the start. Hence, the educational tone of the communications.

“Although we have demo videos in multiple languages on YouTube and social media, consumers have to go through the steps again and again. Our campaign is not about the company or product but how to use it.”

The ICMR has approved a total of 44 RAT kits from various companies. Meaning, CoviSelf is likely to have company in the consumer market soon. The brand is also likely to have the first mover advantage reinforced by the major ad blitz.

Speaking on possible competition, Rawal says, “If we can solve the larger issue for consumers, we need not worry about competition in the longer run.”

Mylab’s kit will be primarily sold as an OTC product in pharmacies. This will be backed up with online sales via Flipkart. The company will explore newer channels of distribution post approvals from the government.