As the Omicron wave surges, home-testing is booming. But most players are opting for retailer push than consumer pull to enhance sales.
With the rising number of Covid19 cases in the country, people are once again queuing in front of test centres. The huge caseload has eventually led to a long waiting time for the results. To get quick results and to avoid the hassles around Covid19 testing, many are now opting for rapid antigen tests (RAT) at home through self-use Covid test kits.
While these have been around for a while now, they are having their moment in the sun now after the new variant Omicron generated a new wave. They witnessed poor demand from July to October, owing to the low caseload. But saled picked up in November and December, with the emergence of the new variant.
These tests offer a simple proposition- do your Covid test at home and get results in 15 minutes for as less as Rs 250. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, these self-use kits can be used by symptomatic individuals and the immediate contacts of confirmed cases.
The self-test kits have an extraction tube, sterile nasal swab and a testing card. The swabs are typically taken from the nose, mouth or throat.
Pune-based Mylab’s CoviSelf was the first to be approved for self-testing in May. As on December 30, 2021, ICMR has validated 145 antigen based Test Kits including Abbott Rapid’s Panbio, Meril Diagnostics’ CoviFind and Angstrom Biotech’s Angtech (a saliva-based rapid testing). The cost per kit varies from Rs 220 to Rs 500 depending on the brand. These are available online and can also be purchased from pharmacies.
MyLab has reported a 500 per cent and 700 per cent increase in the use of its self-test kits in Pune and Mumbai respectively in the last seven days. While epidemiologists are recommending these tests for its quick results, the health department officials are concerned that many of the positive cases may go unreported.
ICMR has mandated that all manufacturers create a mobile application where each person taking a self-test has to enter the result, which is then synced with the Council’s portal. However many still fail to register the results.
Among these brands, CoviSelf and CoviFind seem to be the most visible when it comes to advertising. MyLab has roped in Akshay Kumar to promote CoviSelf, while Meril Diagnostics has MS Dhoni on board.
Keeping the rising cases in mind, CoviFind has relaunched its ‘Doubt ko Karo Out’ campaign, featuring Dhoni, this week.
Being the first in the market, CoviSelf did enjoy a first-mover advantage. However it backed it with aggressive advertising. In June it had released a full page print ad claiming to be “India’s first COVID-19 self test kit” and also a TVC featuring Kumar. It has also released a series of educational videos demonstrating how the test can be conducted.
But largely the self-test kit market remains undifferentiated. Most of these brands do not have an advertising presence leading to poor brand recall. With products like these, which see a sudden rise in demand, brands focus on distribution at retail outlets and give better margins to retailers. Soon everyone follows the same model and at the end of it the opportunity to build a brand is lost.
“That opportunity really exists at the beginning of the category creation. Now that Covid Self-test kits are suddenly becoming a big category in the consumer's mind, a few brands should take the opportunity early on to invest in building a brand and at the consumer level invest in advertising, so that consumers see a connect with a brand before they start assuming that the category is an undifferentiated cluttered category,” said Praful Akali, Founder and MD, Medulla Communications.
Before the pandemic, self-testing in India was largely restricted to confirming a pregnancy and checking blood sugar levels. This is the first time that a self-test has been developed for a disease.
Though these tests have made Covid detection tests as simple as a pregnancy test, it has still not garnered the same popularity. When it comes to testing, people’s first preference remains a diagnostic lab. However the caseload is such that people have to wait for upto 36 hours to get their results.
Gauri Chaudhari, co-founder, Innerworld, a healthcare brand consultancy, says this need is fulfilled by these test kits. In her opinion it's going to be a category-driven market.
“This category will definitely grow. But there is a chance that the one who is advertising will get the extra chunk. These days people order things on the phone. So while ordering instead of saying give me a self-diagnostic kit, they will order it by its name. The advertising will help in brand recall,” she says.
"But there is a chance that the one who is advertising will get the extra chunk."Gauri Chaudhari
Though these tests are far more cost effective, their accuracy remains a concern- the chances of a false negative still remain high.
Akali says that if the brands manage to improve the accuracy of the tests they will automatically become the preferred choice.
“The category is such that everyone would want to use it. It also depends on its consumer education initiatives, making it a lot more consumer friendly and easier to use with bigger readings, clearer differentiation and visual instructions,” he adds.
"Once the accuracy is improved, the category is such that everyone would want to use it."Praful Akali
Chaudhari also feels that these brands can benefit by generating awareness and having trust around it.
“Any health brand needs to have credibility, transparency and tangibility. The credibility comes from ICMR’s validation,” she adds.
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