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It is our humble contribution to the COVID cause: Karthick Athmanathan, Head – EV and eMobility Solutions, Ashok Leyland

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After meticulous planning and research, a team of 50 engineers from Ashok Leyland designed a cost-effective ventilator to extend its support during the COVID-19 pandemic, informs Karthick Athmanathan, Head – EV and eMobility Solutions, Ashok Leyland to Usha Sharma

How closely are you working with the state and central government, to extend your support through vast engineering skill?
We have been part of the SIAM-CII initiative with the Government of India for the last two months. We are also working with the health ministry at a larger level in terms of requirements (volumes), standards, etc. We are discussing with various officials and are hoping to carry out clinical trials through their good offices very soon.

Tell us how many ventilators will you be supplying to the Tamil Nadu Government as well as to the Union Government? And what all regulatory requirements have you followed? 
We are adhering to all regulatory, safety and performance standards required by all laws in India, as well as the ISO and other standards will be complied with. We will, in fact, start the clinical trials process request only after all these certifications as well as our own in-house safety, endurance and performance tests are passed. We do not have an indication of numbers to be sold to and through various agencies. As a part of the larger cause, Ashok Leyland is focusing on getting a relevant, safe and reliable product ready with all approvals. We are not into this for the business- it is our humble contribution to the COVID cause. We will initially start with a capacity of 40 per day. But, since we are adopting Cellular manufacturing techniques for this product (not an assembly line), we can quickly ramp up to 200 per day within a week. The idea is to be ready to help- this is not a business metric for us- it is an emotional and moral one.

Since March end, Ashok Leyland has been involved in designing ventilator for Covid-19 patients, did you involve any research institute for knowledge sharing and helping your team in designing it?
Yes. We took a proven open-source design from MIT and redesigned it for the Indian context and our patients, supply chain and other needs. In addition to this, we need to realise the inputs from the users (clinicians, intensivists, medical staff, etc.) are paramount. There is no point in making a product that does not address their needs and concerns. We have consulted almost every day with a panel of such experts who are responsible for ICU and Ventilation care- people who have to make critical decisions and rely on their equipment to deliver on their decisions. The panel consists of about 10 experts from different locations/ countries from different institutions (academic, hospitals, and authorities).

Have you followed the copyright norms as well?
This is designed, engineered and styled by us. We are not in the business of ventilators- we are doing this for a larger cause.

Tell us the role as well as the contribution of Kare India and Phoenix Medical Systems in this development?  
We are working simultaneously on three fronts. One is the above product- a last-mile portable ventilator that is designed and developed by us. The next is a high-end Ventilator that we are working on with Phoenix, we do not do the Product Design- we help them with supply chain, manufacturing ramp-up, automotive quality protocols, international and local logistics, etc. We also may do some minor Engineering help if they need us to. The third and last is the work with Kriti Kare- this is the same arrangement as with Phoenix- but for a lower end ventilator that costs less but also offers lesser features.

Do we see this partnership running for the long term, even after the COVID-19?  
We are doing this only for a larger cause that is pertinent to what the Governments want at this time of crisis.

Tell us your future plans for the healthcare sector
We are not in the business of healthcare. Our plans are to help at this time of crisis as a responsible corporate who has been in our country for more than 70 years. We will do all that is required and within our reach.

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