Pakistan is one of the major exporters of surgical instruments and the instruments manufactured in this country find widespread application in nearly every corner of the world. Nearly 50% of its exports are directed towards European countries, whereas 25% are sent to the United States (Ali, 2010). Nearly one-fifth of the global production of surgical instruments takes place in and around the city of Sialkot, which is located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Around 3000 firms employing nearly half-million individuals are actively involved in the process of surgical instrument development, manufacturing and export. More than 10,000 different types of metal instruments covering diverse fields including surgery, microsurgery, Orthopedics, ENT, Gynecology & Obstetrics, Veterinary, Cosmetics and Dental sciences are manufactured and exported to different parts of the world.
Historically speaking, surgical instrument manufacturing in this region started at the turn of 19th century when local blacksmiths provided their services in repairing surgical instruments owned by foreign surgeons working in the region. Subsequently, the British government established metal industry development center in 1941, the purpose of which was to facilitate local manufacturers. After independence from the British rule, the Surgical Instrument Manufacturing Association of Pakistan was established in the year 1958 (Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan).
More than 60% of exports from Pakistan comprise of basic surgical instruments of the disposable type; the remaining 40% surgical instruments are of the re-usable type. The number of firms that are actively involved in export of surgical instruments is limited. Only about 15%-30% of the manufacturing firms have the desired expertise to become part of the export process. A similar percentage of firms are involved in the trading process of surgical instruments, but this segment does not own a manufacturing unit. A major segment of industry (nearly 66%-70%) comprises of small vendors. Keeping in view these figures, it is easy to understand that the actual potential of the industry remains untapped till this day. Due to the limited number of exporters, the job of approaching sellers that actually possess the capacity to export can be a challenging job for foreign buyers.
Ongoing Business Patterns
Most surgical instrument manufacturing firms in Pakistan do not have marketing presence in foreign countries to allow direct sales to end users in these countries. Therefore, many Pakistan based manufacturers sell their products to middlemen that are based in Germany (SwedWatch, 2007). Although these products are manufactured in Sialkot, they are stamped as “Made in Germany” (Germanotta, 1999). The reason is the restrictions that were imposed on Pakistani products, since many reports pointed out the involvement of child labor in the manufacturing process of surgical instruments during the 1990s. Most manufacturers have taken adequate actions to eliminate such objectionable practices.
Click here to read about Pakistan’s POSITIVE Response to Child Labor problem in Surgical Instrument Manufacturing.
IDEA : You can develop your own brand of surgical instruments by engaging surgical instruments manufacturers in Pakistan.
Dawn (2016) reported that many foreign surgical instrument manufacturers have actually shut down their own manufacturing facilities, after they started importing their surgical instruments from Pakistan. They outsourced their production to Pakistani manufacturers and discovered that it was impossible for their local production to compete the prices that were being offered by Pakistani surgical instruments manufacturers. The annual global trade of surgical instruments amounts to $17 billion - this stunning figure is the reason more and more people are getting involved in this trade.
Any person or firm willing to import surgical instruments from another country should attempt to compare the prices that sellers from different countries offer. As an example, you can check the difference in prices between Pakistani sellers and German sellers. To give you a rough idea, an instrument that costs $2 from Pakistani market is sold at 20-40 times higher price, in other countries (Bhutta, 2006). The end users pay an even higher price for the same surgical instruments.
Feroz (n.d) asserts that for standard ‘forceps’ the margins on ex-factory cost is around 44%. Importers’ margins are even larger and may rise above 230%. Hence, import is extremely lucrative if surgical instruments are purchased directly from the Pakistani market.
How to import surgical instruments from Pakistan?
Important: If you are in the USA and you want to establish your own business of importing surgical instruments from Pakistan, click here to learn more.
Importing surgical instruments from Pakistan can be a challenge for some foreign buyers. The language and cultural difference may be a deterrent for some; others may dislike the price variation that ensues secondary to the changing steel prices. An important aspect to remember is that while many Pakistani manufacturers have succeeded to establish their presence on the internet, many other successful manufacturers still lack their presence on internet. Therefore, internet presence may not be regarded as the measure of success of a surgical instrument seller.
If you are located outside Pakistan and you want to become part of the lucrative trade of surgical instruments, all you need to do is the following:
1) Visit your local market to understand the demand in your locality. Check which surgical, dental or beauty instruments are in demand.
2) Make a list of your selected products. For example, Forceps, Scissors etc.
3) Make sure you know the complete specifications of these surgical instruments.
E.g. You should know whether they are of the re-usable type or the disposable type. What are they made of? (Steel or Titanium etc). Which finishes are being used in your local market? Their prices in your market, etc.
4) Understand your local legislation regarding import of such instruments.
5) Just write to a manufacturer in Pakistan.
Take your first step today!
Ali, M., 2010. Localization and Internationalization Case study: Pakistan (Local) vs. EU expansion opportunities and barriers for NATA Surgical International. Karlstad Business School.
Bhutta, M.F., 2006. Analysis and comment. BMJ,333, pp.297-9.
European Commission. 2010. COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT: Combating Child Labour. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2010/february/tradoc_145803.pdf
Feroz, J. n.d.. An Overview: SURGICAL & MEDICAL INSTRUMENTS INDUSTRY OF PAKISTAN. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://www.tdap.gov.pk/doc_reports/TDAP_Report_on_Surgical_&_Medical_Instuments_Industry_in_Pakistan.pdf
Germanotta, P., 1999. The manufacture of surgical instruments: what nurses can do about child labour. International nursing review, 46(4), p.112.
International Labour Office. 2012. IPEC action against child labour 2010-2011: Progress and future priorities. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
International Labour Organization. n.d.. Combating Hazardous and Exploitative Child Labour in Surgical Instruments Manufacturing (Phase II). Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://www.ilo.org/islamabad/whatwedo/projects/WCMS_114408/lang--en/index.htm
Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan, n.d. Challenges & Potentials of Surgical Instrument Manufacturing Industry Sialkot. Strategy Working Group – Surgical Instruments and Medical Devices Sector.
SwedWatch. 2007. Medical equipment from Pakistan - IEH - Ethical Trading Initiative Norway. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://etiskhandel.no/Artikler/1636.html?l=en