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Movers & Shakers Interview with Mr. Ashesh Shah, President and CEO, Maxx Medical

Ashesh Shah is the President, CEO and co-founder of Maxx Medical. He has been instrumental in developing the commercial value of Maxx Medical's intellectual property (IP), building an IP framework, securing funding and developing a global organization that has achieved sales and regulatory approvals in US, India, EU and other countries for several orthopedic implant products in just 5 years. He recently led the acquisition of new product lines and distribution networks to grow Maxx Medical's product portfolio.

Born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where most of his family still resides, Mr. Shah has been doing business in India for the past 20 years. He has leveraged his cross-cultural expertise to build organizations with distributed sales and operational capabilities, particularly on the Indian sub-continent. Mr. Shah holds degrees from the Wharton School of Business and the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is based in the United States.

You have recently been awarded the Frost & Sullivan Healthcare award for Product Differentiation Excellence in orthopedic knee joint replacement market. Congratulations for the same! How do you plan to maintain your position in the coming year?

Thank you! It's been a pleasant surprise to win this award given that we are such a young company! This was the result of a lot of hard work by a dedicated team that is very focused on this market. Going forward, we intend to do the same with other joint products as well, resulting in a portfolio of products that will transform this market and improve the lives of our customers.

What is Maxx Medicals' unique value proposition?

We are the only company in the world that is able to deliver world-class orthopedic technology that is specifically developed to meet the needs of Asian patients and surgeons.

How did you go about launching Freedom Knee in India and what were some of the challenges you faced when you started?

Two years prior to the launch we instituted a strategy of involving key opinion leaders in the targeted region. This enabled us to cultivate meaningful and fruitful relationships and then deliver the finest services to surgeons and patients.

We built our team in India by hiring the best of the best from the medical device industry. We wanted folks that not only had experience but that also wanted to make a difference.

The biggest challenge was changing the conversation in the market from one built on sales and marketing gimmicks to one centered on science. Being a smaller company we can't expect to out-spend our competition, but we can expect to out-think them. For example, our first speaker in India was Dr. Seth Greenwald, he's not a surgeon, but his group (ORL) literally wrote the book when it comes to testing and validating orthopedic implants. He spent time in India discussing the process by which implants get approved, and what surgeons should look for when determining the quality of implants. We have continued such dialogue by formally promoting an educational exchange between Indian surgeons and their Western counterparts. The result of these efforts has been the growing appreciation in the market on the importance of bone conservation, sizing and high flexion, and how one does not need to sacrifice in one area to achieve another. Given that the Freedom Knee is the only knee that can lay claim to being able to achieve all three without sacrifice, I think our focus on science is paying off handsomely.

How do you see the growth for orthopedic joint replacement market in the next 5 years? Do you think Maxx Medical will outperform this growth? If so, by how much and why?

In India, much like the rest of Asia, the orthopedic joint replacement market is expected to grow 30-50 percent year over year.

Maxx Medical has and will continue to outpace this growth. The reason is that we are as focused on this market as our competitors are on the Western markets. With that type of commitment, supported by significant investments in new products and market support, we can expect to continue to outpace the market.

Could you throw some light on the challenges that the orthopedic joint replacement market is currently facing? How do you plan to overcome them? What are your plans for the development of the company over the next 5 yrs?

In my opinion, some of the major challenges facing the Asian markets are:

  • Introducing new technologies in an increasingly uncertain regulatory environment.

  • Providing access to these life-changing products to a larger portion of the population by creating more cost effective solutions.

  • Creating a good system for educating the population about the benefits of our products so they don't wait longer than necessary to improve their quality of life.

  • Increasing the number of surgeons that are trained in implant of orthopedic products. The population is aging and the current batch of surgeons simply will not have enough time to handle the demand.

Over the next five years Maxx Medical will continue to increase its reach throughout Asia. We are seeking regulatory clearances for our products in all the major markets. Furthermore, we are expanding our product range to include hips, shoulders and other joints. All of our products will be given the same level of thought and focus that Freedom Knee received, to ensure that they are the best solutions for Asia.

What are the key competitive challenges Maxx Medical faces today and the key challenges that Maxx Medical poses to its competitors?

The key challenges we face are:

  • Being able to successfully overcome the marketing spin that our competitors are using so that our science can prevail.

  • Continuing to aggressively grow while maintaining our high standards.

  • Continuing to innovate while still delivering value to our customers.

Going forward, I believe the key challenge for our industry will be successfully innovating in the face of changing regulations. World regulatory bodies are changing their rules, resulting in an increase in the costs and burden of proof for new products. While their intentions are good (that is, patient safety), many times the unintended consequence of this is to reduce innovation.

What new products and solutions has Maxx Medical introduced lately (if there are any) or plans to introduce in the future, and what are their advantages?

We are introducing a new revision knee system in the market in 2012. This product is used when a patient's first implant fails - either due to simple wear and tear or an infection. The Freedom Knee® Revision System will be the most innovative and appropriate system in the market in Asia. We have really focused on making it high performing as well as surgeon-friendly, both of which are rare for revision systems. Additionally, we are introducing hip systems in the market.

What steps have you taken to enhance in customer value and satisfaction?

Recently, we built out our organization to include customer service representatives that help surgeons in the field with queries they may have about our system. Furthermore, we are in the process of using mobile apps to deliver information directly into the hands of our surgeons, as well as patients, so there will be no need to fumble around for brochures and pamphlets. And, it's better for the environment!

What would you, as the CEO of the company, like to accomplish in the next couple of years? How would you define success for yourself and for Maxx Medical?

I've always believed that being a CEO is like being the conductor of an orchestra - while you don't get to play any one instrument, the entire band is taking cues from you to ensure they are in synch and making great music. So going forward, I hope that I can continue helping the orchestra make great music even as the band becomes larger, the performances increase and the music become more complex. If I can do that, then we will greatly improve the lives of patients in Asia and the rest of the world.

Maxx Medical's success will be defined by how fast and broad the market adoption of our products and our philosophy will be in the coming years. If we do a good job, then we will be one of the top three players in this industry in this region, and will be the first orthopedic multinational focused on Asia with world-class technology. If we are successful, then I would also expect us to have some copy-cats, and we welcome that challenge as well.

Ultimately, I hope that we will be able to help hundreds of thousands of patients improve their lives by becoming mobile again and in doing so pursue their dreams. That's what makes this journey worthwhile for me.

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