Niche innovation creates a global market for The Simulator Company16 November 2022
Here we talk to Sagar Haval (Managing Director), who founded The Simulator Company with his wife Babita Haval (Director). It is based on an innovative response to the need for more sophisticated medical models on which to practice various life-saving techniques. The company is based in London with its operations in North West Leicestershire.
It recently won two prestigious awards: “Excellence in Innovation” from the British Chambers of Commerce, and at the Lloyds Bank British Business Excellence Awards, it was “Highly commended” in the Best New Business of the Year category for 2022.
Tell us about what the company does and how it started
We started our journey in 2019 when we registered our company, but the R&D started long ago. With extensive research and development, we have created our own patented simulators with advanced technology to serve the clinical community.
Our motive here is to create realistic simulators and help clinicians get trained and practice specialised life support therapies, which will help improve patient outcomes.
I’ve worked as a clinician in the past and understand what a clinician needs. I have trained thousands of clinicians around the world on this particular therapy. One of the things we realised was that the main reason for losing patients was lack of training; people didn’t have the right level of skills because they couldn’t practice ‘hands-on’ anywhere. So, we developed a product that addresses this and delivers better patient outcomes because it enables clinicians to respond very quickly, which is essential if the patient is to live and retain their full brain function.
The simulators E-SIM and E-SIM Pro are for practising Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation therapy (ECMO). This technology is used in various areas, including premature babies whose lungs and heart may be underdeveloped, and adults with cardiac arrest or lung failure not responding to conventional medical treatment. One of the most recent indications for this therapy is lung failure caused due to COVID-19.
We did a prelaunch last year and a global launch in the middle of this year and have received immense excitement and support from clinicians around the world using this therapy. The overall feedback of customers is that our simulators are very close to humans and can possibly eradicate the need to use animals for such training and practices. In this way, we could also save animal lives.
Was this a market with no products in it and animals being the only training option, or were there some products on sale already?
A bit of both – there were a few products around, for example one that would demonstrate how to put a tube inside a patient. Some of these mannequins weighed around 80kgs, so you needed four people to move them around. Our mannequin-based simulators are just around 15kg, so it’s very easy for one person to move it around and set up the whole simulation in just a few minutes, instead of a couple of days as it used to do. Our simulators are designed to perform almost everything a clinician might need to practice ECMO therapy. Our products are eight to ten times more advanced and powerful than anything available in the market.
You clearly have a strength in inventing, but how did you and your team ensure that you had all the skills you needed to launch and maintain a strong business?
We are a small team, and everyone is multi-tasking all the time. We believe that there is only one way to achieve everything we want and that’s hard work and persistence. Everyone has a different set of skills, and we are constantly trying to grow and expand our group by adding influencers and distributors to it. We keep learning and brainstorming ideas as this is just the beginning, and we are constantly in product research and development. As you know, this is a niche market, and connections with clinicians in this field are one of the most important aspects for us.
How were you able to launch internationally straightaway?
As this is a very niche market and we have very few centres in the UK performing this therapy, we were always of the opinion that we would need to launch globally. The plus point was that I knew many clinicians worldwide so getting our message across was not very difficult using digital marketing.
I suppose because ECMO is such a niche area, it’s not difficult to identify all the centres across the globe, so that gives you your first target market. Alongside that, you’re trying to establish more new centres and create products that will answer other training needs?
That’s right. And my clinical training background gives me the credibility to reach these potential customers easily because we understand their challenges and needs.
What are the positives and negatives for your business right now?
There are many challenges, like in any other business, but we are working hard to overcome those. We want to keep our organisational structure very lean and smart for right now. We don’t take any investments from anywhere as our aim is to serve the clinical community and, eventually, the patients.
Getting loans from the British Business Bank has been a turning point for us financially and we recently received the Excellence in Innovation award from the British Chamber of Commerce.
We are definitely very proud that what started as a garage project on the weekends is turning out to be a worldwide business, and the fact that the clinicians love our products and that is the biggest achievement for us.
The biggest challenges for us right now are time and space, but we have plans to overcome those. We want to keep our products being made in the UK to provide better quality and standards, and also to keep close supervision on the manufacturing process.
What effect did the pandemic have on your business?
We were doing R&D during the pandemic, but also it raised the importance of education and training in responding effectively to such a disease. The UK was one of the most organised countries with regard to ECMO after Swine Flu in 2009 when it restructured its approach to this scale of infection. Other countries have a more scattered approach.
But in the UK, there were not enough resources, and expertise in ECMO was often only in a very small group of people. This is a risk if those people fall ill and can’t come to work. It’s been realised that training and spreading that knowledge is so important, which, of course, is helping us.
What kind of support have you had from our Business Adviser, Rana?
Rana has been really good at signposting us to the right places and people. He has connected us with multiple webinars which provide training about business. We found marketing and PR experts through him, and I appreciate speaking to him about some of my challenges with customers and doing things differently. We definitely know where to go now for support.
Sagar was speaking to Peter Allen from the Business Gateway. Find out more at www.thesimulatorcompany.com.