The pandemic has transformed us in many ways. It taught us to value our health, loved ones, and most importantly: not take things for granted.
But can you learn not to take for granted something as ubiquitous as oxygen? And can you build a business selling it?
It turns out you can.
As the world is reopening and recovering from lockdowns, we won't go into (yet another) lengthy conversation about the pandemic. Instead, this second episode of The Trading Places podcast will focus on how the pandemic affected the medical oxygen industry.
With a reporter talking about the oxygen crisis in India, entrepreneurs working in the realm of "oxygen bars," and even selling oxygen online, in this episode we'll talk about how this crisis is teaching people to think about oxygen as a commodity that can be bought and sold around the globe and how the way we think about it has changed.
Tune in, and you'll learn:
07:21 — Why the Indian oxygen crisis in May 2021 was more of a logistical shortfall than anything else
"We were faced with a crisis, and we said, let's just ramp up oxygen production, and things are going to be fine. But only then we realized that it was not just about ramping up production. It was a logistical nightmare." — Rohit Inani
09:09 – How oxygen is being manufactured and transported
"Oxygen is produced in liquid form, and it's a highly hazardous substance. You can't transport it. It's stored in so-called cryogenic containers, which are expensive." — Rohit Inani
12:16 – How some entrepreneurs are selling oxygen to people in "bars."
"We were just like roaming around, and we saw these oxygen bar, like popped up everywhere. So I just thought that you know, why not have something like this in India because there's an evolving market and people are willing to try something new." — Aryavair Kumar
14:57 – Why do people stack up on oxygen concentrators all around India
"People have started importing oxygen concentrators and producing their oxygen concentrators. There's been a huge supply and manufacturing happening within India." — Aryavair Kumar
"That distrust [to the government] coupled with this realization of oxygen is an essential medicine. This is what is leading people to stock up on oxygen concentrators. There will be a third wave. And I'm pretty sure they've anyway, come the government is much, much better prepared than it was during the second wave." — Rohit Inani
17:16 – How the demand has changed for oxygen products after the pandemic
"Now people think of oxygen. We breathe. That's what keeps us alive, or it's just there, and it's used for industrial purposes. So that is what is forcing the growth of this market of oxygen content. And it's there to stay." — Rohit Inani
"We essentially sold through all of our inventory, which is usually three to six months worth of inventory. And we sold through that in three days. Since then, we've been meeting demand. It just keeps going upwards." — Mike Grill
22:14 – How oxygen is sold internationally and what are the main barriers to entry
"Amazon is where most of our competitors can sell internationally. I think we have seen quite a few more competitors recently. But [still], it's a pretty difficult market to just step into. There are a lot of rules and regulations that make it hard to can oxygen, essentially." — Mike Grill
"We get our oxygen from a gas company called Airgas. They do all sorts of compressed gases, including welding oxygen and aviators breathing oxygen, which is what Boost Oxygen is. So we get it in large tanks and put it in smaller cans on an assembly line, where we then seal a valve and snap a mask on top. We then hermetically seal it to make sure that there isn't anything coming into contact with the mask before the consumer buys it."
Where to find this episode:
Host: Rachel Williamson
Producer/Director: Sonny Sanjay Vadgama
Showrunner: Sergey Faldin
Illustration: Kate Faldina