The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 89 million medical masks will be required for the Covid-19 response each month. The nose, or face, mask is now central in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 and has become a life-or-death part of the general dress code. It is not only medical practitioners who are driving up the demand, but people still need to venture outside their homes to get essential items like food or to make a living, and they too need to protect themselves.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has ordered that everyone should use a nose mask, at the minimum, while outside their homes, and you can guess the demand potential from a 200 million population. The global face mask market size is expected to record a revenue of over USD 21 billion by the end of 2026. The ceaseless use of the product in the medical sector, and as a protective gear, has spurred the industry demand globally. In 2020, the face mask industry size was recorded at USD 4581.9 million, and the market is anticipated to depict a CAGR of 24.2% through 2026.
There are two main types of medical face masks involved in the coronavirus-related manufacturing ramp-up, and they are the surgical and respirator. Surgical face masks are typically worn by health professionals during surgery, to catch bacteria in liquid droplets and aerosols from the user’s mouth and nose. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacteria and virus particles but to protect the patient.
The respirator masks provide better protection due to their material, shape and tight seal. Surgical masks provide sufficient protection for direct contact with people and are therefore in demand by the general public. Respiratory masks work for medical practitioners who work day-to-day with people who have coronavirus. But the market is also booming with nose masks mass-produced by people in the fashion and other industries.
These other forms of masks are non-medical grade and the general public also prefer them because they are washable and re-usable as they are usually made of basic fabrics, like cotton. Tailors and other entrepreneurs have created many unique and fancy styles out of various fabrics and you can see different patterns and designs hawked on the streets. The demand for masks is growing by the day and it has become necessary to encourage home-made and non-medical masks as the supply cannot meet demand and people have to be encouraged to protect themselves and others.
The United States Centre for Disease Control has advised the use of tightly-fit cotton fabric, like a t-shirt (a scarf can work) for production of face masks, and the fabric should be big enough to fold several times and cover your nose and mouth. Directions for making a face mask can be viewed on YouTube and on the site of the Centre for Disease Control. However, local tailors, fashion designers, house wives and many others have already been able to piece together fabric and elastic to cover the nose and mouth, so the concept is no longer strange.
This type of mask is coming in all sorts of patterns and it is popular among low income earners since it is reusable and cheap. Anything that is cheap but functional is attractive to the low income earners who comprise at least 70% of the Nigerian population, and whoever owns the market for that retail end wins it. However, to really produce nose masks that that could be used by medical practitioners and the elite, they need to meet certain standards and approval or registration by a regulatory agency like Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON). This will give the public some level of assurance about the quality.
Entrepreneurs who wish to take the business another step further, to rake in more revenue from the healthcare industry and the top-end of the market, would require at least a single line machine for production. The factory can produce surgical face masks which are made with non-woven fabric like Polypropylene, either 20 or 25 grams per square meter (gsm) in density, which have better filtration and air permeability, while remaining less slippery than woven cloth.
Masks can also be made of polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene or polyester. The 20 gsm mask is made in a spun bond process, which involves extruding the melted plastic onto a conveyor, while the 25 gsm fabric is made through melt down technology, which is a similar process where plastic is extruded through a die with hundreds of small nozzles and blown by hot air to become tiny fibers, again cooling and binding on a conveyor. Afterwards, there has to be a process to test the face mask, to ensure that the right quality of product is sold to the general public.
Purchasing in bulk from importers or factories and reselling to the general public is another way to participate in the booming industry. The discount you get from buying in bulk will add up to some reasonable profit in the current slow moving economy.
Whatever type of face mask you choose to make or buy and resell, the market is booming and you cannot do it wrongly right now. You can only err by folding your arms and complaining that COVID-19 has crippled the economy, whereas this is yet another Business opportunity that has emerged from the pandemic.