Trade connections in India help Quebec‑based company supply Canadians with disinfectant
The COVID‑19 pandemic has created a growing need for health and hygiene products in Canada and around the world. The pandemic is also disrupting global supply chains, including those for Canadian small and medium‑sized enterprises.
Serge Auray, president and founder of Labratoire M2
A solution that just needs more ‘thyme’
When India went into lockdown on March 23, Laboratoire M2 suddenly faced the prospect of losing access to supplies of key inputs needed to produce its disinfectant.
The company, which is a client of the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) and based in Sherbrooke, Quebec, was preparing to supply Canadians confronting the threat of COVID‑19 with Thymox, a disinfectant concentrate it manufactures using plant‑based ingredients.
Laboratoire M2’s business model involves selling drums of Thymox to distributors and wholesalers who then dilute the concentrate into smaller containers of surface cleaner and home sprays that they sell to the end users.
As part of its response to COVID‑19, India had stopped all non‑essential services, including the production of thymol, which is also an ingredient in mouthwash and fragrances. As a result, Laboratoire M2 was cut off from its primary supplier of thymol, a component of thyme oil and the only active ingredient in Thymox.
Without thymol, Laboratoire M2 would not be able to make Thymox, despite a spike in demand in the face of a global shortage of alcohol‑based disinfectants. To meet that demand, Laboratoire M2’s monthly orders of thymox had risen from 18 barrels in January to 312 barrels in March.
Thymox is biodegradable and made of plant‑based ingredients. It is an ecological concentrate that is diluted and sold as hard‑surface disinfectant, footbath solution and even crop protection products.
With a halt in its supply chain and unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue, Serge Auray, president and founder of Labratoire M2, says he didn’t know if the company would have the capacity to help, or if its microbiology lab would have to close.
The company’s crisis management strategy? Contact the Trade Commissioner Service.
“If it wasn’t for the TCS and everyone at the Canadian High Commission fighting for me, then none of this would have been possible. We would have been forced to shut down in a time when our product can really help people,” says Auray.
Essential crisis management
Auray contacted the TCS regional office in Montreal looking for advice on a way forward and his request was forwarded to Saibal Ghosh, the trade commissioner responsible for the life sciences sector in New Delhi..
“We all need to work together right now, so I’m proud to support resilient Canadian companies like Laboratoire M2 that are providing solutions,” says Ghosh.
“I am very satisfied with the positive outcome made possible through our intervention.”
Making use of the Canadian High Commission’s goodwill with local authorities and his own relationships with local contacts, Ghosh managed to have a shipment of thymol leave for Sherbrooke in just two weeks after successfully:
- Registering VDH Organics (Laboratoire M2’s thymol supplier) as an essential service;
- Re‑opening VDH Organics factory with priority packaging and production for Laboratoire M2;
- Finding a customs clearance and freight forwarding agent (CHA) to handle the shipment during strict lockdown measures;
- Providing the CHA with documentation and authorization for easier border crossing;
- Expediting shipping via airplane when the usual lead time is 2 months by boat.
“The TCS worked hard for me 24 hours a day for two weeks,” says Auray.
“They were aggressive in a positive way, and kept me updated throughout the entire process.”
A new world of opportunities
With production resumed, VDH Organics has sent three more shipments for a total supply of 50,000 kilograms of thymol, which has enabled Laboratoire M2 to produce 26 million bottles of disinfectant for Canadians.
“We’re made in Canada and very proud of that,” says Auray, adding that his company of 13 employees is planning to expand to meet demands and provide Thymox to Canada and the world.
“It’s a new world we live in now, and people want safe products they can trust,” says Auray.
“I think the way to do business is to respect the environment and take care of people’s health. There is an opportunity in the market to provide value and also look out for future generations.”
Since 1895, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has been helping take Canadian businesses to the world by connecting them with international opportunities, funding and support programs, and its network of Trade Commissioners in 160+ cities worldwide.
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