Go Generic: a non-jan aushadhi generic store (at Mumbai near Andheri East station, photo: 9.6.19)
Market is merciless, yet the market is kind to the market – savvy. This means having a keen focus on the goings-on in the market and adapting to the trends. It is simple truth that most of the marketing honchos in top management are the MRs who started in the 1970s, or otherwise in the 1980s/early 90s. Those were the non-mobile times; era of trunk call and STD (standard trunk dialling) phone booths. Plying doctors with more and more samples and gifts was sufficient to achieve the sales targets. Today, it is these MRs or people with trunk call and fax mindset who are running the pharma show!
No wonder all are clueless. Each monthly sales closing is a new challenge. Even doctor mindsets’ are different today. Those earlier days were the times of highly egoistic and authoritarian doctors. Today, most doctors are market savvy down-to-earth and business-like. Ego has no place in medical business practice. Social media has blown the cover off many manipulative medical practices. Dr. Google has empowered patients. Even though doctors want patients to keep Dr. Google away, they simply can’t. It is the era of digital penetration, and digitalization cannot be wished away by anyone – even demigod doctors and non-doctors.
Besides this, a strong trend towards alternative medicine, traditional medicine, yoga, naturopathy and non-allopathic methods of wellness and healing are trending. So market is not easy to operate – exploitation of gullible nature and naiveté is out!!
Era of multiple touchpoints
Imagine you are a diabetic. Whatever your monthly income may be, a smart phone is in your pocket. So a diabetic guy is just not going to listen only to the ‘prescription voice’. The diabetic will listen to podcasts, see you tube videos, and read many many articles on diabetes. This empowered patient is not going to follow the doctor advice blindly. He may discuss with the doctor or tacitly avoid discussions but follows his self-reasoning.
Even the PM: Mr. Narendra Modi is vouching for yoga and jan aushadhi kendras or shops. Generic non-jan aushadhi shops are also providing lower cost medicines from standard pharmaceutical companies. Just outside Mumbai Andheri East local railway station is a non-jan aushadhi generic medicine store and is doing great business (my foto of 9.6.19, when I was in Mumbai for a meeting). These developments are stunting the growth of traditional pharma brands.
So as a pharma marketer can I depend only on the doctor’s prescriptions? Will my brand not have influential touchpoints at pharmacies and in the internet? How can I ethically influence prospect and consumer patients on the mobile internet? Can I ensure patients who take my brand of medicine to register on the website and get periodical health advice so they are inclined to buy my brand? What sort of after-prescription services can I offer to brand purchasers through digital means? Is it possible to wean away my brand purchasers from generic (jan aushadhi and non-jan aushadhi) products?
Earlier the brick and mortar pharmacies were the only places of retail sale. Today online pharmacies are showing growth – so patients are buying from them. Is it possible for my brand to penetrate the online pharmacy sector? Many doctors are having attached pharmacies – every doctor wants samples, gifts and also a cut from the attached pharmacy. So how is it going to work out financially for me? Boy, the market complexities are galling.
And we have the same strategy of the 1990s mindset going round: appoint more and more MRs, more incentives, give more and more samples, provide more and more gifts and sponsorships…spray and pray for results.
Or should I go on intensifying my promotional role at doctor chambers and pharmacies: more and more retail bonus offers, more samples, more gifts to doctors, more sponsorships and more CRM activities to doctors? How much more? The doctor is besieged by atleast 20 medical representatives (MRs) per day. These MRs are from all types of companies: PCD (propaganda cum distribution) companies, semi PCD companies, ethical PCD companies, national Indian companies, regional companies, different divisions of pharma companies (eg., 16 divisions operate from Micro Labs, Bangalore), franchisee marketers who are promoting tail-ender brands of top companies, and MNCs too. And all these MRs are plying samples, gifts, and other pampering sponsorships. Spray and pray!!!
Is the modern day doctor a digital aficionado? Most of the 1990s and pre 1990s mindset marketing personnel - believe that doctors are not digital. Yes, doctors are not digital!! They do not do whatsapp, they do not go to medical and social websites!!??! But look at a website like pediatricsoncall (https://www.pediatriconcall.com/ ) – content is mindboggling, very engaging style and gets big hits from paediatricians across the universe! The way forward for medical content is digital because nothing expires there. There are no back issues to locate. Even if there are back issues, it is all digital available there for permanence. So which way are we going to participate in the digital marketing realm? And how to influence doctors, pharmacists and patients!
Smart companies like Group Pharmaceuticals with OTX profile products like toothpastes and oral medical products have launched digital strategies through facebook and other media – their online brand toothpaste Elsenz is creating waves, across geographies.
Pharmacies are great underused touchpoints
Every pharmacist is powerful – he can influence purchase behaviour of patients and other buyers. It is possible, provided he has the relevant knowledge and communication skill. But who will improve the knowledge and communication skill? Will the GoI or Pharmacy Council do it? Will pharmacist do it on his own? No!!
Welcome to the new era where pharmaceutical and healthcare product companies will develop community retail pharmacists on knowledge and communication skill. Because such an empowered pharmacist will help push and persuade or be the influencer for the brand! Yes, this day is not far off. Digital medium will enable such pharmacist development programs. It may also happen that continuing pharmacist education credit programs (CPE) will be sponsored by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.
Eg., Evion 400 CPE credit program offered digitally – Vit. E and diabetes management. A pharmacist empowered through this program will surely endorse or recommend Vit. E (Evion) to the diabetic patient!
Next level: Imagine a doctor has a tie-up relationship with netmeds the online pharmacy or practo online pharmacy. After taking the patient’s consent what if the doctor provides the e-prescription to netmeds or practo or both and they provide a bundle of offers to patients for online purchase and home delivery? And where will it lead the neighbourhood brick and mortar pharmacy to?
Next level: Elsenz from Group Pharmaceuticals is an online international brand. The traditional ground level medical representative oriented brick and mortar market brands like Glowdent continue their way. Elsenz is also available in pharmacies. Omnichannel marketing is happening for Elsenz.
Has Elsenz shown the way forward? However, Himalaya was the pioneer...
From the 1970s to 1990s to 2019 the pharma market has changed significantly. Pharma marketers cannot operate today the way we operated in 1970s and 1990s. The mindset has to change. Digitalization of pharma is on, and the digital pharma company avatar is inevitable.
Disrupting distribution channel
While we are aware various disruptive distribution patterns are on to reach the consumer, here is MEDIBOX a B2B marketplace for OTX, OTC and Rx products connecting distributors and retailers. https://www.medibox.in/
While many such entities are putting their plans to have their B2B marketplace, what if pharmaceutical companies launch their own distribution and fulfilment centers? Eg., Cipla B2B marketplace for their entire range of branded generics promoted to doctors, branded and unbranded generics not promoted to doctors and other products. What is stopping pharma companies adopting this e-commerce model? HIMALAYA has already shown the way: you can buy their consumer products on their website. HIMALAYA Liv 52 is already available on various e-commerce websites like netmeds and practo. And yes, you can buy Liv 52 from their OFFICIAL HIMALAYA website too!!
So get ready for a different inevitable digital pharma India!!
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