Sunday, May 18, 2008

The healthcare trend

It is said that one third of the world is afflicted by TB. Many cases abound in India too. Top picture of a TB patient is taken from here.

Trends matter for marketers

A trend is a general tendency or direction. A popular taste of the times. It is something that is in vogue. Marketers constantly sift reports, looking for trends. For instance, the current trend of buying a car for family purpose. Or the famous trend in India is of eating-out (families, relatives and, friends eating-out; oops hope George Bush is not reading this blogpost!!). A major movement in Indian society today is the healthcare trend.

The Pranayama-Yoga-Ayurveda trend created by Baba Ramdev

Ramdev Baba's success is not that of an individual cashing on a trend, it is the ultimate way of a societal leader creating a trend. Ramdev Baba's Pranayama-Yoga program telecast live on Aastha TV channel and the live Yoga camp starts at 5.00 am in the morning. And you have crores of viewers from across 125 countries tuning at that early hour - in India. People brave the weather and conquer sleep to reach his camp at wee hours of the morning for the pranayama - Yoga routine. And the camp attendees are anywhere between 50,000 to 1.25 lakh at each morning camp conducted by Swami Ramdev Baba. And his Yoga camps are more about health, universal love, self-belief, and patriotism rather than abstract spirituality. His pranayama routine is of 7 types and this routine helps people conquer and control chronic disease (cardiovascular and diabetes), cancer, rheumatoid arthritis etc and establish health. Swami Ramdev conducts Yoga-pranayama health camps and not mere abstract religious or spiritual camps. Watch the fervor for establishing good health by tuning on to Swami Ramdev's telecast every day morning at 5.00 am (IST) onwards, on Aastha and you will realize that healthcare is not just a concern or even a mere trend, it is in fact a mega trend ... or more appropriately, a mass movement in India.

The camps conducted by Swami Ramdev are free. This Baba has dedicated his life to popularizing Yoga-pranayama in a scientific way. It is a national and international awakening to the potential benefits of Yoga-pranayama.

The above healthcare movement in India is the opportunity for marketers.

Preventive approach to healthcare pays: the OTX (over-the-counter plus prescription) and OTC (over-the-counter) markets are picking up

The mass awareness on healthcare through the powerful free media in India, and the rising costs of medicare is ensuring that people are considering preventive healthcare to a greater extent than before. A stitch in times saves nine, after all.

FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) and FMHG (fast moving health goods) have been quick to cash in on the healthcare trend in India. Pepsi now has IMA (Indian Medical Association) endorsement for some of its products. Glaxo SmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH) sales are growing at high double digit rates (25.7% for the Jan - March 2008 quarter) and a net profit growth of 34% as per ET, 7.5.2008, The attraction of this healthcare space is that non-drug healthcare goods do not attract price ceiling diktats from Govt. bodies. Innovative non-drug healthcare goods thus get the double benefit of a mass market (not just prescription market) and freedom from price control. Thus, GSKCH has increased the price of Horlicks and Boost by 7% due to inflationary trends. In the FMHG space, GSKCH is banking on its pharma parentage and looking for increased growth, Glaxo is also launching a slew of specialist nutrition products.

Another case study reflecting the strong trend of healthcare in India is Amway, which has in a decade reached an annual turnover of Rs. 1000 crores riding on a strong wave of nutrition and wellness (as per ET, 7.5.2008, It is interesting to note that for Amway, Kerala is the fastest growing market (probably due to 100% literacy, high per capita income, and health awareness).

Looking at the potential of healthcare, organized Pharma retailing that forms about 2% of the total Pharma retail business in India today, is taking off and growing at 30 to 40%. For eg., the new entrants to the Pharma retail space Hetero and Reginix chains are owned by the pharma manufacturers Hetero Drugs and Grandix Pharma (that owns Reginix).

Welcome to healthcare clutter in the future

But will it mean consolidation? (it is doubtful, read on why...)

With more and more players entering the healthcare sector the inevitable clutter will happen and may see a round of consolidation. But given the penchant for entrepreneurship in Indians and the fact that Indians like to build businesses for the future generations of the family rather than cashing out, consolidation as a trend will not be as pronounced as it happens in the Western markets. There is a basic difference in the psyche of Indians and Westerners. It is not unusual for Westerners to sell off businesses to highest bidders. Then retire and enjoy. But the Indian mentality is different. Indians sell off businesses if their children are not interested in continuing the business or if there are no heirs for the business enterprise. This is the funda. So consolidation will not be easy. And in case some people sell off their businesses, it is only to restart another enterprise sooner or later. That is the entrepreneurial itch in Indians, and the psyche to create businesses for future generations of the family rather than just enjoying the wealth. For Indians, creation and running enterprises are a pooja (or an act of worship) for the well being of one's family and future generations. That is the basic truth of Indian business mindset.

So which way out?

The only way out is sticking to the innovation mantra (ie. doing something novel, the newness factor is important - this novelty value can be related to products, processes or services). It is in this context that the book by C K PRAHALAD AND M S KRISHNAN THE NEW AGE OF INNOVATION becomes important. C K Prahalad is the same management thought leader who inspired entrepreneurs like the Tatas to look for a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. In a way, C K Prahlad has also added grist to the microfinance movement.

Innovation helps business corporations face and shape the future. Innovation requires application of information technology to harvest information through analytics and create knowledge and generate ideas. Innovation comes through collaboration, co-creation of value with customers, digitization, understanding demographics - technological shifts - and customer shifts, connectivity, and convergence of industry and technology.

Innovation does not require big moolah. An innovative approach to marketing is Pepsi's first to get IMA endorsement for its juices and oats. It is for the first time that Pepsi has used such an approach (three cheers: Indra Nooyi!!!), no where in the world does Pepsi use the health platform as much as it does in India. Similarly Jagdale Industries Ltd., has innovated the electrolyte energy drink category through its thundering success of electrolyte energy drinks ( Many big time players have evinced interest in this range and are in talks with Jagdale Ind. Innovation has created this segment. Innovation is required for differentiation - which is good business strategy. Differentiation helps take on clutter and commoditization of products and services. Innovation is not just about big moolah.

Thus, it is clear that only courageous innovation (fortunes favor the brave) that will help players of the healthcare trend in India survive and win in the market place.

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