Friday, September 26, 2008

Yogi nation, bhogi nation, and the middle path

I got the above images from here (Swami Ramdev), here (Vijay Mallya), and here (Indra Nooyi).


As every healthcare marketer knows, the consumption of healthcare products and services depends on lifestyle. In fact, the avowed goal of marketers is to influence the lifestyle based on marketed products and services. Thus, trend mapping is a key element of strategy creation. Marketers normally peg marketing strategies, promotional approaches, and tactics to the broader market trends. There are three discernible trends in Indian society: they can be called YOGI NATION, BHOGI NATION, AND THE MIDDLE PATH.

Yogi nation: The poster 'boy' or icon of the Yogi nation trend is Baba Ramdev. He has revolutionized healthcare - both preventive and therapeutic healthcare, through pranayama and Yoga based techniques. What is unique about the evangelical marketing of his brand of healthcare is EVIDENCE BASED APPROACHES. Swami Ramdev talks purposefully on including pranayama and Yoga as a part of one's daily regimen. He collaborates with and exhorts allopaths and other healthcare practitioners to include Yoga & pranayama as a part of the therapeutic approach. His strategy is to promote traditional healthcare systems like Ayurveda too. His brand of healthcare and lifestyle has a very large following particularly among the middle class urbanites, and people living in semi rural and rural places. His franchise is predominantly in India and the Indian diaspora. However, in rural South India where Hindi speaking is not prevalent, his influence is not that strong. The reason is, Baba Ramdev speaks mainly in Hindi. He is now attempting to put forth his programs in vernacular TV channels too, other than the main Hindi channel Aastha. However, what is important from the marketers point of view is that, BABA RAMDEV REPRESENTS A TREND IN INDIAN SOCIETY AND THE INDIAN DIASPORA TO GO BACK TO ONE'S TRADITIONAL HEALING ROUTES, PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE, AND USE OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS. Hence, we see advertisements for various health foods, healthcare products, and other products based on Ayurveda on Aastha. He is also openly critical of the tactics used by MNCs to market their soft drinks and the pharmaceutical products based on Western Medicine (or allopathy). However, since many Indian allopaths and those of Indian origin residing abroad have starting accepting pranayama and Yoga with an open mind and even collaborating with Baba Ramdev to implement to willing patients in their practice, Baba Ramdev seems to softening his stand vis-a-vis allopathic marketing. Baba Ramdev reiterates his commitment to make Indian society and the world as a whole 'NIROG' ie., disease free, through lifestyle changes: ie., based on Pranayama, Yoga, Ayurveda, vegetarianism, abstinence from tobacco and alcohol consumption, and living a balanced life.

Bhogi nation: In Hindi, Sanskrit, and other vernacular languages, Bhoga means luxuries, comforts and material enjoyments. Vijay Mallya represents the successful business man who has made tons of cash through providing alcohol beverages - an important item of 'bhoga'. Vijay Mallya who has a honorary doctorate and likes to be called Dr. Vijay Mallya, owns India's largest beer brand - Kingfisher. By this same brand name he runs India's only five-star airline - Kingfisher airlines (which unfortunately is loss making). Vijay Mallya's passion is style and brand building. He does it through using fashion, beautiful models, formula car racing, and other premium image building icons for his alcohol beverage brands. Vijay Mallya's intent is to command premium for his products by creating aspirational values in the brand.

Wherever there is 'bhoga' and an encouragement to a Bohemian culture, illness and disease go hand-in-hand. Excessive consumption of alcohol beverages leads to hepato-gastrointestinal disease, kidney and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and alcoholism. Here lies the great pharmaceutical opportunity. People belonging to the bhoga concept are more susceptible to increased frequency and intensity of various diseases. No wonder, as per ORG IMS Aug 2008 report, for the month of Aug 2008, Liv 52 is India's third largest brand. And it is interesting to note that Corex, which unfortunately has a lot of addiction market (the bhoga concept again) is India's largest pharmaceutical brand with nearly Rs. 160 crores annual sales value.

The MIDDLE PATH: The bulk of the Indian population probably cannot wallow in the bhoga concept. Nor will they fully live by the Yogi concept. These Indians will continue to have the occasional beer, soft drinks, and eat 'junk food' on and off. They will like to consume 'fun-for-you foods' now and then. However, they are hooked on to the healthcare bandwagon. It is based on this aspect that Indra Nooyi - the dynamic and risk taking lady of Pepsi - has launched three categories of products: 'fun-for-you', 'good-for-you', and 'better-for-you'. This is pragmatic and sagacious thinking where in she attempts to combine her products with the evidently robust healthcare trend in society. Thereby two birds are shot with one stone: a) image building and better market acceptance in the stormy Indian market, and (b) market expansion. Nevertheless, there is a strong element of risk-taking in promoting on the health platform. Sceptics will certainly comment: SHE IS DIVERTING RESOURCES FROM THE MARKETING SPEND ON CASH COWS LIKE SOFT DRINKS TO 'WANNABES'. And it is possible that financially it may backfire in terms of decreased profits. So perhaps keeping the fingers crossed, the top management team at Pepsi are looking to increasing market share and profits through this diversion strategy. And mind you, intelligent Indra announced this product strategy in India, where all her top global managers had assembled in Delhi. As such, given the conundrum that soft drinks are in the Indian market, Pepsi has taken the logical route out to increase their market share. But this approach of positioning the products from Pepsico on the health and fun platform requires courage and vision. Indra Nooyi has demonstrated this.

So the great Indian healthcare and the pharmaceutical market in particular, rolls on ... other pharmaceutical players are in the meantime betting big on biotech, with Biocon even announcing continued research on the oral insulin concept. So let us see how the patterns in the Indian healthcare and pharmaceutical scenario unfold.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please do read all others by scrolling down, and clicking on OLDER POSTS wherever required. Thnks once again. OBITUARY: BANGALORE HAS LOST ONE OF THE STALWARTS OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL PROFESSION: MR. GHEVARCHAND SURANA, FOUNDER OF MICRO LABS, RECENTLY PASSED AWAY. WE PRAY THAT HIS SOUL MAY REST IN PEACE.

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