Monday, January 26, 2009



The market is a pot pourii of various dynamic forces. Different needs, wants and desires and various product prepositions drive the Indian pharmaceutical market. Accurately understanding these market requirements and servicing them has created mega fortunes for pharma companies.

During the 1960s, 1970s and up to early 1980s the major growth driver of pharma companies was the antibiotic wave. There was a huge need for such products. Wyeth was a leader of the penicillin wave; Sarabhai, Alembic, Ranbaxy and other 'old' pharma companies of India rode on this wave to become pharma biggies of India. Free India at that time was in its early growth phase. The socio-economic conditions demanded that a huge volume of antibiotics be produced and marketed. Diseases like diabetes and even cancer were still niche market areas. The antibiotic wave was the first wave in pharma India.

The second wave was the lifestyle drug wave. It was all along a niche market but sometime during mid 1980s and the decade thereafter (ie., 1990s) the lifestyle disease wave trend gathered steam. Companies like Sun Pharma, and Torrent rode well on this wave to become pharma heavy weights.

2000AD onwards India will be known for not only the antibiotic (and associated anti-inflammatory drugs market), and the lifestyle drugs market - India will be famous for its new wave - THE WELLNESS WAVE - a huge and growing market for wellness products and services. This in fact, is the THIRD WAVE IN PHARMA INDIA, which has come of age and is at the cusp of exciting growth.

Success through wellness

Increasing health consciousness, improving purchasing power, increased average life span, and the higher literacy rates have all combined to create a new wellness wave. People are investing on preventive and proactive healthcare products and services. This has contributed to the growth of direct selling products like Herbalife, and Amway too.

Wellness products come in different marketing formats. The oldest of wellness products belong to the Ayurvedic market stream. This was a niche market all along, however, due to various social forces like Swami Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, and other individuals, the healthcare attitude is leaning towards wellness Ayurvedic products.

Wellness products are not only marketed under drug licence - the fomulations may be presented similar to drugs (eg, in capsules), however, they are not necessarily marketed under the provisions of the Drug and Cosmetic Act. Such wellness products are marketed under food licence. A PFA (Prevention of Food Adulteration Act) no. is given to such products and a local state health authority provides the licence for manufacturing the product.

Marketing products manufactured under the food licence: Products manufactured as foods or food supplements or nutritional supplements can be promoted to patients directly. However, in the Indian context it makes more marketing sense to market them for prescriptions. This is because doctors are very trusted for recommending health care products. It is also more economical compared to costly media advertising for which measurable increases in sales are difficult to achieve. Furthermore, it is easier to establish the product in the market, make it available to the patient or consumer at medical stores, and ensure ever increasing market penetration through marketing in the prescription route. Doctors are great facilitators of marketing of such healthcare products.

Certain other wellness products including those that are manufactured under the food licence, are marketed by the OTX route (mix of prescription and direct to consumer) . While medical or sales representatives promote the product to doctors, who are important opinion builders, there are also media advertisements directly addressing the patients. This method is particularly followed by Ayurvedic marketers.

The Patanjali Chikitsalaya model of marketing: This organization is founded by the Yoga evangelist Swami Ramdev. During his television shows, and other demos on Yoga the Baba directly informs about the benefits of his Ayurvedic products. There are media advertisements too. Furthermore, there are dedicated doctors in his clinics who recommend and sell his wellness products. There are no sales reps of his organization that fan out to other doctors asking them to recommend products of Patanjali Chikitsalaya. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had started an Ayurvedic firm Maharishi Ayurvedics and they had a sales force that would promote products to doctors.

Marketing products under FPO licence: This format is used by the pioneer of electrolyte energy drinks in Tetra Pak in India viz., Juggat Pharma, Bangalore ( They also contract manufacture these products for other pharma marketers like Merck (Electrobion Apple Sip and Lemon Sip), Mankind (Electrokind L) and Piramal Healthcare (Elect-RTD). For more details: This range of products are marketed for prescriptions - although legally they can be sold without any doctor prescriptions. The main reason for this route of marketing is the fact that doctors see patient value for these products, and hence prescribe these products. Eventually, they may gain OTX status in years to come.

Wellness through vaccines: The recent edition of Pedicon (Annual meet of Paediatricians of India) ie., Pedicon 2009, Bangalore was an eye opener. There is a lot of action in the vaccine space in India. GSK has brought out Cervarix, & MSD has its celebrated Gardasil. Wyeth is heavily promoting its pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar.

The magic no. is 609: There are 609 districts in India, with a population of 1.1 billion, and this includes some 300 million of the middle class. Every marketer is excited by these nos. People want to go to each and every district of this set of 609 districts. In fact, IAP (Indian Academy of Paediatrics) a body with 17100 members too wants to go to each and every district of India. And that is the reason, the big MNCs GSK, MSD, and Wyeth are closely linking their marketing programs particularly their CME funding in co-ordination with IAP.

The clear distinction between marketing spends of Indian pharma companies and MNCs is the emphasis on brand communication. While Indian pharma companies excel on CRM aspects particularly in events like PEDICON 2009, MNCs are powerful builders of their brands in these venues.

Wyeth's close association with IAP seems to be paying off: Today, due to the fact, that regular (clinical) pneumonia is not (and Prevenar may increase risk of asthma too) protected by Prevenar, the brand is being positioned cleverly for protection from SERIOUS PNEUMONIA (invasive pneumonia). This refers to the rare radiological pneumonia. As per the IAP annual report, 2008 the pneumococcal vaccine will be a part of the IAP National Immunization Schedule after 2010. In the meantime, Wyeth is heavily investing on Pneumococal Disease Conventions and other formats of CMEs in league with IAP.

There was a time when MNC pharmas would not participate in such conventions, as they were supposed to be 'ethical' and in contrast, Indian pharma companies were alleged to be 'unethical' - since Indian pharma companies were heavily in to such sponsorships of events and stall activities. However, today, the rules of the game seem to have changed and thereby philosophies too - as the need of the hour is different!! Even conservative Wyeth had a huge stall at Pedicon 2009, Bangalore!! GSK and MSD had a very dominant presence too. THE STANDOUT FEATURE OF THESE MNCs IS THAT THEY WERE DOMINEERING IN THIER BRAND COMMUNICATION ACTIVITY TOO ALONG WITH MARKET SPEND ON DOCTORS. This is not seen with Indian pharma companies even though their market spend was as much.

All this participation is due to a new wellness trend in the Indian healthcare market. Vaccines are a part of this wellness trend. Besides vaccines, various drug and non-drug formulations for wellness are marketed for prescription support (eg., electrolyte energy drinks, Now, by the way, if we were a poor country with low purchasing power, would these global pharma majors have launched Gardasil, Prevenar (Rs. 3300 per vial), and Cervarix?!! WELCOME - THE THIRD WAVE IN PHARMA INDIA (ie., the wellness wave) HAS COME OF AGE IN INDIA!!

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