Sunday, January 18, 2009

Whither, sense of ownership?

Shocking! The Indian society is shocked with the SATYAM EPISODE of 'true lies'. Imagine funneling out Rs. 7000 crores towards real estate investments from cash cow company Satyam!! That is what the highest authority or 'owner' of Satyam computers, Mr. Ramalinga Raju has done. Mr. Ramalinga Raju's heist raises an important question not relating to corporate governance alone, but of something even more fundamental:

Imagine you start a IT company, take it to great heights, and all the time you pilfer monies from the corporate treasury and buy land with it. Now what does this indicate? Basically you are a crook?! Well, something even more basic - all the time you never had a sense of ownership of the company even though you were the 'owner' of the firm. That is what Raju did - he never had a sense of ownership towards his company!!

If Mr. Raju had a sense of ownership, he would never have stolen money from his own company!! Will any family member forgive if the father or master of the house stole money from the house!! And remember, Raju was the founder of Satyam and his family were the promoters of the company.

It is truly an oddball behavior!! Contrast this with Mr. Narayanmurthy, Mentor of Infosys, who was invited to join the board of Satyam after the heist was discovered. Mr. Narayanmurthy declined fundamentally because he had a sense of ownership with Infosys and taking up a role with Satyam would cause conflict of interest - this is what is meant by a sense of ownership.

Well, this can rarely happen in Pharma India

An episode of the type of Satyam can rarely happen in Pharma India. The main reason is that most of Indian Pharma top management leadership is with people who have marketing experience. When a person goes to the field to sell his products, he has to have a deep sense of ownership. In the marketplace battlefield, every marketer is the owner of the brands he is trying to sell. That is the sentiment of every salesman and marketer. The sense of ownership develops in to a habit. In fact, a sense of ownership is also reinforced by stockists, doctors and others with whom the MR interacts.

Raju of Satyam was a non-marketing kind of a guy. Not a person with field sales experience. So probably that is why he never developed a sense of ownership with his own company!! And that is the strange thing - this absolute lack of sense of ownership. Imagine Henry Ford stealing money from Ford Motors and buying ranches and properties in USA with that money!!

Pharma India is full of heroes at the top

It takes a lot of warrior-like attitude to be at the top in Pharma India. You have to have a deep sense of ownership or you can't steer a company at the top. That is the stuff of the INDIA'S BEST CEOs. As per Businessworld special issue dated 29, Dec. 2008, India's most 'value'able CEO is MR. DILIP SHANGVI 'owner' of Sun Pharmaceuticals. The second most
'value'able CEO of corporate India is again - not somebody from IT or ITES, it is MR. GLENN SALDANHA of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals. KUDOS TO INDIAN PHARMA FOR THIS GREAT PERFORMANCE. We should remember Businessworld is a very respected business journal of India. And this rating gives a thumbs up to Indian Pharma.

Mr. Dilip Shangvi - the ultimate authority of Sun Pharma - he leads the company with an iron fist. His sense of ownership with Sun Pharma is intense. He is the face of Sun Pharma. Mr. Dilip, son of a pharmaceutical distributor of Kolkatta, started Sun Pharma. He founded Sun Pharma. He has field experience too.

Mr. Glenn Saldanha is a toast of the pharma profession because he has a great corporate record and is a graduate pharmacist (alumnus of Bombay College of Pharmacy). This gentleman along with Mr. Mark his brother, handles the business started essentially by his father Mr. Gracias - this elderly gentleman too started as a pharmaceutical wholeseller of Mumbai. Mr. Glenn's sense of ownership is understandably high for Glenmark, as it is a sort of family based concern (95% of Indian businesses are family businesses, Sun Pharma too is a 'family based company'.). Mr. Glenn is involved closely with the marketing operations of Glenmark.

So the point is, the first funda for a company to become great is that its promoters' should have a sense of ownership - unlike Raju of Satyam. Even though Mr. Raju started Satyam he lacked a sense of ownership. He seemed to have a greater sense of ownership towards Maytas and other companies that lived off monies sucked out of Satyam. This lack of a sense of ownership is the real reason for the Satyam tragedy. I HOPE SATYAM BOUNCES BACK BECAUSE IT HAS GREAT PEOPLE - some 50000 odd highly qualified employees. And I also hope it shifts out of Hyderabad, because AP is a state where politics is too intertwined with business. Satyam - welcome to Bangalore!!

I got the above images from here, here, and here.

Regarding integrity and marketing wisdom HERE IS A GREAT LINK please do read it.

The fall in integrity often starts with small things. Like bribing!! Today the dept. of pharmaceuticals of Govt. of India is focusing on the gifting practices of pharma companies to doctors. In fact, this marketing practice is making front-page headlines in India!! The dept. believes that this excessive gifting practice is leading to a situation where doctors are prescribing excessively to meet the targets given to them by the pharma marketer.

Well, to be frank, this situation is not so easy to deal with.

I remember when I started my field work career way back in the 1990s, I made an excellent call to Dr. Arun Vadavi, MD, Bangalore. This doctor is a great guy. A dynamic doctor with a fairly good practice. He was impressed with my presentation, and while committing to prescribe Hepatogard, at the end of the call, he asked a question: 'Hey, why should I prescribe your product?' May be he was testing me and my nerves. I ignored his question and went on with my call, he never asked that question again. But his voice still rings in my ears. HEY, WHY SHOULD I PRESCRIBE YOUR PRODUCT?

Most doctors give a fundamental support because of quality, safety, efficacy, and availability of the brand. Of course, quality of representation is a key factor also. For a doctor, ultimately, the patient value of a product is the most important factor. However, after some time, the doctor also expects something for all the business he gives to a pharma company. This is where gifting, and sponsoring practices of the pharma marketer comes in to play.

This concept of gifting and sponsoring to doctors is a universal phenomenon. It is done in different ways. MNCs call them clinical services, medical grants and scientific services. It is like organizing a conference in Washington DC and sponsoring leading oncologists of India to this event, they will also throw in complimentary sight seeing tours and gifts etc to doctors. In fact, the gifting and sponsoring practices in India is kidstuff compared to what happens in USA. I have a relative who is a cardiologist in USA, and man the kind of sponsorships and gift offers he gets from pharma companies out there!! In fact, in USA it is a big big practice of gifting or sponsoring to CMEs etc to doctors. However, it is well camouflaged under scientific grants, CMEs etc. Indian companies are not so sophisticated - that is all.

So how to tackle this problem if it has damaging consequences to patients and healthcare?

The answer is patient empowerment. Legalize and encourage direct-to-patient advertising. Of course, products should be sold only on prescriptions. However, advertising to patients should be allowed. This will ensure that you have informed patients. It is not easy for the doctor to take such patients for a ride!

However, for pharma marketers, gifting works only up to a point. Ultimately there is the ROI (or return on investment thing, which controls gifting). Personally I feel gifting and sponsoring is a legitimate expense akin to advertising. Gifting to doctors is not a bribery. It is a marketing necessity. Because, Dr. Vadavi's straightforward question still rings in my ears: 'Hey, why should I prescribe your product?' And mind you, this doctor is a thorough gentleman, and a great guy, who has prescribed a lot during my field days, and helped my career. But his question is very pertinent, isn't it? I recollect another doctor who had commented: 'Sunil, remember there are no free lunches!! '

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down and read all other blogposts, they are worth it.

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