Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marketing and Jan Aushadi

I GOT THE ABOVE IMAGE FROM HERE. India is a unique healthcare marketing challenge. In India, there are no social security schemes la-America or a robust payer system as in America or EU. Most of healthcare expenses are borne by the patients or their families. Hence, any initiative that decreases cost of healthcare (products or services) without compromising on quality will certainly benefit the society. These thoughts come in the background of the Jan Aushadi (generic drug stores) approach announced by the Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India.

The Jan Aushadi Concept

s with most Govt. programs, the Jan Aushadi retail store concept is a breakthrough and laudable venture, from the point of view of patient or healthcare consumer. The stores will provide generic (unbranded) medicines at a fraction of the usual MRPs (ie., maximum retail prices). For instance, a strip of paracetamol normally costs Rs. 11/-; Jan Aushadi stores promise to retail each paracetamol strip of 10s at Rs. 2.30. Per se, it is possible to offer medicines at such low costs, because unbranded generics (or generic-generics) are already being supplied by small manufacturers to dispensing doctors or for retail-push at very low costs. So the basic value preposition of Jan Aushadi is feasible.


After all, let us not forget the Govt. has always ventured to provide free medicines and low cost medicines through Govt. pharmacies in the past. So is the Jan Aushadi concept, akin to reinventing the wheel, albeit, with a new name? Or will the Jan Aushadi concept provide additional and novel value to patients?


Marketing is the soul of every organizational activity (whether nonprofit or for-profit organizations). While, finance is said to be the life-blood of every organization, the soul or life energy of an organization is marketing. By definition, marketing is a value delivery process. Something of value is delivered to the target audience. Customers, clients, partners, and society at large are benefited through the communication intensive and the creative process of marketing. No venture can succeed without a cogent marketing plan. Unfortunately, most ventures and initiatives are based on financial planning with only a passing mention that marketing aspects will be given due importance. However, when the roll-out of the venture starts, many of the marketing aspects are still unaddressed - the minutiae of marketing are not looked into. There in lies the tragedy because, MOST VENTURES HAVE SUCCEEDED NOT DUE TO TIGHT FINANCIAL PLANNING (although it is very important), THE VENTURES HAVE SUCCEEDED DUE TO MARKETING GENIUS.

Branding is the foundation of marketing

Jeremy Rifkin an economist has said - WHAT IS BEING SOLD ARE NOT PRODUCTS OR SERVICES, BUT IDEAS AND IMAGES. This is what is meant by a brand. The images, associations, and experiences associated with a service, product, or entity is called a BRAND. Google is the world's first 100 billion USD plus brand. It is the world's most valuable brand - there are intangible and tangible dimensions that make it so. Brands are the most important assets of any business or nonprofit venture. Brands are the covenants of trust. When Himalayan water is advertised, below comes a tagline, A TATA BRAND. This sentence is added, to motivate the prospect to buy Himalayan water, since the word TATA is a covenant of trust. Brand building is in essence trust building, relationship building, which further builds consistent buying habits.

Gone are the days, where marketing aspects are looked at lightly or the market is taken for granted. In fact, marketing, communication planning, and branding are issues that are seriously looked into. Marketing finally increases consumption of the product or service. Marketing creates repeat purchase patterns, and encourages adoption by new prospects and customers. Marketing is hence, required for a sustainable business.

Why is Jan Aushadi important?

India is a country full of ironies, contrasts, and bewildering inequities. It is only the philosophical attitude of Indians, that is sustaining the civil society without any violence! On one end of the spectrum, you have filthy rich Indians like Mukesh Ambani, who is building a fabulous 2 billion USD house (the richest residential property in the world) called Antilia. And on the other hand, there are about 40 crore (400 million) Indians really poor in India, mainly in the rural places (earning less than average Rs. 40 per day). In recent times, there is no doubt that things have really improved, however, poor people (urban and rural areas) in India are a reality - as real as the inequities in India.

How to tackle the challenging poverty and inequities in India?

The answer lies in C K Prahlad's theory of FORTUNE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID.

India has very entrepreneurial people, not necessarily charity minded people. Most like doing business - more than giving away wealth in charity! They certainly do not mind very low profits, but they want to make atleast Rs. 1/- profit - or Goddess Laxmi (the Goddess of wealth) will be unhappy! It is an attitude to make atleast some profit. This attitude helps gain scale in businesses, mass customised marketing, and thereby, this improves living standards in society.

The classic Western business mindset is antagonistic to the above. The idea of doing business is to make a killing, earn rich profits, and may be even sell off the business for a fancy price.

The traditional Indian business mindset is to have a sustainable business for generations.

A classic example of the fortune-at-the-bottom-of-the-pyramid-attitude is the exalted TATA NANO car, that will surely redefine automobile industry. It is an example of Ratan Tata's stroke of business genius that runs in the TATA genes! The Tata Nano has made the car AFFORDABLE. The platform for marketing and consumption for the Tata Nano car is quality (Tata is famous for this), emotional benefits (I am driving a Tata car!), and AFFORDABILITY!

All these factors are common to many mass brands - the brand ought to have quality; the brand should bond with the target audience - after all, this is the most important competitive edge: brands that are hi-tech can be beaten with technology, brands with the price advantage can be undercut; but the BRANDS WITH EMOTIONAL BONDING AND BENEFITS HAVE SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE EDGE. And when brands with quality, and emotional benefits, become affordable, they become MASS BRANDS. This is the advantage with the Tata Nano.



Jan Aushadi if marketed right, has the chance of becoming the Tata Nano type pharma retailer. In fact, if marketed right, the Jan Aushadi concept has the potential to become a BENCHMARK for the world.

So what should it do? First, aim to produce a tangible and measurable health output - any business activity is not worth it, if it does not have measurable outputs. Every marketing campaign that involves market spend, too has measures attached to the activity. The market spend has to be justified after all.

Jan Aushadi marketers should aim to measure the impact of
value-for-money products from Jan Aushadi generic drug outlets. This can be done by measuring the:

*improved health outcomes
*better patient compliance
*improved patient outcomes
*improved health standards of the community served by the Jan Aushadi outlet.

To ensure that it happens, the Jan Aushadi outlets ought to be opened in the less prosperous districts of India - like say, in Orissa, in the urban slums, interior districts etc. This is where Jan Aushadi's products will make a dramatic and measurable difference in health outcomes and thereby Jan Aushadi will earn a lot of blessings from society.


No organization can survive or thrive in the modern age without marketing activity! Hence, the first thing the Jan Aushadi people ought to do (which I bet they would not have done), is to have a promotional fund (for funding marketing communication activity). Without that the concept will surely not take off! Next have a detailed monthwise marketing plan - only a financial plan will not do. Remember success is not guaranteed just because the product is cheap. MARKETING IS A GAME OF CONFIDENCE. Winning the confidence of the target audience is the key to marketing success.

For successful marketing hype of the Jan Aushadi concept, three talking points are vital:


Marketing outcomes based on the above three parameters ought to be measured. Only then will the Jan Aushadi concept really take off and SET A NEW BENCHMARK FOR THE WORLD. Or else it will languish as one more well intentioned scheme of the Govt. of India.

No business venture can survive without profits and measurable marketing outcomes! The platform for marketing communication activity for Jan Aushadi concept, ought to be quality (REMEMBER IN INDIA, IF SOMETHING IS VERY CHEAP IT IS OFTEN CONSIDERED TO BE OF SUBSTANDARD QUALITY), emotional benefits (eg., patient compliance due to affordability has made families healthier, THE EMOTIONAL CONNECT OF BRANDS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Click here!!), and affordability (this is the WOW FACTOR of the Jan Aushadi generic retailer concept). This way, unless the Jan Aushadi generic drug store concept gives rise to a FEEL GOOD factor among all stakeholders (including drug suppliers), success may not kiss it. It will be seen as something done to gain publicity mileage.

Today, Jan Aushadi concept has got free media space and publicity as it is very relevant to Indian healthcare needs. But will the concept really take off ? Let us wait and see.

Thanks for reading my reflections. Please scroll down, click on older posts wherever required, and do read all other blogposts. Please inform your acquaintances of this blog!

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