Sunday, October 11, 2009

The coming OTC boom in Pharma India




OTC in pharma industry parlance stands for over-the-counter (mainly with reference to drugs). It refers to the purchase/sale of drugs across the counter without prescriptions. In fact, in India every pharma product market is OTC. You can orally ask for any product and buy it across the counter. Abroad in Europe and America there are prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. The prescription drugs are strictly sold only on showing the prescription (Rx). In fact, in some countries once the products are dispensed as per Rx, a seal is put on it to indicate that the "Rx has been filled". If the patient goes in for refill of the Rx, the pharmacist does it only if it is legally permissible; again a seal or stamp is put on the Rx to indicate that the Rx has been filled once again. But in India, such procedures are not strictly followed. Hence, in a way, the Indian retail pharma market is OTC - or rather it is better to call it OTX (combination of OTC and Rx).

Drug consumption and marketing

It is said marketing is business and business is marketing! This saying only highlights the importance of marketing. When customer conversions are taking place through the messaging and the value delivery process, consumption of the marketed product increases. Messaging in pharma takes place chiefly through in-clinic product promotion by MRs (medical representatives) to doctors. Pharmaceutical messaging processes also seek to strengthen the word-of-mouth for pharma products between doctors, through various forums where doctors meet and discuss clinical and medical matters. Hence, in-stall promotion (where MRs promote pharma products to doctors through stalls at medical conferences) and CME (continuing medical education) event based promotion also are very important. 'Marketing messaging' also takes place to patients through patient information leaflets and during meetings where doctors talk to their patients collectively ('patient seminars' where expert personnel give talks on disease management and pharma companies reinforce use of products). Hence, marketing activity is the core of pharma businesses.

Marketing and the media

Messaging takes place through media. The carriers of messages are most vital for the messaging processes. The MR based pharma product promotion model is age old, time-tested and proven. The MR is the relationship and event manager between pharma company and doctors, the message carrier, and channel manager (managing relationships with chemists and stockists). This MR based marketing model is of the pre-internet and pre-electronic media period. Particularly, in the late 1960s when the first MNC MRs made their way in to the Indian pharma market, even the print media had limited penetration. Literacy was very low too. Today, the penetration of print media is much better but is competitively inhibited by the internet and electronic media.

Earlier if the newspaper did not come to the doorstep in the morning one would get information hunger pangs
!! Now - information hunger pangs for newspapers are milder. Many a times, people do not get time to read the newspaper in mornings, yet they are well informed, thanks to the breakfast TV programs. Recently, most people were informed that Obama had won the Nobel prize for Peace much - much before the newspapers carried the news (only the next morning). By about 3.00 pm many people had come to know about Obama winning the Nobel prize (office goers got to know through internet and radio, and the ones at home and travellers came to know from word-of-mouth, TV and radio), while newspapers carried this news the next day morning (as the headlines).

Internet (which can be accessed through mobile phones too) and electronic media are instant and prompt in terms of messaging. Messages are also consumed much faster and the audiovisual nature of these media makes customer engagement much better compared to print media products. Messaging through internet and electronic media can be done to prospects directly bypassing the sales personnel and strengthening the messaging process done by sales personnel. In the context of internet and electronic media penetration, it is inevitable that the role of front line pharma personnel will slowly evolve to being more of relationship managers, event managers (organizing in-stall events in medical conferences), clinical experience facilitators and managers, channel managers (managing relationships with chemists, stockists, institutional buyers, and dispensing doctors); and, of course, reinforcing the product and brand messaging.

Engaging customers through internet, mobile messaging and electronic media

In face-to-face selling and messaging experiences there are many subjective and relationship aspects that influence the encounter. In internet and electronic media based messaging processes, such subjective influences can be curbed. These media also have the advantage of gaining the full attention of the doctor. Furthermore, the doctor can receive the message during his free time or when he is at leisure to gain the messages. Distraction of doctors, which is a major obstacle in communication between MR and doctor can be avoided. MR based messaging is heavily based on the behavior of the MR. Electronic media, mobile and internet based messaging are not sender behavior based activities.

The tranche of messaging options are ever-increasing

Messaging is the core of marketing activity. Without value delivery and communication in today's world, product consumption is not assured. For value delivery and messaging, the tranche of options are increasing. It is not based on MRs alone. Marketing investments inevitably have to be made on electronic media and internet, which are fast becoming the important avenues of message consumption. Pharma messaging is not inured to this trend.

Messaging and OTC pharma market

The growth of electronic media and internet is playing host to messaging on various health related matters. OTC pharma product marketers are naturally participating in internet and electronic media. When possible, Rx pharma product marketers will also increase involvement in this trend of using internet, mobile and electronic media messaging platforms. This is inevitable. When messaging increases automatically, brand registration and brand recall will increase.

Let us say, a 20 year lady gets bombarded by messages about cosmeceuticals and cosmetic therapies. It is only human that she will get influenced by it and start consuming the marketed product. Get the price right and put the messaging processes in place - markets for the brands will get built. Of course, the dicey matter is how long will it take for the market and trust to get built. That is the hazard of marketing activity. Most OTC marketing activities require stamina and intelligent messaging to engage target audiences beneficially and economically (for the marketer).

Similarly the nonprint media is abuzz with talks on lifestyle diseases. OTC healthcare product marketers are cashing on this buzz. There is improved sales of skincare products, general health, cardiovascular health, respiratory products, and other lifestyle prophylactic (preventive and wellness) products. AN IMPORTANT INDICATOR OF THIS OTC BOOM TREND IS THE FACT THAT FOR RANBAXY, REVITAL IS THE TOPMOST SELLING PRODUCT TODAY. Ranbaxy is following up on this success with launch of an OTC brand protein supplement named Revitalite. Taking a cue from this fact, Piramal Healthcare is improving OTC marketing focus on its brand Superactive.

The growth of the healthcare OTC market is taking pharma, healthcare and other allied marketers by a storm. Mankind is diligently and surely stepping in to OTC healthcare markets through their brands of condoms, sanitary napkins, and artificial sweeteners. Britannia, a bakery and biscuit marketer, uses the health platform emphatically to improve business results. Many regional and local marketers are stepping up their product messaging - particularly the Ayurvedic products (as they can be promoted OTC).

The boom in Indian OTC healthcare market is directly proportional to the growth of mobile, internet, and electronic media in Indian society. The boom has just started. The best picture is yet to come. OTC healthcare in India is where traditional pharma market was in the early 1970s. Fast clipping growth of OTC healthcare brands will continue and increase, thanks to growth of the nonprint media, increased healthcare awareness and needs/wants, improved rural purchasing power, and rise in disposable incomes (urban and rural).

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1 comment:

bharatbook said...

Over-the-counter drug market in India ranks eleventh in the global OTC market and is expected to reach the ninth position within the next five years. Since Indian patients have a huge tendency for self treatment, the Indian market is characterized by a huge demand for OTC drugs. It is a highly fragmented market with a large number of foreign and domestic players. Rising consumer confidence in OTC products, increasing number of shifts from prescription to OTC drugs, increasing focus on brand building, booming retail growth and changing demographics is helping the market to grow. The Indian Government, on its part has taken initiatives to reduce drug prices, has made certain reforms in the tax structure and has undertaken various other initiatives to promote the OTC market. The market is expected to exhibit steady growth over the next few years. OTC Drug Market in India