Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sense of responsibility


India is scandal weary! Last week was full of scandals ... it started with Tharoorgate and his pretty 'girlfriend' or rather 'ladyfriend', IPLgate, phone tapping or wiretapping scandal, insinuations about cricket betting scandal, then came the MCI scandal, no less than the MCI President arrested by CBI for taking Rs. 2 crores bribe (imagine he was the gentleman who wanted to cleanse the pharmaceutical company and doctor relationship!) ... Indians are definitely scandal weary!

Sense of responsibility

Scandals as I see it are not about moral values or morality. Scandals are due to a lack of sense of responsibility. If Tharoor had a little less of his hubris (that means insolent pride), he would have understood that he was given a golden opportunity by his leader - Dr. Manmohan Singh, PM of India. After all, Tharoor was a novice in pure politics. It was in admiration of his international diplomacy skills that he was given a ticket to Lok Sabha, he won the elections, and was given a minister of state position even though he was a first time MP. There was a lot of trust in all these gestures. This means Tharoor had a lot of responsibility towards his benefactors. But our friend Tharoor did not realise the full import of this trust and certainly did not take his job with a complete sense of responsibility. For if he did take the God gifted opportunities with a sense of responsibility, certainly the sweat equity issue (for his lady friend) in the Kochi IPL franchisee would not have surfaced. The scandal Tharoorgate was more of a lack of understanding of the responsibility that he was invested in by his leader.

The above is a reflection of an example of lack of understanding of responsibility when given an assignment.

When a MR joins a firm, little does he realize that in the territory he works in, the MR is the ambassador of the company. The MR has a position of great responsibility since he is in direct touch with doctors, chemists and stockists. The MR is the image of the company. But often little does the MR realize this. And due to this lack of understanding of the responsibilities with his position, the MR may create problems for himself and his employer company.

In the same, the executives of product management and training, sales and other departments, have a great responsibility towards the organizational image and results. The understanding of the depth of responsibility makes a difference in the way an employee works. More responsible the person feels about his professional work, the more depth will his work have. In fact, if over the years, I have observed any difference between MRs of the time when my father was a MR to the generation today, I guess the difference is in the sense of responsibility with which the job is done. The sense of responsibility makes all the difference in the style of functioning and results.

Today, the MCI President is in the dock for taking Rs. 2 crores bribe. It is not about the morality of the person. It is a mockery of the important post that he holds. As MCI President he had a responsibility towards the functioning of the medical system in India. If his sense of responsibility is purchased at Rs. 2 crores (bribe) what are the implications to the nation?! Actually, the MCI President should have acted with a great sense of responsibility, because of the position he is in. Unfortunately, people get professional positions without understanding the responsibility associated with the position. That is why MCI President is in the dock.

It is for the same reason that Tharoor is in a sorry position. If Tharoor was not made the Minister right away, but perhaps given the minister position during a second expansion of the cabinet, may be Tharoorgate would not have happened, because he would be aware of his professional position. In India, we the people of India, give positions to people without making the person struggle for the position and actually feel the sense of responsibility of the position. TODAY, ONE CAN SAY WITH CONFIDENCE THAT SACHIN TENDULKAR AND AMITABH BACHCHAN ARE HIGHLY RESPONSIBLE PUBLIC FIGURES. WHY? BECAUSE THEY HAVE STRUGGLED TO GET WHERE THEY ARE TODAY, AND IN THAT PROCESS, DURING THEIR STRUGGLE THEY ACQUIRED THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF LIFE - they learnt about responsibility.


The above saying is from an unknown author. It is a statement of great value. It is a statement about taking responsibility. Reflect on it twice or thrice you will realize it is a great statement!

Responsibility is a sense of obligation to perform or complete a task. It is about being accountable. When Tharoor was mentoring on the IPL issue of a Kochi team franchisee where was his sense of responsibility when his lady acquaintance was given Rs. 70 crores worth of sweat equity? When the MCI President was taking the bribe of Rs. 2 crores, where was his sense of obligation to perform his tasks as the head of the supreme body of medical practice in India? Today, will any one look at the MCI with a sense of respect? Due to such lacunae, the Govt. of India will be forced to create one more body to oversee MCI ... all because some people did not have an understanding of the responsibility with a position.

Responsibility is also learnt through modeling. When junior executives or employees observe the intensity of responsibility with which work is done, it rubs on to them, they too become responsible. If they see irresponsibility, they will also imbibe irresponsibility. The main job of higher-ups in a company or in a body like MCI is being responsible.

When in the recent past, I read and blogged about how MCI was cracking the whip against the 'alleged marketing excesses' by us pharma marketers, I was wondering how we the pharma marketers are going to do our legitimate 'job' of pharma marketing. Now the MCI President himself is arrested for graft! Hey, we pharma marketers are far better and more responsible in our occupation!! Because our brands are answerable to our customers. So responsibility gets ingrained in to marketers, because we face the market (doctors, chemists, and stockists, and sometimes end consumers also) day-in and day-out, either directly or indirectly.

The root of many a scandal in India today is this lack of appreciation of the sense of responsibility associated with one's professional position. Thanks, let us watch the IPL finals with all happiness, please scroll down and read all other posts, click on older posts as and when required, kindly recommend my blog to your acquaintances.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The art of praise

The legendary founders of Google (Larry and Brin) bask under praise, at a meeting in 2006.

It was a warm Sunday morning, some time back, at Mysore. I was having coffee (at a small cafe) with my good friend Mr. Vivek Balse, a senior front line field personnel with Pfizer. Suddenly, he excused himself, got up and went across to a bespectacled gentleman standing alongside a new bright red Maruti Swift car; Vivek spent some time talking to him.

After some time Vivek came back smiling to me. Vivek said to me that he was talking to one of the leading OBG specialists in Mysore, apparently a lot of conversation was about the new car the doctor had acquired. Mr. Vivek said that he did praise him a lot for having purchased the new car. The doctor was very happy receiving this praise. Mr. Vivek added, that genuine praise was a powerful sales tool, and he was confident that this impromptu call at the restaurant would continue to generate prescription results. Such was the power of authentic praise, he added.

Praise is an expression of admiration and commendation. We tend to use the same very sparsely in day-to-day life! Hey! Just come to think of it, if you are married for 10 years and above, just try and recollect when was it that you praised your wife?!! After a certain no. of years of marriage I think praise gets a little scarce! And this happens in professional life too when employers and employees have spent some time! Everything is sort of taken for granted, praise becomes dearer!! It happens while transacting with customers too!! It becomes very mechanical and mundane. Praise is sacrificed on the alter of boredom!!

Praise is a basic human need

Praise is a very basic human need and it has very important antistress qualities. Praise lightens the atmosphere, and refreshes human relationships. Praise helps people generate matching wavelengths. Praise creates enthusiasm. Praise makes people smile. Praise makes people have win-win relationships. Praise inspires people to work for the avowed objectives.

Praise is not a function of "child ego state". Need for praise or the need to praise is not a sign of weakness in human relationships. Praise is an important 'fertilizer' of human activity.

Praise need not indicate approval or sympathy seeking behavior. Praise, simply, is a positive stroke that waters relationships.






Do not take the praise concept lightly!!

All working people - independent professionals and employees, and even employers or the senior management - are all human. All work to achieve some goals in personal life and professional life. During inter-personnel transactions, besides achieving certain goals, innately everyone is looking for positive strokes. Praise is an important positive stroke. Praise is a key positive reinforcer that can be used to as an influencer to generate desirable behaviours in customers and employees.

Praise is seen with suspicion

Praise as a concept is often seen with suspicion. People who praise, are looked at skeptically: is this guy praising because he wants something? Is it sycophancy?? Is the person praising, taking me for a ride?! Is he doing it to get something out of me?! This particularly happens in companies where the powerful sometimes get praised by their minions!! The powerful then tend to take the praise with a pinch of salt!!

When a guy (may be the boss or colleague) praises a gal, the lady will blush (atleast inside, if she sort of trusts the guy) or it will set the alarm bells going in her mind!! Hey, I better watch out - she will think!!

When a subordinate suddenly comes under praise by his rather khadoos (angry and stingy) boss, the subordinate will start suspecting the praise!! So the moral is - to praise, first ensure there is mutuality and trust in the relationship. It may be with a powerful executive, a subordinate, a customer, or your wife ... but ensure that praise is on the platform of trust!

When a doctor or chemist suddenly gets praised by a MR, he will become defensive.

Praise with a sense of balance

Praise needs to be used like salt - a bit more will make the food inedible, a bit less will make food bland. Praise needs to be used with a bit of 'culinary skill'!

Many ways of praising!!

Praise can be communicated in many ways!

I remember when I had just joined Themis, some time in early 1990s, we were training at a hotel at Chennai. I was a trainee then. There were a few cute girls staying in nearby rooms on the same floor and they too had come for training from Bombay for some other company.

The guys wanted to somehow give 'positive strokes' to these girls!! The next day morning, a nice poster, made overnight, praising them was passed to them along with the morning newspaper!! Wow!! You should have seen the effect it had on them - their dressing, vocal tones, "bhav" ie., the way they threw their weight around and generally behaving hard-to-get was seen to be believed!! It was fun!! Anyway, pity, they left for Mumbai on the same day, and that is where the incident closed!! But the moral of the incident for me was - just a few words of praise written on a poster had such a dramatic effect on the atmospherics!! Praise is indeed a powerful tool of selling!!

Some effective keys to communicate praise:
  1. Vocal tones are critical when praising. Do not feel very shy when praising, it may be a lady or your boss or subordinate, the tone of the voice should sound genuine. Do not praise in a flippant way. A dash of seriousness to the praise will make the communication very effective
  2. Praise should be timely. Do not praise the doctor for his scholastic achievements on the very first call. First establish some credibility and trust, then praise if situation or conversation warrants
  3. Praise should be made in the correct situation. When praising there are certain delicate points to be noted. If it is a lady doctor, praise should be used with great caution. I have witnessed a transaction where a young MR praised a lady doctor with full fascination for her personality, he did this probably on the first or second call in front of a patient who happened to be there, the lady doctor was not amused, she roundly ticked him off!! Later I learnt that the first-line manager had to rush to do some damage control, of course, being a lady, she was understanding and she pardoned the young MR!!
  4. Language of praise should be in line with the age and stature of the person too. If it is a very senior doctor with a load of degrees, even genuine praise by a young MR will not have any effect, it will drop off like water from lotus flowers!!
  5. Praise can be communicated through a third party manner. Let us say, a group of MRs appreciate a young product executive's speech. And if this message goes to the product executive's boss, if the boss communicates this message to the young product executive it will have a fantastic impact on the product executive's self esteem and working!
  6. Praise can be communicated through sms, e-mail, letters, and phone too, to make it timely and ensure good impact
  7. Be creative while praising! Use nice innovative words, be novel in conveying praise (for eg., the poster idea and delivering it along with the morning newspaper was very novel and interesting!!)
  8. Be issue based while praising: don't praise generally, let it be a specific praise
  9. Praise is an important religious trait. Particularly, in Christianity praising the Lord and worship has a lot of emphasis. Praise is a divine gift to humanity. So praise can be used in worldly affairs too for telling effect. If you click here you will read how praise can produce good results in life management. Praise has powerful influence in strengthening sense of self-worth, this in turns creates desirable behavioural outcomes. Generating high performance from companies, employees, and customers will require good praise as a tool!
Praise can be used better in daily management. This concept is highlighted here (please click). Praise is a powerful change agent!! Read about it here!! Mr. John Mack's words of praise still have an inspiring effect on me, not to say the least, one inevitably reserves the best of praise to Mr. Mack, Mr. Truelove, Mrs. Amy, and Mr. Rich Meyer , and many others like Dr. Charakan, Mr. Harish, and Mr. Kallianpur for their untiring work on the net!!

Thnks!! I genuinely praise you for reading this blog!! Please scroll down, read other blogposts, click on older posts whenever required, pls recommend this blog to your acquaintances. Let each husband praise his children, wife, and other people!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Training, strategy and activities

The recent tragedy in which, 76 brave CRPF jawans died due to an attack by naxalites has a lesson for us in India. Gen V K Singh, our army chief, reflecting on the above incident said that the ill fated 62nd battalion of CRPF was not trained for jungle warfare. Hence, when this battalion went on a patrol influenced by an 'intelligence plant' they were sitting ducks to the bullets by maoists. This incident is a chilling reminder to people involved in military or armed forces or MARKETING (yes, marketing) that training, strategy and activities are very vital.

The above image obtained from here.

Training is an important process that equips people in military operations to handle 'objections' to their presence. Obviously, these 'objections' come from individuals hostile to the armed forces involved in military operations. In marketing too, there are many objections that sales personnel and marketing people handle. In fact, marketing is ultimately about overcoming objections and converting prospects to customers. Training helps boost confidence, communication skills, vocalization, body language, and detailing to ensure doctor and chemist conversion by pharma marketers. Training is not about teaching in classroom settings alone. Training is an ongoing process. Training in the military or in marketing arenas is vital.

Let us try and understand what military trainers do and how it may be adapted by pharma trainers!!

Improve capabilitities

The basic motto of military training is to establish and improve capabilities of military personnel in their respective roles. So training programs ensure that there is an acquisition of skills, knowledge and competencies that enhance role performance. A MR becomes better in his role as a front-line pharma marketer converting doctors to patronize his products. A first-line manager correspondingly becomes better. So the capability has to be improved.

To improve capability, outcomes should be clearly defined. A simple routine may be, taking out the visual aid smoothly while maintaining eye contact with doctor during in-clinic activity, handling the visual aid, and using pointer to ensure effective detailing. Many MRs do not do this properly. So the pharma trainer's goal can be ensuring correct visual aid handling and this itself will enhance in-clinic capability of MR.

Recruit training

New jawans are put through training modules that toughen up recruits physically, psychologically, and technically. MRs too have it tough on the field finally, they have to go yonder to unknown areas, where terrain is unknown, most companies (except professional companies that have a robust database) do not provide new recruit MRs with doctor list. So the MR has to seek doctors, chemists, understand the sampling strategy or tactics, clinic entry tactics, chemist POB tactics, and so on. If MRs are given role training through appropriate actionable intelligence (market data), mock exercises and drills it will do wonders for the company. So MRs ought to finally get toughened up physically, psychologically and technically.

In most companies, the first-line manager handles the initial training. But recruit training is a key to building a solid MR, since he is very mouldable at the initial stage.

Advanced training

After the basic training, jawans may get slotted for specialized training for eg., handling explosives etc or higher levels of skills. However, the basic training is the versatile one. Although MRs do not have such specialized roles to play, still training on new products, new concepts in marketing like campaign activities, in-stall activities etc will help the organization reach new heights.


This is a type of enculturation. Jawans are made to orient towards the nuances of a military culture. Jawans have to re-culture in to a military culture. Mannerisms, presentation etc change. This resocialization is a very important process to ensure highest motivation and dutifulness. Resocialization creates a personality change, a jawan is born!!

Resocialization does happen in pharma marketing - over the years the boy MR becomes a professional MR, his communication attributes sharpen up, presentation improves, crisis management skills become wonderful, customer handling is excellent ... however, there are no focused training modules in pharma marketing that help in resocialization. It is time the pharma biggie companies who can afford to do this, start emphasizing on the same. Resocialization will help the civilian new recruit MR become a sharp professional MR very quickly. Resocialization will show up in the way the MR talks, walks, dresses, communicates, has social skills, the way he uses words to telling effect, the way he gestures, eats ... and so on.

Hand-to-hand combat

Military training also focuses on hand-to-hand combat skills. For marketers, the equivalent is the skill of handling doctors, chemists and stockists. Most MRs bumble and learn it on field or seeing how other company MRs particularly senior MRs do it. Or they observe managers and learn the face-to-face skill. But MRs could do with more of drill sessions to master hand-to-hand 'combat' techniques.

First learn to march!!

Roman soldiers were taught the first basic thing - LEARN TO MARCH!! Don't sit at home, pick the bag and go to the market, meet doctors, chemists, and stockists - LEARN TO MARCH!! This is perhaps the greatest of the training attribute that needs to be strengthened in MRs.

Take orders!!

After learning to march, soldiers are also taught to TAKE ORDERS! Not disobey orders. Marketing success can improve with the training to take orders!

Weapons and equipment training

March, take orders and be masters at handling weapons/equipment! This was the focus of training in the Roman army!! For pharma marketers, handling of weaponry/equipment - samples, leave behind sheets or literatures, gifts, visual aid, CDs, the MR bag, and other promotional inputs is the key to effective communication and doctor or chemist conversion.

After training comes MILITARY STRATEGY

Strategy means the direction of efforts and resources. In the military there are many strategies like blitzkrieg, ambush, charge, counter attack, human wave attack etc. Sun Tzu is said to be the most successful of military strategists, and he had elaborated 13 principles of warfare in THE ART OF WAR. The US army talks of a nine point broad strategy objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise and simplicity. So strategy ie., the way we work and use our resources, is very vital to produce justifiable marketing outcomes.

With marketing complexities increasing due to customer empowerment, higher literacy, internet & media, the informed customer, liberalization, privatization, and globalization, it is imperative pharma marketers go back to strengthening training, strategy and then activities, to get the best bang for the marketing buck!

Surely, this article has made you think a thing or two, do scroll down, click on older posts, read all other posts, and pls recommend my blog to your colleagues.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Market realities

Above image from here!

The raison d'etre of a pharma enterprise is the market. The market comprising of the set of prospects and customers (prescribers, patients, patient attenders and payers) - are the market elements that support product performance. Analysing the market of a product is a continuous process. Analyzing the market requires gathering qualititative and quantitative data. Trends need to be discerned. Many a times marketing myopia results due to lack of analysis and true understanding of the nature of the product(s)'s market. It is very necessary to go by facts, figures, and trends in the marketplace rather than by past knowledge (which may have become outdated), past experience (which may not be relevant), assumptions and hunches. For a pharma enterprise to be relevant and purposeful, understanding the market's composition, basics, behavior, trends, changes, moods, regulations, communication flow patterns, opinion builders, distribution patterns & changes, price points, product technologies, competitor activities, research activity trends, demographics etc are very essential.

Piramal Healthcare buys i-pill from Cipla

The recent market development of the purchase of brand property i-pill from Cipla by Piramal Healthcare in an all cash deal for Rs. 95 crores, speaks volumes of corporate vision and market analysis by these two market entities. The justifications are solid for both seller and buyer. As per Cipla's vision, brand i-pill is not a strategic fit as Cipla sees itself as a pure Rx market operator. Piramal Healthcare on the other hand, it is obvious from its market moves, wants to straddle the total Indian pharma and healthcare market. Piramal Healthcare is interested in both the Rx market segment and in OTC play, as it has brands like Saridon, Lacto Calamine ... . Mankind is the other paradigm competitor of Piramal Healthcare as this company is also in to Rx segment and OTC segments. Cipla is narrowing as a niche Rx market operator. Both Mankind and Piramal appear to be market savvy and are going as per the market trends of an increase in potential for OTC (over-the-counter) and OTX (prescription plus over-the-counter) products. However, Cipla believes its core competence is in Rx play and intends to concentrate on it.

So what is right? Is it OK to be judgmental? Should not Cipla with it's vast distribution reach, cash resources, and other market strengths worked to address the pharma and healthcare OTC opportunity? Is it Cipla's market myopia to overlook the pharma and market OTC opportunity (mind you for Ranbaxy, Revital (an OTX brand) is one of its most valuable brands?) What would have happened if Cipla had looked to building an OTC and OTX brand portfolio? Furthermore, Cipla does not have any great drug discovery research program. Would it have improved Cipla's shareholder value in the medium to long run if Cipla had ventured in to building a robust pharma and healthcare OTC and OTX brand portfolio? Was Cipla hasty in selling off its i-pill? These are valid and interesting questions.

I-pill is picked up at the right time from Piramal's angle. i-pill is operating in a part of the target market (ie., penetrated market as per above graphic). There is still the available market portion and the potential market that is bigger and to tap this, Piramal Healthcare's experience as an OTC operator will help.

However, Cipla had i-pill on a platter to woo the OTC 'market lady', and make inroads in to this market too. However, Cipla chose to be coy, and has pulled out. Cipla has given away i-pill to a more virile, aggressive suitor of the OTC pharma market - Piramal Healthcare.

There is no doubt companies like Piramal Healthcare and Mankind have understood the potential of OTC and OTX markets. Whether Ranbaxy has the same verve to go ahead with its OTX and OTC pharma market operations after its purchase by Daiichi Sankyo is to be seen. Mind you, Ranbaxy has a great operational record in the OTC and OTX market operations. It was Ranbaxy in the past that has understood the realities of Indian pharma market and unveiled its Rainbow Coalition Business Model. This model or business plan has time and again proved its robustness, Revital is a vital product in Ranbaxy's business portfolio. If Ranbaxy does a volte face and decides to concentrate only on its pure Rx play biz, it stands to lose a lot.

Philosophy is fine, but the market realities are more vital! Market has to be analyzed in terms of PENETRATED MARKET, TARGET MARKET, QUALIFIED AVAILABLE MARKET, AVAILABLE MARKET, AND POTENTIAL MARKET, as per above graphic. Having analyzed market realities, decisions are always welcome. Business prudence is following the market structure of a product and adapting to this market reality rather than being philosophical.


This is an important lesson for market operators, enterprises should learn to adapt to market realities. Has Cipla denied itself an opportunity to adapt itself to market reality? Or is it the old fashioned "stick to your knitting" kind of a thing, OK for Cipla?

So the first market reality is that MARKET CONTOURS ARE ACHANGING, enterprises need to understand this, and adapt.

Pharma market (comprising of Rx, OTC and OTX) is a push market

Let us say, I have a lot of money, and I set up a cement manufacturing plant. There is not much market push to be done in in the domestic cement market as compared to say, launching a new drug or a new brand. Cement is a well known building material commodity, there is constantly increasing market demand, there is a current shortage of cement production capacity in India compared to cement demand, and further, I do not have to educate anyone about the virtues of cement or the side effects (and limitations) of cement as a building material. Everything is known about cement. I need to indulge in brand marketing and distribution to make the cement manufacturing business profitable.

This is not the case with the pharma market! It is tougher to operate in the pharma market. We need to push hard to make the brand or new generic a success. There is the aspect of producing convincing clinical documentation, and indulging doctors. That is market reality no. 2!

Technology is very vital to differentiate

The market reality no. 3 is that the pharma Rx market operates at two levels. One is the PRODUCT level and the other is the PROMOTION level. If you have a high tech product like a unique biological (say a rDNA tech product), or an aseptic technology electrolyte energy drink product, or any other tech product that cannot be duplicated easily, then technology helps you gain a juicy market piece.

If one has a me-too product without much of technology differentiation like the regular capsule, liquid oral or other such easily available technologies, then the emphasis will be on PRODUCT PROMOTION, and it is a rat race!

Hence, product technology differentiation makes a great difference to marketability of a product (promotion is very vital here too, for sustained adoption of the product by the market), however, the market piece is juicier! So market reality no. 3 is that product technology makes a difference!

Hope you enjoyed, reading the above three market realities (this list is certainly not complete), please scroll down, do read other blogposts, click on older posts as and when required, pass the word around about this blog url! Thnks!!!