Sunday, June 26, 2011

Only Reliability

NOSTALGIA IS ALL ABOUT RELIABILITY! Above image from this site!

When we were in school, Reliance was starting to make its mark, Only Vimal was its imagination capturing slogan!

What was Reliance all about? Was it quality? Good marketing? Image building? Reliance was, as its name indicates, all about RELIABILITY (or trust).

Customers were confident of its high quality fabric - Vimal, customers were also offered good service at exclusive showrooms with its wide range of fabrics, shareholders were happy with its ever growing share value, dividends and bonus shares; traders enjoyed doing business with Reliance; bureaucrats and politicians were pleased with the relationship management practices of Reliance (they have dedicated personnel to manage relations with key bureaucrats and politicians) ... Hence, all associates found Reliance to be reliable.

Clearly, the key of success was RELIABILITY, for Reliance.

Many summers back, when I had just started my career and field work, I happened to meet up with a senior MR from Wockhardt during field work. While conversing we were discussing the reasons why doctors patronized brands. His tip for field success was simple: BE RELIABLE!

Yes it was trustworthiness or reliability along with other inputs that provided the key link to success - there is no compromise with reliability!

The senior MR elaborated: when you are regular with doctor calls, the doctor gets a feeling that the company, brands and the MR are reliable. When you gain confidence of the doctor, when the doctor feels the pharma company or MR is reliable - it makes success happen!!

Everyone is ready to provide sponsorships to doctors for various clinical reasons, however, the one who is most reliable is the one who gets the maximum mind share and prescription share or even the chance to sponsor a thing or two for the doctor.

I recollect one more incident: this was when I served as a first-line manager for South Karnataka: A doctor whom we met in an interior of South Kanara district, was peeved. He was hurt by the fact that a senior MR of another big company had not provided a rechargeable lamp along with the goods purchased, as promised by the senior MR.

The doctor was upset that a senior MR whom he thought to be reliable had "dumped" goods on him, on a false promise of a gift. The doctor was hurt with the apparent breach of trust.

Reliability was the key question here, it was not just about the gift!!

This goes to show how reliability makes a great difference, in customer management and brand success.

One of the important secrets of success of most senior MRs during my field working time, was their reliability. The senior MRs were trusted for their quality of communication and their regular field activity. It was this image of reliability that created success for most pharma companies.

During my independent field work in Bangalore in the 1990s, one of the elderly lady Govt. doctor's in Kadugodi (then an ex-station of Bangalore!), requested for some extra samples of Metacin, Cinaryl etc for personal use. I took her home address (located some where in R T Nagar, mind you I was new to Bangalore field work, searched for her house, and left the samples at her residence, the same evening!).

The next month, I was surprised to find a good amount of prescriptions in favour of my products, she said, she was happy that I was reliable. This incident brought out the full force of reliability (to me) in pharma business.

Today, too, the means of communicating reliability may be myriad, however, reliability of the brand promise, and reliability of the value delivery mechanism of a firm remain the main reasons of success.

Being reliable is the foundation for market success.

Regularity (of pharma field work) definitely provides the perceived value of reliability. Besides regular field work, constant creative communication inputs that reiterate SAFETY, EFFICACY, PURITY, CONCERN FOR THE CUSTOMER, VALUE DELIVERY, INNOVATION AND AVAILABILITY create the image of reliability.

Communication inputs that refurbish testimonials from doctors, depict images of various certificates earned by the firm (like ISO 22000 etc), the appeal and quality of the communication and marketing inputs - all these enhance the perception of reliability of a pharma firm. Reliability - which is an emotion (a sense of trust) - ensures business.

Conversely, low perception of reliability and any breach of contract that reflects poor reliability - is the main reason for, loss of business.

Building reliability requires understanding market expectations and those of all stakeholders. One should constantly enquire: what the customer or prospects want - for a firm to be classified as reliable. Once the RELIABILITY AUDIT is done the points that generate reliability need to be built in to the pharma enterprise's functioning.

Building reliability in to the processes of a pharma enterprise is a continuous affair. For eg., Auto companies are doing that continuously with new models of cars, innovations, customer feedbacks that are then incorporated in to the car and retailing formats, phone surveys and high quality after-sales service. It is these concepts that can be migrated in to pharma enterprise functioning to keep oneself as the most reliable.

Today, MNCs are creating various marketing formats for engineering higher perceived value of reliability. While GSK has put together a community pharmacy team to service pharma retailers, Pfizer has launched a continuous series of RETAILER MEETS through their MRs, where education programs for pharmacists (on their products and on patient counselling concepts) are held frequently at various towns and villages. This has helped create a new market demand creating force for Pfizer. Pharmacists now hold Pfizer in high esteem!

Futuristic and aggressive pharma firms like Glenmark are using enabling IT systems and processes for improving field force effectiveness and value delivery to doctors, this has in turn helped such companies improve their image as a reliable firm.

IT and mobile telephony has helped improve communication, this has made work more efficient, such improvements have finally increased appeal of reliability of pharma firms.

When a doctor finds a product best-in-class, of good quality, assured availability, sees that his or her patients are happy with the product performance; when the prescriber is happy with the presentation of the product-MR-company-communication inputs-complimentaries-sponsorships, then the reliability factor rises up! Better the reliability, improved are the pharma firm's fortunes.

Hence, the question each pharma manager should ask himself and try and seek answers or solutions for: ARE WE PERCEIVED AS HIGHLY RELIABLE BY THE TARGET MARKET SEGMENTS?

Reliability is not just for the customers. VENDORS, bankers, regulators, traders, service providers, investors, employees, other associates and the general society - all have "reliability requirements".

A pharma firm that meets many of the reliability requirements of most stakeholders, through best practices, will find growth in corporate image, brand equity, sales, market share and good ROI (return on investment). It is this reliability focused functioning that has taken firms like Google, Make My Trip, Intel, Marriott, AND CLARIS LIFESCIENCES (the only pharma company) in the 2011 list as the best places to work for! This is a truly great achievement for Claris, since even biggie pharma firms like DRL, Cipla and Abbott have not made it to the list!!

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Friday, June 17, 2011



Trilogy refers to a series of three related works, for eg., a trilogy of dramas or literary works. Amitav Ghosh is now on a trilogy literary work (Ibis trilogy), first book: SEA OF POPPIES, second book: RIVER OF SMOKE. Third is in the pipeline.

Joseph Juran whose name is synonymous with QUALITY, has given a quality based, 'trilogy of related activities' that will help any business enterprise (the Juran trilogy is represented below):

The first of the triad (above) is identifying the customers and their needs - to satisfy. Thus, value delivery system begins with, identifying needs to be satisfied. When it comes to doctors, what are the main needs to be satisfied?

The broad framework of needs are:
  1. Doctor's need for a reassurance that he is prescribing a quality product which will deliver the brand promise
  2. Doctor's need to prescribe an appropriate product after weighing the pros and cons, risk to benefit aspects
  3. Doctor's need to make the patient healthy and happy (delight patients)
  4. Doctor's need to ensure that the patient recommends him/her so it may enlarge his practice
  5. Doctor's need to be seen as a responsible, trustworthy, and confident professional by his patients
  6. Doctor's need to have inputs and tools that will help in diagnosis and providing the best-in-class therapy to his patients
  7. Doctor's need for a comfort level with material nick-knacks that will help him concentrate and deliver good care to his patients; doctor's need to sponsorships that help him
  8. Doctor's need to be updated with knowledge, provide the same in an easily assimilable form
  9. Reinforce the doctor's confidence with SEEING IS BELIEVING based marketing stories
  10. Doctor's need for status, ego-satisfaction and 'positive strokes'
  11. Constant emphasis that the company and brand is of HIGH QUALITY and of up-to-date technology
In the pharma marketing process, the pharmacist (chemist) retailer and patient too are customers, although doctors are prime customers.

The concerns of pharmacist are

1) Knowing the brand availability and its technical features (in a nutshell)
2) Commercial aspects of the product (MRP, bonus offers, retailer margin etc)

The patient's concerns are the:

1) side effect profile
2) efficacy
3) palatability and organoleptic qualities that affect patient compliance
4) affordability
5) availability
6) quality
7) confidence that he is on the right track!
8) dosage convenience

The second part of the Juran trilogy: is developing processes to produce goods and services, to deliver the value and satisfy above needs.

It is here that pharmaceutical companies invent and manufacture products that deliver efficacy, safety, purity, quality and other value concepts that satisfy the stakeholders including, doctors, retailers, patients and stockists.

The special focus of marketing processes is on attractive and to-the-point communication (messaging), to enhance sales and perceived value. This in turn, strengthens, brand equity, profits, increases market penetration and demand, prescribing and purchasing habits, goodwill, brand image, market share enhancement; gives ideas for further product improvements, better innovations (success breeds success), word-of-mouth and the WOW factor. Creating the market buzz and captivating target audiences in a world where there is severe competition for attention, is the focus of marketing activities. Thus, marketing facilitates the exchange process, sales, prescription generation and retail shelf space availability.

The third component of the Juran trilogy of activities, is the most difficult one! It is about challenging one's comfort zone and taking on complacency. The third point is: CONSTANTLY IMPROVING THESE PROCESSES!

For marketers, it means constant market study, seeking to understand customer perceptions, positioning and repositioning exercises, understanding present and future competition, getting to know the market trends, revisiting marketing strategies, planning new directions for investment of efforts and resources, investing in marketing technologies, new product working ... and finally, constantly improving perceived value and delighting the customer in a surprising way.

There are other trilogies that one can think of:

For example the following is a market structure trilogy.

On one corner, we have the buyer (the patient or patient's attender), the second point of the triangle, we have the seller (trader or manufacturer), and the third most important entity who often goes un-noticed in FMCG marketing, but has a sacred spot in pharmaceutical selling - it is the INFLUENCER (doctor).

In different contexts, the buyer-seller-influencer vary. For eg., it can be

Situation A

Buyer: stockist
Seller: Pharma company C & F
Influencer: Medical Representative (or field personnel)

Situation B

Buyer: Chemist retailer
Seller: Distributor or stockist
Influencer: MR or stockist salesboy or doctor (his prescriptions) or patient (who is insisting on a brand)

Hence, it is important for marketers to take all three points in to consideration for value communication and delivery. The marketer should not be focused only on the influencer doctor, there are also situations A & B (above) which require value delivery.

The other interesting trilogy is one of DEMAND-SUPPLY AND PROFIT.

Often marketers are obsessed with demand creation, there can be a mismatch between supply and demand, and profit is not on the radar! However, when enterprise activities are in line with all three components DEMAND-SUPPLY-PROFITS, there is a healthy organization!

The 'trilogy model' is an effective management tool to represent and clarify ideas. Clarity leads to better action! Thanks for reading this blogpost, please recommend this blog to your acquaintances, read all other blogposts, click on 'older posts' as and when required.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Waves of change

Above image from here.

There are strong winds of change in India, there is a major trend in Indian society towards transparency, anti-corruption and clean governance. Swami Ramdev, the Yoga evangelist and social reformer, held a major anti-corruption cum yoga camp at Ram Leela Grounds in Delhi on 4.6.2011. In the wee hours of 5.6.2011, a 5000 strong police force evacuated the thousands who had gathered there using force and tear gas attacks. The winds of change are evident.

Anna Hazare and Swami Agnivesh, both social reformers and Sri Sri Ravishankar, the international peace worker, discoverer of the Sudarshan Kriya pranayama technique, and social reformer are also working hard to strengthen the anti-corruption movement.

Winds of change in pharmaceutical industry

The pharmaceutical industry is not inured to these societal changes. The DoP (Department of Pharmaceuticals) has drafted a Uniform Voluntary Code of Marketing Practices, which will be reviewed after 6 months. This code will be made statutory if there is no voluntary compliance by pharma industry. The chief mover of the voluntary code for pharma marketers is the DoP.

It is interesting to observe that the DoP has asked for feedback on the code of marketing practices for pharma marketers, at

This move is keeping with the major trends in Indian society, for increased transparency. Perhaps, world over, it is one-of-its kind move, by a Govt. department, to regulate pharma marketing activities. Overall, one has to appreciate this initiative.

Abroad, including in USA, pharma marketing is a very controversial process. This is because of the huge marketing expenditure on prescribers. There are lots of web pages on the controversial activities of pharma marketers abroad, one just has to search on google.

What should the focus of any pharma marketing code be?

Pharma marketing is a very responsible and critical business function. Pharma marketing activities affect fortunes of pharma enterprises in a big way. If pharma marketing is weak, if the doctor perceives that value delivery is insufficient, then marketing outcomes are dis-satisfactory to pharma enterprises.

The main reason why pharma marketing is a tricky process, is that the patient has no say on the brand purchase. The doctor prescribes the medicine being promoted to him by pharma marketers, and the actual purchase is done by the patient. Thus, hand-in-glove relationships between doctor(s) and pharma marketers serves mutual interests. Hence, the need for a code of marketing conduct today!

Pharma marketing code is an interesting document and reads as a long list of do's and don'ts. In fact, the pharma marketing practice code needs to be marketed, not just put out!!

For instance, the pharma marketing code can be brought out in the form of an illustrated book, with each do's and dont's supported by graphics and any live examples from the market (the brand name and pharma marketer identity can be hidden), this will drive the point home better. If there are no examples to emphasize the points in the code, then the points in the marketing code tend to become ambiguous. Live market examples and supporting graphics will make the code points more clearer.

For eg., in point no. 2.4 of the marketing code, if live examples are provided in form of supporting literatures from market or any other market evidences, then point no. 2.4 will be clearer.

There can also be some disputes, for eg., the word 'new' cannot be used for more than 12 months (says point no. 2.3) (but what if the pharma marketer has gone in for a staggered launch - not nation wide launch, by the time it comes to the last geographical region for new product launch, the time for use of the word 'new' would have expired.) Thus, in such a scenario, a regulator may raise objection, which will affect pharma marketer's marketing strategy. And why should "new" mean only 12 months, why can't it be 3 years? Innovations do not get diffused easily. This "new" point needs to be illustrated by live examples to clarify further.

The marketing code ought to have a VISION STATEMENT. This can provide the spirit of the marketing code for pharma marketers.

For eg., the vision statement can include the following points:

"THE CODE OF MARKETING PRACTICE FOR INDIAN PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY endeavors to promote transparency, put information of relevance to public access, prevent acts of omission and commission that may take place between pharma marketer and prescribers, promote legitimate interests of patients, and ensure that the healthcare system in India is the world's best and absolutely trusted.

THE PHARMACEUTICAL MARKETING CODE ENVISIONS TO MAKE THE PHARMACEUTICAL MARKETING PROCESS A KNOWLEDGE DRIVEN PROCESS, rather than a pure commercial value delivery process. Pharma Marketers will be encouraged to contribute to knowledge dissemination and renewal, which will help patient interest. "

It is the age of the internet, in this vein, the pharma marketing code should emphasize that each pharma marketer should compulsorily provide the complete product monograph of each marketed brand on the company website, the print literatures should provide the relevant URL of marketed brand.

Point 3.5 is well written: that promotional materials should be in good taste and non-offensive, however, live market examples should also be provided to illustrate this point. The same should apply to point no. 3.10

Points no. 4.1 to 4.5 deal with the tricky part of regulating in-clinic activity of Medical Representatives and pharma marketers. MR activity involves striking deals with prescribers and shoring up brand sale values. This means, pharma companies should educate themselves and MRs on the right way of in-clinic transactions.

Doctors should also be provided with education on the pharmaceutical marketing code, so that, they do not make uncomfortable demands. Doctors leverage on their prescribing power to strike rich bargains with pharma marketers.

Merely making a marketing code for pharma marketers is not enough. Doctors should also be aware of the pharma marketing code and should adhere with its provisions.

Points 5.1 to 5.5, on right use of samples: Samples are known to boost sales values, they are also known to end up at pharmacies or are sold at lesser value to patients by pharmacists or doctors. Samples ought to be given free for trial ... however ... Will a mere pharma marketing code ensure right usage of samples?

One way out is ensuring that doctors keep a written document (this is said in point no. 5.5) on a Govt. format, on the samples received by him and the usage of samples ie., to which patient he has given it etc. This document can be periodically checked by DRUG INSPECTORS during their field visits, drug inspectors should be empowered to check this document (kept by doctors). This may help rein misuse of samples. Furthermore, sale of samples by pharmacies should be strictly penalized.

When psychotropic substances are sampled, this becomes more tricky. For eg., it is well known that Corex and Phensedyl are abused "medications" including by doctors and medical students (Corex from Pfizer is sold only in India, no where else in the world!)!! Although, point no. 5.4 says that such psychotropic samples should not be given, pharma marketers should be allowed to sample these, but a record of same should also be kept by doctors.

The tricky part of the code is 6.1 and 6.2. The gluttonous appetite for gifts by doctors, has led to major fortunes for pharma companies, many a Ayurvedic company has its sales running on the oxygen of pharma gifting. If gifts are banned, bust goes the prescription flow!

This even threatens the functioning of product management department, in most companies, their major duty is lining up gifts to be provided month after month!!

Pharma companies gift electronic goods, once I was waiting for my turn to call on a skin specialist, when a MR and his manager walked into the clinic, to gift an electronic audio item, the doctor sent back the MR to fetch another model which he wanted, the doctor was not satisfied with the model being gifted!

Wining and dining, along with the throwing of a seminar by a KOL (Key Opinion Leader doctor) is a regular feature.

Pharma companies are known to gift every thing under the sun!!

If gifts are not provided by MRs, they are shunned by doctors!!

A pharma marketing code for gifting and sponsorship (point nos. 7.1 to 7.7) is not easy to practice!! DOCTORS OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT THE pharma marketing code for these items too!!

TO BE PRAGMATIC, THE PHARMA MARKETING CODE, SHOULD PROVIDE FOR ETHICAL GIFTING AND SPONSORSHIP PRACTICES. The code should be revised and include a section on ethical gifting and sponsorship practices (relationship marketing).

By inviting a cross-section of views from doctors, pharma marketers and general society members, a frame work for ethical gifting and sponsorship practice should be worked out. Small clinically oriented gifts should in fact be encouraged so that pharma marketers empower prescribers. Relationship marketing has to have an ethical framework, and THE MARKETING CODE SHOULD INCLUDE THE ETHICAL GIFTING AND SPONSORSHIP PRACTICES FRAMEWORK IN A NEW SECTION ON RELATIONSHIP MARKETING PRACTICE.

One way of ensuring ethical gifting, sponsorship and relationship marketing is by ensuring that each and every pharma marketer publishes on a Govt. DoP website, on a monthly basis, the gifts and sponsorship activities done and the names of doctors who are recipients of the same. This will also make doctors wary of asking for and receiving gifts and sponsorships.

THE REST OF THE DOCUMENT FROM DoP ON THE UNIFORM CODE OF MARKETING PRACTICE FOR INDIAN PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY, deals with the system of capturing complaints on pharma marketing malpractices and methods to address the same. As such, the endeavour is quite appreciated, however, in India, all these voluntary concepts will not work!! Only a law may work!! Chalta hai is India, hence, voluntarily following the code will not work.

The pharmaceutical marketing arena is more complex

There are more elements of pharma marketing process which are not covered by the present code.

For eg., pharma marketers provide gifts to pharmacies and retailers, so they may "push" and substitute prescribed pharma brands in favour of the pharma brand that provides best margins or gifts. Retail push marketing is a legitimate marketing effort, however it is a joke like atmosphere, there are companies who provide free goods eg.: 1 box free on purchase of 1 box, or even more!! No free goods go to the patient, it is only to the pharma retailer. The pharma retailer also enjoys the fierce competition between pharma marketers, by getting freebies and free goods (and adjustment of samples!). All these practices are not covered by the present pharma marketing code.

Pharma marketers provide exclusive offers or discounts to chain purchasers or hospitals or dispensing doctors, purchasing the product. The benefits are enjoyed by the traders or these purchasers, the patient does not get the advantage.

Pharmaceutical marketers also produce goods for OTC consumption

Pharma marketers also provide products for OTC consumption (dietary supplements etc). These activities are not addressed exclusively by the pharma marketing document.


and there are interesting 'relationship marketing' practices, here too, which can also be looked into, since these practices also affect the cost price of the product!!

The bright spot is that DoP has begun addressing patient concerns. DoP is trying to discipline the marketing environment. In the end, a disciplined pharma marketing environment will benefit all, including the pharma marketers themselves.



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