Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reflecting on the Pedicon 2012, Gurgaon experience

A foggy start to PEDICON 2012, Gurgaon

Sales is the outcome of many a factor. The conversion of goods to cash and the monies entering the cycle of production is a sequence of several steps. In the pharmaceutical profession, the standard thinking is: 'THE MR is the traditional demand creator. His efforts in presenting the product with its features, advantages and benefits - motivates the prescriber to offer the product(s) to his patients. The MR is a crucial link between the product and patient (through the prescriber, stockist and chemist)'.

Things started to change...

As the no. of manufacturers started increasing, mere salesmanship (regularity, detailing, sampling and communication elements) of the MR was not sufficient to produce sales results.

The paradigm shifted to other elements of the marketing mix: sales promotional offers (ie., bonus offers), site (credit) facility, packing innovations, flexible pricing, distribution management, other communication media and platforms.

Cartigen from Pharmed stormed the market solely on the strength of advertising in medical journals. Cipla retained its market share during field force unionism related problems through courier based marketing approaches.

There have also been changes in the in-clinic activities with the flow of time. Upto the 1970s, the accent was on scientific presentation of the brand with the help of communication aids and providing samples for triggering prescribing behavior. Next, with the advent of multi-brands of the same generic, the focus shifted on brand presentation, with less focus on scientific matters, the emphasis was on brand benefits and gifting practices.

The FIRST – MOVER advantage in gifting practices was also vital for successful companies. Those bold companies who first redefined ethics of pharma marketing, showered practitioners with gifts and deals for increased prescription share, got better sales outcomes. A classic case study is the growth of Himalay Drug Company, whose rise in the pharma firmament was through sophisticated clinical study literatures backed with high quantity gifting. Doctors would wait eagerly for the “gifted Himalaya MR”.

With a wider spread of such dealing and gifting practices including from companies like Aristo, Micro and Alkem, the other pharma companies also wizened up to the market practices and joined the gifting bandwagon.

Gifting and dealing helped empower the MR, so his involvement also increased; it helped the MR gain valuable bargaining power. So it was not the MR’s scientific expertise and communication skills that alone mattered, what became important was also his negotiating and follow-up ability to see through deals with prescribers and meeting demands of both the provider (his employer company) and the doctor.

Thus, in the 1980s to almost up to 2000 the growth of companies started on the platform of gifting and dealing: many an Indian firm gained through such strategies.


The sizzling growth of Mankind brought one more facet to the gifting and dealing practices. It was about doing the gifting and dealing more intensely, focusing on the core customer relationship management. Not all products had to be profitable, the overall company topline and bottomline (profits) only mattered.

Now, with the rise of Gujarat based Eris Lifesciences we are witnessing another historic event of pharma marketing. Eris is now the latest case study and is being talked about on the same lines as Mankind - about 5 years back. Micro, Eris, Alkem, Aristo, Zuventus, Mcleods, Intas … and such other companies are now operating in a predatory market. Each is vying with one another to snatch prescriptions for survival and growth.

Will it lead to marketing strain or will the learnings from Eris and such other companies create new marketing energy?

The fact is that the growing Indian pharma market has abundant potential. There are patients waiting to be diagnosed, there is more investment in medicare and healthcare with rise in incomes of people. There are a billion patients there! Each person is a patient one way or the other!! It is clear there is space for more Eris like companies.

In basketball, there is a strategy called man-to-man defence. Opposite team members stick to each other and battle it out for the ball. It is now the era of man-to-man defence in pharma marketing! It is about focusing intensely on a band of doctors and tight servicing, so that prescribed brands roll out in favour of the marketer - avoiding predatory efforts of competitor marketers. This is the era of intense marketing.

SALES comes from MR or doctor or other promotional items?

This leads us to the basic question: what is the influence of the MR on the process of sales generation in a company that has mapped doctors on its IT infrastructure? Is the MR’s presence generating the sale, or is it the gift or is it the sweet deal or is it the bonus offer (1 +1!) which has generated the sale? How do we rate each of the market demand creating factors? How do we allocate company resources to each of these factors?

The current marketing challenge is: how to relook at established marketing notions? What is the influence of each of the factor of marketing:

a) MR's scientific expertise and communication skill
b) MR's or customer service agent's negotiating ability to strike a deal
c) Bonus offer
d) Gift
e) Deal
f) Sponsorship to medical conferences
g) In-stall activity

For which brand and to what extent has each of above factor influenced the sale of the brand?

Each of above marketing factor has an influence on the selling process: the executive judgement is to understand which factor and to what extent does it influence the selling process?

The answers can be found. But what is required is an open mind! Also required is courage to face the market truths!


The annual meet of paediatricians at Gurgaon was a good one – the cold and foggy weather did play spoilsport, reducing the expected no. of delegates. But it did not dampen the spirit of learning, connecting and marketing (through in-stall activity).

The rise of Eris Lifesciences who took over a strategic place (the central lawn) for their marketing activity was THE marketing fact of Pedicon 2012 event. Once again the rise of Eris shows how deep the pharma market of India is, and how necessity creates aggressive strategies for survival and growth. Each company has a DNA which is responsible for its presence in the market jungle. Marketing follows only Darwinism: survival of the fittest and most adaptable!

THERE ARE MORE ERIS LIKE COMPANIES WAITING TO BLOOM IN THE PHARMA MARKETING PLACE! Pedicon 2012 was a great marketing learning experience too!

At Pedicon 2012, it was inspiring to see young and upcoming doctors (who are no doubt commercially savvy) but also hungry for knowledge. It was also great to connect to doctors like Dr. Deepak of Shimoga (whom we met last Pedicon 2011 at Jaipur) who once again spoke on a frontier topic: Windows 7. The knowledge sessions had improved attendance by delegates and the sessions were well appreciated by attendees.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Organizational reliability & customer satisfaction: two sides of the same coin

The above excellent image representing trust building was taken from here, where the blog writer elucidates on the importance of trust in day-to-day marketing activities.

The desire to achieve organizational success – which is defined, based on attainment of preset performance parameters - is what drives work in an organization. The top management personnel of any organization define the concept of success for their firm, set parameters of success and monitor progress towards this picture of success. This movement for success is from the point of view of employers and employees.

Now, the point to ponder: what is it that defines success of an organization from the customer’s and outsider’s point of view? Success may mean many things:

a) For a competitor salesman, the market share, movement of products in the market, market goodwill, stockist opinion of the company, customer comments and brand image are probably his parameters to measure the success of a competitor company
b) For a financial analyst, a firm’s sharevalue growth, profit margin, sales value, earning per share, future growth prospects, dividends offered and cash reserves are probably the measures of success
c) A person from the production field will surely be impressed with the technology of the machinery, plant layout, material flow systems and other operational aspects of the competitor firm.

So the moot point: is there a common denominator for defining success? From the above paragraph, success apparently means different things to different people.


RELIABILITY (or trust)

If you ask a superior why she regards a particular subordinate or colleague valuable, again the point that the superior will emphasize is RELIABILITY of the subordinate or peer or colleague! When a customer finds that the product or service of an enterprise is consistent in meeting expectations or requirements, then the firm is regarded as reliable by the customer. An employee has implicit and explicit expectations from the employer company, a firm that meets these employee expectations, will find the employer company reliable. So finally, reliability factor is what makes a firm (or even an individual) successful.

How to be reliable?

The first interesting aspect of reliability is that it is a moving target (what is defined as reliable now may not be the same tomorrow, since competition will set new standards. However, basic elements of performance will remain steady). When a Raymond’s fabric product is purchased, there is a certain expectation of quality, durability, look and feel of the fabric, from the purchaser. The day Raymond’s stops meeting this set of expectations, the firm loses the customer.

Reliability is thus about ‘being at it’! Understanding the performance expectations and meeting the same consistently. Reliability is a continuous operation; it is not a one-off process.

So are there any sutras or guidelines to build trust or reliability in an individual or organization? Reliability sutras are common for an individual personality or organizational personality. Let us explore the reliability sutras with respect to a MR:

1) The reliabile MR is one who shows up regularly! Consistent communication or messaging and being there, builds trust ie., reliability image.
2) Reliability is not built through big-ticket expenses; it is done through the small things (thoughtful activities on a day-to-day basis). A small thing like providing the required samples on a monthly basis to the target doctor, for personal use, will prove the MR more reliable than the boisterous and flashy competitor MR who lavishes the doctor with freebies and praises.
3) Promptness and the element of involvement with concern for the work on part of the employee or MR, is a feature that will build the picture of a reliable person.
4) Avoiding giving excuses: blaming on the season, or extraneous reasons for a negative development, passing-the-buck, may help a person get reprieve, however, this creates a cycle of working based on excuses and alibis, by the MR or employee, and this makes the MR create a sense of unreliability about him/herself.
5) Reliability is: ‘not crossing the line’. Maintaining the decorum in any relationship or at any setting creates a sense of reliability about the person.
6) The message of reliability is also put across in the dress, mannerisms, body language and communication of a person. A smart MR who regularly shows up clean shaven, with a tie and looking very presentable will surely have a better appeal of reliability.
7) Familiarity: is said to breed contempt. However, familiarity also creates a sense of reliability about a person. Familiarity also builds confidence. When Jane Goodall would study chimpanzees in forest settings, the first thing she would do was being still, simply observing and recording the proceedings. She would sit still for hours together in the forest setting near the chimpanzees. This helped Jane and the chimpanzees develop a bond of trust. The chimpanzees did not sense any threat from Jane. The cornerstone of Jane’s research success was reliability.
8) Skill set and relevant knowledge base: in a MR or employee is the core of creating reliability about a person or organization.
9) Empathy: is a quality that could have come in point no. 8 (skill set), however, it requires a special mention. The ability to empathize or imagine oneself in the other person’s shoes, will make the MR behave appropriately with the doctor/chemist, this will improve the reliability rating of the MR.

The same sutras seen above apply to organizations for achieving reliability. Consistent and regular communication, doing small things with promptness, being constructive, not giving excuses but having a dialogue and negotiating, being responsible, having requisite skill sets and knowledge management at the organizational level, and having organization-wide empathy - all these are fundamental sutras that drive reliability organization-wide.

An organization’s survival and growth depends on the image of reliability. The foundation of all organizational success is trust or reliability. Organizational reliability and customer satisfaction are verily the two sides of the same coin! A RELIABLE ORGANIZATION ACHIEVES CUSTOMER SATISFACTION!!

A firm has to be trusted or found reliable by customers and other associates, this is the end-point of all organizational processes (and also the requirement for individual success). Unreliable individuals or unreliable companies do not taste durable success.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012


The name Dr. A P J Kalam conjures up an image of a scholarly person. And of a person of vision and dedication. However, it was also fascinating to observe his rock-star status among the youth, recently, at a function.

It was my good fortune to help play a role in organizing, do some brand promotion and participate at an event in a medical college. Dr. A P J Kalam was the chief guest at this function. Dr. Kalam’s down-to-earth attitude, humility, ability to strike a chord with the audience, scholarship, genuine concern, tone of a dedicated person … was all awe-inspiring. Dr. Kalam’s presence created an inspiring thrill amidst the gathering. Dr. Kalam, the scientist, administrator, policy maker, winner of all the top three civilian awards of India (ie., Padmabhushan, Padmavibhushan, and Bharat Ratna), past-President of India - comes across as a highly integrated personality. There is integration between his thoughts, words and deeds. And this last rare quality creates an aura that is ethereal.


Brand builders and marketers have a lot to learn from Kalam - the brand persona. Standing aside and observing the crowd of listeners and Dr. Kalam - it was a lesson in marketing!

Brand Kalam is an attractive story teller: Brand marketers are alluring story tellers. The narrative is gripping. Brand marketers lure people towards their wares through their words. They promise brand benefits, build trust, grip the target audience, command their attention and inveigle brands into the lifestyle and verily into the thought construct of the target audience. Brand marketers are lifestyle modifiers. Brand Kalam started with the most arresting lines that made people listen with full attention:

Brand Kalam said: ‘Here I am addressing medical students in a college which is celebrating its silver jubilee. So what does that mean? It means that in the past 25 years, the earth has revolved round the sun 25 times – Shri Devaraj Urs Medical College (SDMC) has also revolved round the sun 25 years or 25 times!’

This very scientific opening to his talk was a superior attention getter. People listened to him with rapt attention! Kalam successfully commanded the attention of his target audience!

Brand Kalam is serious and dedicated to his target audience: Dr. A P J Kalam announced that he would read a speech prepared for the audience at SDMC. His Excellency then proceeded to read the title of his prepared speech (it was on medical practice and compassion). The fact that Dr. Kalam had prepared an exclusive speech for this event, this itself made the audience bond with the speaker. When a person says there is an exclusive speech for the audience, there is a lot of significance. It means that Dr. Kalam has given a lot of importance to the audience. It implies Dr. Kalam has dedicated his thoughts, energy and time for the audience in preparing for the event’s speech. That affirmation itself created enthue among the listeners.

Brand Kalam simplifies complexities: Brand Kalam has a keen sense of humour and ability to simplify complex issues. The lucid presentation gelled well with the target audience. Simplicity is the height of sophistication. Making things simple requires a person to go deep into the problem and understand. Dr. Kalam has excelled in the art of simplification.

Simple things have only one destiny: they succeed enormously. Think of all successful brands and products: iPad, electrolyte energy drinks in Tetra Pak package (in Indian pharma market), Wikipedia, google, coke … they make a simple promise, they offer convenience, they are simple, understood easily by target audience members, and they become a part of the lifestyle easily.

Brand Kalam is knowledgeable: The philosopher – saint of India, Swami Vivekananda, has said: Man’s search is not just for comforts, it is in fact for knowledge. When brands have a knowledge base and communicate insights, knowledge, wisdom, and information they gain the confidence of prospects and customers. Take any brand, they may be simple but they enjoy reliability or trust because the brand is backed by knowledge. Coke is a big brand: it has become big through the knowledge of customers and brand promotion based on this knowledge. Kalamji is a person of knowledge. He believes in knowledge absorption and dissemination. Kalamji speaks with tact and in a people or customer friendly way. The knowledge is not intimidating. It is packaged in a user-friendly manner. Knowledge is consumed easily when Dr. A P J Kalam speaks. Google is a big brand, this is because, google offers knowledge to seekers in a friendly approachable way. Knowledge makes a brand big, presenting knowledge with user-friendliness makes the brand bigger, this is why Brand Kalam is larger than life!

Brand Kalam is stern: Brand Kalam is not about being funny and humourous – it is seriousness with a sliver of humour. This makes Brand Kalam appealing. Brand Kalam is not boring, thanks to the anecdotes, humour, ready repartees and one-liners.

During the speech, Dr. A P J Kalam administered an oath for the medical students regarding ethics, and to focus on rural practice also. This was amazing. Brand Kalam was being stern when required; Brand Kalam made people adhere to a certain value system. Brand Kalam is about certain values, principles, ethics and a code of conduct. This makes Brand Kalam enduring.

The Bhagawad Gita is an enduring book of wisdom: the timeless values encased in this book makes the ‘song of the divine or Bhagawad Gita’ enduring. Values espoused and practiced by Kalamji make him an enduring brand. Values make a brand enduring.

Brand Kalam is purposeful: Brand Kalam is a brand with a mission, which is based on a vision. Kalamji is an empowering brand, so that as per Brand Kalamji’s vision, finally, India will emerge a developed country by 2020. This sense of purpose makes brand Kalam big. Brand Kalam inspires guides, provides a sense of direction to those who connect with the brand, empowers, satisfies, delights and gives hope for the future.

So the lesson for us brand marketers by observing Brand Kalam is here in a nutshell: Make the brand say an authentic story, make the story alluring, use excellent attention getters, be serious about your dedication to the target audience, simplify complexities, be elegant, ensure that the brand is a mine of knowledge and wisdom (for eg., Van Heusen shirts not only talk about the brand benefits, but the advertisements also present technicalities showing that the brand is knowledge based, this helps generate customer confidence), be stern when it comes to standing for certain core brand values and ensure that the brand has an integrated personality (the brand promise and brand performance should match).

End of article thoughts:

The development of totally drug resistant TB in certain cases here in India is a serious happening. The Govt. of India needs to relaunch a health awareness campaign on TB and its treatment with zeal.

There is an excellent article in Economic Times, 8.1.2012, page no. 18, on the importance of Vit. B12 (cyanocobalamine). The article has highlighted that Vit. B12deficiency, more common in vegetarians, leads to many debilitating diseases. It’s worth reading, I expect pharma companies to see a market gap here! Vit. B12 prices – will shoot up due to increased demand in coming months?!

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