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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