Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Three cheers to Manohar Parrikar - the new CM of Goa (above photo) who has reduced petrol price by Rs. 11 per liter. Three cheers to Taj Vivanta Holiday Village, Candolim, Goa for a super property and quite good service (first photo).

Success concepts in pharma marketing based on the service concept?

Succeeding in the services market is a Herculean task - today the hotel segment has a lot of potential for growth - still it is not a seller's market, say as it was 10 years back. There is a lot of competition and start-up hotels require more gestation period to break even. Moreover, growth is not guaranteed, since competition is making everyone eat the humble pie.

The pharmaceutical marketing sector has always been ultra-competitive and now the challenge is to deliver the WOW factor every time to doctors, chemists, stockists and purchasing or indenting agents (in institutions). It is a well known fact, that sales happen not only on the basis of rationale but very much on emotional factors that bring customers to the brand experience again and again.

For instance when the electrolyte energy drink products bring a satisfied smile on the patient's face, it is the greatest motivation for prescribers to continue prescribing the electrolyte energy drinks.

How to offer the WOW factor?

The first rule of delivering a WOW brand experience, is that the customer or prospect or influencer (like doctor) should never FEEL CHEATED. Cheating implies not living up to the expectations or promise made. When you enter Taj Vivanta Holiday Village, Goa you expect a certain class in the way things happen, the entry, the food quality and variety, the ambience, the soft skills of staff, service empathy, and the way they manage customer requirements or requests. It is not that each and every whim and fancy needs to be catered to, what is vital is the way the requests are managed, it is an art to say NO in an agreeable way! However, cheating implies being immoral, giving false expectations, manipulating, putting down another person, victimization, win-lose transactions, going beyond boundaries of a relationship (as in adultery or emotional cheating of one's life partner), absence of natural justice, or in simple sense not playing to the written and unwritten rules.

When a Pfizer MR enters the clinic, the doctor has certain expectations on the deliverables and service inputs, if this is not done, the doctor feels cheated. It is so with all other companies - the expectations are based on the image of the company - the doctor has certain expectations to which the MR, product, and other service elements should live up to.

The fundamental premise of servicing is that the service provider MR or field person or HO person has to be a problem solver. A person who does not give a problem as an answer to a problem but tries to offer a solution to the problem, is a problem solver. This requires, knowledge, commitment, involvement, messaging skill, analytical talent, imagination and creativity, presentation & persuasive ability to make the solution appealing.

Going beyond customer expectations

Creating the WOW experience requires investments to create such an experience - it is as serious an expenditure as capital expenditure to create new production facilities or expansion of manufacturing plants. Le Meredian has currently launched a campaign to create a WOW experience at the sensory level. Their cafes or restaurants are coloured to create a sensory appeal - for example at Le Meredian Delhi, as the elevator moves up and one sees the floor of the restaurant it looks like a coffee pattern, the aromas at various places are also controlled - for instance an invigorating and energizing aroma at the coffee cafes etc. There is a sensory basis for offering a WOW experience at Le Meridian today, and they have made huge investments to deliver continuously this WOW experience.

Today, the challenge is to add value to service concepts in pharmaceutical marketing thus, rendering the WOW experience - yet at the same time, having an operationally sound philosophy. There is no point offering a WOW experience through financial profligacy. Striking this balance is the sagacious marketing approach of the present challenging times.

Cheating is a universal phenomenon. The idea is to have systems and approaches that do not encourage cheating and always try and keep lowering the cheating levels - intraorganizationally between employees, between bosses and juniors etc and when transacting with external customers and prospects.

This can be done through various system based approaches. This system based approach to promote maximum transparency is not easy - yet that is the only enduring philosophy or approach which works. When transparency is lost or blurred to tide over various challenges temporarily, weakness starts seeping in, and finally the system caves in one day.

Manohar Parikker has a tough task - he has got his post on the basis of voter expectations - he has to deliver the WOW experience to his voters every day, it is not an easy task!

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Employment ready!

A pleasant face: Ajit strikes a pose

Two young employees (Mr. Bhaskar and Mr. Sumit)

Recently, my colleague who had to deliver a talk on being "Industry Ready" for students at a pharmacy college, asked me to give some inputs for his talk.

Here are some tips to becoming employment ready!

1) Being employment ready means dropping many of our college goer notions & care free behavior, and becoming very sober. The employer is investing monies on us (the employee) - and the employer expects ROI (return on investment), we should be conscious of this fact (this does not happen in college!).

2) It is also means having the ability to handle your colleagues, juniors, seniors and bosses. This relationship management skill counts a lot. You should have the ability to move with all in a professional way – not coming too close yet winning trust and confidence.

3) The most important attributes are: co-operative attitude and being reliable. People lose confidence if you are not reliable. Time sense and punctuality is a part of reliability. There are people who procrastinate (ie., postpone things) – this is a major impediment to winning confidence of others. It is also a key thing to know how to follow-up and get things done, this requires you to be proactive, plan well, and be active (do not be lazy!). These characteristics make you reliable and this quality is required for success in the industry or anywhere else.

4) Hygiene and etiquette factors are vital. Clipping nails, being clean shaven, having trimmed hair, wearing sober, clean and ironed clothes (stripes or plain shirts are the best choice), avoid casual wear, and ensure that you wear black or brown sober leather shoes.

5) Knowledge and knowledge hungry attitude is vital. Knowledge is not only from the books - it is also the knowledge from the environment, understand the written and unwritten rules of the environment, how to greet people, what is the best body language to have in the employment milieu etc.

6) Empathy is vital for success. It is important to try and be in another person’s shoes. This helps in improved communication. Empathy helps you understand the 'power-line' 'or who's who' and 'how powerful a person is' in any organization. Every person has an ego - so boost it with 'ego massage words' - but do it genuinely. Understand the ego and power status of individuals - and move accordingly. Remember: when the ego of powerful people is hurt they have the potential to harm you considerably.

Empathy also helps you be humane.

7) Communication is a key to success – knowing how to message, write and talk to colleagues, bosses, and juniors is important. Learn how to give speeches, and talk to groups of people. This will help. Try to learn colloquial words too so that you can assimilate into the environment. It is a part of the enculturation process.

8) Knowing how to move with office people in non-official hours is also a vital input to success in employment life.

9) Talk positive, give positive strokes to others, do not berate (ie., curse) and do not gossip. It is safer this way.

10) Humor is very vital – but strike a balance, do not be clownish.

11) Remember: there is no ideal situation, we should have a problem solving attitude. Go anywhere and everywhere only expecting problems, and that you are required to help solve problems. There will be all types of problems: technical, relating to your boss, or with the company, or with juniors, or with labour, or with systems, emotional etc.

12) Also understand, there is never enough money or salary. When you get an increment, it will seem good, after two or three months, it will not be an attractive salary anymore because you would have changed your expectations. So do not get job satisfaction based only on money - otherwise you will never be satisfied in professional life. Obtaining satisfaction by doing positive things and having problem solving attitude will help.

NEVERTHELESS THIS does not mean not wanting to grow financially - growth in salary and perks is very important, however, it is not the only thing.

Never feel overwhelmed if you get a reward, or depressed if you do not get a reward - remember true worth will always attract value. Develop your worth.

13) The main stumbling block in employment life is comfort zone: we do not want to meet strangers, or handle strange situations nor do we want new things or new experiences, because we feel it will cause discomfort. But if you have a problem solving attitude you will never get any discomfort zone in your life - all experiences will be comfort zones, so have a problem solving attitude. Enjoy the problem solving process, identification of problems and applying knowledge with imagination - this creates solutions. Compete with oneself to constantly improve. A learning attitude will help in being adaptable. When you are adaptable you survive and thrive. Problem solving attitude creates outputs - we are ultimately recognized by our outputs and these outputs are our identity and saviour.

Learning does not end with college, a new chapter of learning begins with employment, learn from others without inhibition, ask and learn, acquire knowledge and skills. Take cues from the environment and learn the new tasks or new skills. When I was in the field I had no exposure to computers, however, with office positions, I went on to acquire the requisite skills, this is the importance of learning attitude.

Never compare and feel belittled or do not feel superior to others. Compare with others or other entities to understand how to do things better and effectively. Compare to learn not to develop complexes (ie., inferiority or superiority complex, life is short, do not waste time on such 'complexes'.).

Learn the tasks in your job profile well and improve on it. Learn new skills and gather new knowledge too. Observe, ask, practice, and take lessons to learn your job aspects. Try and master your job.

14) Be disciplined - do not consume liquor or tobacco. If you have to consume liquor due to peer or colleague pressure, restrict it to 1/2 or 1/4 peg - use it only for keeping company. Avoid these bad habits - when you get money, job and professional circles, sometimes these bad habits will tail you and they have the potential to spoil your future. Remember, the only person happy with alcohol consumption is Mr. Vijay Mallya because he makes his money through your bad habits. Gandhiji was honestly right: 'Sharaab abhishaap hain'.

Do not be rigid when it comes to being a part of alcohol consuming circles: be a part of such circuits so that you get the relationship mileage - yet do not encourage and belong to it. Strike a balance so that you do not lose out in life due to orthodox behaviour.

Learn "street smart" concepts by observing "street smart" people, and apply the concepts if required. Be in the know of "street smart" concepts.

15) Remember people's names, designations, greet people before talking about the main issue, learn to talk light topics like weather, etc, admire others, congratulate others, greet them on special occasions, this networking habit is very vital. SMS will help you network better.

16) Learn the spirit of mutuality or 'give and take' to establish win-win relationships, this will make people comfortable with you. Indulge in 'give and take' even without asked (understand the nature of the social contract: when you get your first salary, buy things for your parents, even though they do not ask you, because this is the social contract of the relationship).

17) Participate in professional events like IPC (Indian Pharmaceutical Congress) do not cut off from professional platforms, write articles in professional journals etc.

18) Be defensive - not offensive. Being defensive means you respect yourself and others. Learn to self-love and present yourself in various situations firmly and confidently.

Defend yourself absolutely. Prevent perceived harm to yourself. Remember: there are performance expectations in each situation - understand the 'said and unsaid', 'written and unwritten' performance expectations and try to achieve them.

Negotiate the performance expectations (qualitative and quantitative) with your boss, if required, and make it realistic so that you are safe and at the same time there is mutuality. Performance is of three types:

a) expected performance

b) actual performance

c) perceived performance

The third thing is tricky - many a times, even if your actual performance is excellent, the perceived performance by people who matter may not be that - they may think your performance is very bad. So ensure that you are safe from the angle of perceived performance too.

Help others but help yourself too.

19) Dress well and appropriately, you are not well dressed till you wear a smile! Be emotionally stable, do not lose your temper or feel ecstatic, control your emotions - be balanced, be dedicated to the problem solving attitude (in a way, each moment of the day is a problem solving moment). Balance your work life, social life and family life.

20) Finally, it is character which triumphs: language group, caste, colour, creed or other considerations provide you temporary advantages or disadvantages - only character will help you - on a long term basis.

The above list is certainly not exhaustive, but it will help. Please read all other blogposts, scroll down and click on older posts when required to read all other posts, recommend this blog to others.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pharma learnings from Kingfisher and Indigo

In the above picture we see that the organization is an entity that creates an output (satisfying customer requirements). An organization refers to a group of people working towards a common goal. The output created by an organization is in line with the firm's vision and mission. The identity of the firm, it's survival, growth and image, and the destiny of the firm - all depend on the output. It is important to constantly understand what the output of a firm is from the customer or prospect's point of view. It could be a -

"value-for-money preposition", or it could be the
"services in exchange for prescriptions" or it could be
"hi-quality product preposition" or it could be
"R & D or intellectual image of a company" or
"ingenious products like patented electrolyte energy drinks in Tetra Pak technology or patented sterile haemocoagulase topical solution etc"

- the output of a firm is both TANGIBLE AND INTANGIBLE.

Understanding these aspects, shapes future activities of the firm. Finally, it is the output which is responsible for the financial picture of the organization.

In the above, we see marketing as a function that provides value addition and creates brand identity, brand image, brand equity, communication, and facilitates value delivery.

Marketing deals with the 4 Ps: product, price, promotion, and placement (distribution and availability). Marketing also deals with the communication mix which include: sales promotion (bonus offers), personal selling (MR efforts), packaging, advertisements (eg., in medical journals), and publicity (activities which result in word-of-mouth particularly in target doctor or target pharmacist circles).

Marketing includes the physical evidence, process and people too. Finally, marketing helps increase throughput, market penetration, facilitates sales, stimulates and catalyzes the exchange process, helps retain current customer base and nets in more customers through conversion of prospects into customers and strengthens brand equity.

There are many other dimensions of marketing: such as product positioning, developing an emotional bond of trust, modifying the lifestyle or prescribing behaviour or even the therapeutic style or approach and ensuring improved quality of life for society and patients (ie., reducing morbidity and mortality).

Operations is an all encompassing function that envisages creation of value added outputs that satisfy all stakeholders including customers. Operations includes sourcing (of raw materials, outsourcing or own manufacturing), processing, marketing and other operations in providing the output. It is a wider perspective of things.

Operational focus varies from firm to firm. For instance, Mankind did not devote energies to set up a US FDA manufacturing facility (as was the trend), its operations was to focus on improving market share and brand sales. The operational focus makes the difference.

Many a times, firms do not know what output they are actually creating or what they are supposed to create (as per customer requirements) - they are going by the established LEGACY OPERATIONS. For eg., a firm like say, Indoco or Franco Indian has its legacy - and operations are embedded in this legacy. Now are the operations in tune with the contemporary market reality? Or are the operations having some unidentified strengths (parts that are not exploited) that can help bring in more revenues? If the analysis is done not just from the marketing angle also from the operational perspective, this will provide more insights to firms.

Akums is an interesting business plan, this firm offers latest formulations on contract manufacturing basis. The output of Akums is about helping pharma marketers create better outputs - Akums is aiming at this synergy and this is Akum's operational focus.

There are several ways to introduce a new product. The most common way, is to look into the IMS market reports (for promising markets, where there are market gaps) and see the 'best-fit new me-too product'. This product should fit into the company operations or company marketing coverage and style. The idea is to introduce the new brand hoping to hit a gold mine in the marketplace.

This approach does work and has worked - but one should analyze if the new brand is the best fit from the marketing angle or operations angle of the firm? This is the call that one has to take through analysis.

Investors, futurists, product developers, marketers, entrepreneurs, customers, prospects, intermediaries ... all have one question on their mind - which is the next big thing round the corner? From where will my next big growth come from?

Everyone instinctively knows, although they may not like it, there is no product or service (or for that matter - organization or human being) that is permanent - things will not continue to be the way it is now. The fact is, there are changes happening continuously which will rewrite the future and people want to know the future before it swamps them! Now this curiosity is OK after all it is a part of the survival instinct!

20 years back no one thought that the typewriter would get obsolete. I remember how my sister went for early morning typing classes when she was in pre-university. Today, the keyboard has replaced even the electric typewriter which was considered a durable invention. Things are getting smarter and even smarter!

Smart trend is to stay

The future bet is on continuously creating smart products and smart working - here smart chiefly means intelligent or thoughtfully done: Apple has done it - Google has done it, Microsoft has been trying to do it, but it goes by LEGACY OPERATIONS this is their handicap!

There should be a sense of ingenuity in the output that appeals to the prescriber and/or patient. This will create the winning horse (CLASSIC EXAMPLE: ELECTROLYTE ENERGY DRINK FOR Rx MARKET IN TETRA PAK PACKAGES). And the smart product ought to smartly fit into the overall operational paradigm of the company. The me-too market is big in pharma but very crowded and fierce-some. Smart products may or may not be in the me-too product market.

Hypothetical example

Let us say, Sun Pharma is strong in the OBG and neuropsychiatry segments - and presume they have two options: (a) let us say Sun Pharma has a product for the mass GP market and (b) the have one more product for the critical care segment (which is also a specialty market).

Which product will Sun Pharma invest in (in the current market scenario)?

From the marketing angle the GP oriented product is definitely attractive, however, from the operational angle it is probably more sagacious for Sun Pharma to invest in the critical care segment oriented product. Chances of making it big in the critical care segment is better for Sun Pharma.

The above hypothetical discussion differentiates between operations and marketing based approaches.

Consider another hypothetical example:

Imagine Himalaya Drug Company, which has a powerful herbal based company image, now, what if they deviate from this herbal active based business and launch into allopathic anticancer range? After all the company has money, requisite pharma experience, good brand image, and the market too is attractive. Perhaps there is also marketing sense in this approach, however, is there operational wisdom in this move? That is the point between being marketing oriented and operations oriented.


Today Kingfisher airlines is in deep deep debt and really in red. Whether this is management blunder or an artificially created crisis - one will never know. However, was it a great idea for Kingfisher beer brand to fly as the Kingfisher airlines - now this is easy to analyze and comment - since it is hindsight wisdom (!), but probably the top management mindset of Kingfisher airlines was not operationally tuned to succeed in the airline market.

Mr. Mallya is a good marketer but operations probably, was not his tastiest cup of tea, now this is just loud thinking - and hindsight wisdom (which is the easiest form of wisdom!).

On the other hand Indigo seems to have its operations recipe just right! INDIGO IS GREAT FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Is the success of Indigo a marketing success or operations success? Probably both (but mainly operational excellence at work!).

What about Kingfisher? The answer: a great marketing success, but A WORRISOME OPERATIONAL DISASTER.

Operations management is a very interesting discipline encompassing planning, product selection, product design, service design (since all product companies also have associated services), organizing, control and conversion process. Excellence in operations management, ensures organizational outputs that meet customer requirements at the lowest cost.

There was a time of hefty margins in the pharma business. One could launch me-too brands of generics with the maximum growth in the market without looking too much into operational aspects, the operational framework would develop according to the marketing requirements and results. However, now, creating operational infrastructure is costlier, competition is hot and margins are thinner. Price undercutting, competitive clutter, freebies, cash incentives and very aggressive bonus offers ... all these make the concept of marketability just one of the considerations. Operational rationale of a new product launch is critical and operational excellence is very important.

The roots of the operations structure of a company is in the DNA of the firm. For eg., Mankind played with a new operational structure, Mankind focused on outsourcing (rather than own manufacturing), processing, providing the product along with impelling services to the prospect prescribers - the value of the output was such that the output value helped create maximum market share and brand growth for Mankind. Zuventus, Mcleods, and Eris Lifesciences are also in this game.

The challenge ahead in pharma India is relooking at LEGACY OPERATIONS (which could be the Achilles heel) and creating OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE ALONG WITH BEING MARKETING SAVVY. Operational aspects are as vital as marketing in the current scenario.

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