Where Participation Is As Good As Winning

Context

I have been associated with Pharma and Healthcare for more than two decades now. I always have ideas how Pharma and Healthcare should go about functioning in the interests of the patient. I also know enough ground realities and hence I think my ideas are practical enough to implement and produce the needed results. Hence I take every opportunity that comes my way to participate in discussions around Pharma and Healthcare.

http://www.gc-tbc.com/

Recently my friend Prasannan (The Mobile Specialist) brought this document Grand Challenges in TB Control to discuss. It is one of the best documents I have ever seen in terms of clarity of purpose, scope of solutions and acknowledging the challenges with respect to reality.

We discussed the document well and came out with some possible solution ideas to be aided by technology and have submitted the same as prescribed by them. The latest update from them states

Of the 122 proposals received, 78 are still under consideration. If you are receiving this mail, you are in the 78.

I feel good with this. I am sure there are lots of competent authorities who must be participating. But the fact that we passed the first round of filters shows that our thinking has been in the right direction. A big win to start with.

The organizers have defined the next step as:

From the pool of 78, 30 will shortlisted to make a presentation to an expert panel. We plan to have the presentations in Hyderabad on October 24-25, 2013. You will be given sufficient time to prepare if shortlisted for the presentation. We will keep you updated on the progress.

It might be tough to be in 30 as existing hospitals and healthcare providers might be competing at the top. Nevertheless this gives us the motivation to keep thinking about how to bring technology to solve healthcare problems and we shall continue to participate, think and come up with solutions for the future.

Any discussions on these lines, feel free to buzz us.

Setting Sales Targets

Targets

Happened to see a thought provoking update by Anup Soans in Linkedin MedicinMan group.

Targets

Targets are never an arbitrary figure. There are many ways to arrive at them and each situation is unique when you arrive at a target. I share here some easier and established ones that we have practiced in the past.

In general, there are two types of target setting possible: Top-down approach and Bottom-up approach. It is better not to mix up both. Companies can follow one of the approaches throughout to make it transparent and get the conviction of the team to achieve it.

Top-down approach:

For each product, a company can decide on the growth percentage it wants to achieve and can set the targets accordingly. The company shall do so basis their reports on market research on overall market growth, competition, trends etc for each product. The company shall also analyze their resources and advantages and set the target for the product for the company. Once such a target is set, it is split basis contribution levels down the line and passed on as targets to achieve. Since the contribution levels will already reflect market conditions of each market (like growth, competition and others), accordingly each is given a target basis their current/past contribution (of respective markets). Each target shall be the same percentage growth on their respective current/past volumes. The numbers are arrived by applying this growth percentage on current volumes or past volumes. Of course, managers shall re-distribute the same according to other parameters within their zones, markets or teams. A similar approach is followed for allocating resources to achieve the targets.

Bottom-up approach:

Every team is asked to set their own targets basis their current volume, market potential and other parameters as they see fit and such targets are collated to arrive at the company’s targets.  Here everyone justifies their numbers basis the respective market conditions and such a basis is followed till the top and the company arrives at its target and plans its growth. Accordingly resources are planned and given.

Two important things in target setting

If you are a market leader you will be thinking of increasing your market share % and need to think on how to get this percentage growth from either market growth or from existing competition of other brands or from similar range of products. Here one needs to be innovative and has to lead with creativity and originality to be ahead of the market increasing the lead and picking up more market share in %.

If you are not a market leader, then you already have a bowl established by others. You just have to think how much you can take from the existing bowl basis your own capabilities.  One can be innovative and do what the market leader would do, but that is not a must as there exists ways to grow by just taking the share of others.  For such brands, past is not an indication of future trends. They can go after as much as they can, to convert, depending on the resources they have available with them.

Targets are never arbitrary. Targets are not just some numbers. They tell you everything about your business and how you run it.

If we put up targets and don’t achieve them, one of our managers used to say, “Sugar will not be sweet, if written on paper and licked”. Targets are sweet when we achieve them and celebrate the achievements.

A Test That I Failed Today And Social Media

Today I was going through my daughter’s English paper and she tested me with this

Eating/what/and/eat/experience/make/you/conscious/a/enjoy 

Rearrange the above words to make a meaningfull sentence. Now dont continue to read the rest before you try it. Did you get it? Good. I failed. But could not stand the curiosity and hence asked my long-time friend Amar Bantwal on Twitter.  Here you go with the rest of the conversation:

9th Std English

The Vegetable Vendor And The eStore

http://www.vvarma.com/2012/12/jackfruit-design-and-illustration-part-2.html

We buy our vegetables from our regular vendors. They come with their cart or some of them carry the goods on them. In this age of fashionable supermarkets and hypermarkets, we still buy from the vendor who comes to our gate and showcases what they have.

Advantages

  1. No use of plastic bags (they bring in their eco-friendly big basket and transfer to our small baskets)
  2. No travel in traffic, no parking issues, no pollution for us (they too mostly walk and push their carts around)
  3. No need to remember to buy vegetables. One reminder less on my gadget.
  4. No need to remember what was bought recently. They know and hence bring the vegetables in rotation.
  5. No need to stock-up for a week and hence more fresh (they come almost daily or on alternate days). The load and space on the fridge is available for other things.
  6. Most of them bring garden vegetables and hence better.
  7. For them it is just not a business. Their earning supports a family. Sometime you get to know their progress. Feel good factor.
  8. If there is a quality problem, no need to argue or show bills. They accept and even if we don’t return or deduct, they take more care next time.
  9. No bills, less paper, ecofriendly.

Drawbacks

  1. Some variety of veggies we might miss. We need to go in search of them and buy.
  2. Hygiene: sometimes we need to be wary of this. (Though applicable for supermarkets too).
  3. If all our neighbours buy from him/her, more or less the same dish will get cooked and might affect the exchange of cup-sized tasting measures between neighbours and hence might affect that culture.

Occassionally we buy from those superstores too. There are distinct advantages in buying from such stores too.

Where do you buy and why? Add them in the comments.

Extending thoughts for these vendors:

Instead of worrying about supermarkets destroying their sales, some of the vendors can capitalize their relationship with customers and cater to them with newer tools of technology like eStore. It costs as low as INR500+ for a store on the net (eg: NetMyStore). Some of these vendors are big enough to afford these low cost stores and can try to increase their volume, turnover and profits by catering to segments like office-going households.  Who knows may be they can even think of an APP in near future? Most of them are a well-knit group, which will allow some of them to join together and cater with demarcated geographical areas using a single store. Has anyone done that?

Technology can play a great leveler and improve these vendors’ lives to newer heights. What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Sharing As A Competitive Advantage

foto courtesy: Hubspot offers

foto courtesy: Hubspot offers

Let me share a few good articles on healthcare that I had read recently and bookmarked:

Are physicians still responsible for mistakes in health care?

Communication: the missing piece in the adherence puzzle

RESPECT FOR THE PATIENTS AND THEIR TIME

What do you do when you read a nice meaningful article? I share them through twitter, linkedin, Google+. If you are around, let us get connected there. I bookmark some of the articles that I read to share later. I share them in a relevant way with people when we have related discussions. This helps me substantiate what I say during the discussions and add a lot of credibility. It makes other people share what they find relevant for me to learn. Talk about win-win.

I look at sharing as a competitive advantage.

The two major tools that I use are diigo and evernote. Emailing to my evernote is an awesome feature that I love. I share my lists from my diigo library with associates and my clients so that when we discuss a topic I can refer the shared article and they would know what I am talking about.

What do you use? How do you share ideas? How do you store them to use it in a relevant way for the future?

Feel free to comment and also get connected.

Overcoming The Internet Quagmire

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

How many times have you logged in to the web like email or other places to do some work, did other things, thanks to distraction, and logged out without completing what you intended to do? Have you cursed yourself and wondered how the distraction influences and derails you? If yes, take heart, you are not alone.

The period “Before Internet” and “After Internet” is how we discuss when it comes to time-management discussions. “Before Internet” there were very few things powerful enough to distract a disciplined person. The same thing cannot be said about “after interent” days. However disciplined we are, internet with its never ending distractions can throw us off balance, make us forget things and go awfully wrong with our deadlines. The same “after internet” days also provide us with powerful tools like reminders through various forms to overcome them and stay on course. But today we need a lot more discipline to keep up with priorities, to remember everything, be productive and not waste time in activities due to distractions.

One of the ways that I manage this (shutting off or down things is no option for many of us) is by exploring newer tools of alarms; reminders etc… When I use the same set of tools, familiarity makes me take it less seriously. So even a change of ringtone helps me in this regard. There are abundant choices today and so many new arrivals. Exploring new tools serves two purposes. One to learn new improved version of things and second the job of getting reminded and taking action happens.

My kids are one of those most affected when it comes to my promises and not keeping up the deadline of promises. So they find ways to attract attention and getting things done. One such small attempt by my son happens to help me greatly in my work too. He had set up announcing of the time in my Mac every 15 minutes. It is working wonders for me.

Every fifteen minutes I become aware of the passing time and pause a few seconds to think if I am on track for the jobs to be done. When it keeps announcing “it is 10.45”, “it is 11 o’clock” , I even am tempted to answer “ok,ok”, “I know, I know” or “shut up”.

You can love or hate Internet but you cannot ignore it.

How do you manage the quagmire of Internet?

Feel free to share your experiences and what you do.

My Point Of View To Healthcare IT Entrepreneurs

 

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

Context

I get a lot of connections of IT(information technology) people through my IT and pharma friends. Whenever there is a discussion of IT applications in Pharma and/or healthcare, the discussions get referred to me (Thanks Guys). When companies pitch me with their products, they appreciate my understanding of their objectives and the underlying technologies that they explain. Since this comprehension of mine is more than the average pharma/healthcare person, my feedback is taken well and word-of-mouth gets extended leading to more references.  I am happy to work with them.

Good Aspects

Some of the good aspects that I see include:

  • These entrepreneurs are sincere
  • They are young, energetic and work very hard
  • They use the online resources well and do their home-work well
  • They try to understand as much as possible
  • They have enough expertise on the technology side
  • They are able to think through the IT processes in a good fashion
  • They are all futuristic

Areas of learning

I repeatedly find that these entrepreneurs have some (same) issues. Here they are and my point of view on each of them.

#1. They think IT is a cure for everything.

My pov: It is not. IT is just an enabler. It is not going to be bought like a cure for every problem that is being faced. It is going to be evaluated with respect to how much it can support the present system, how much it can enable things and how far it can take them as futuristic solutions. Patients must be at the center of your solution and healthcare practitioners must endorse (just not your claims) that it is a better solution than what they are currently practicing and the barriers of change can be overcome. Benefits should override the resistance.

#2. Most of the so-called entrepreneurs claim that they know about healthcare when they really don’t.

My pov: If you are from IT and have read extensively through articles on healthcare, know the jargons and their meanings well (well that gives a good intro), still you are far away from healthcare as it is practiced. Even if you had worked on a healthcare product at the back-end services team and have interacted with a lot of healthcare people, it doesn’t mean you know healthcare enough to launch a product. Reality of healthcare practitioners, as they live it, is completely different and they are not going to like your pretense about knowing what they do and how they do it.

#3. Some entrepreneurs show their experience from past with teams that developed healthcare products for western markets as part of outsourcing work and they think they can tweak it and introduce it in India.

My pov: It simply does not work. Instead of wasting time in tweaking and failing completely, try to understand what are the underlying differences in healthcare practice and learn that you need to develop a product from scratch for every market that you work with. It is easier, faster and better. Do not apply extension of IT product logic alone in healthcare solutions. This is far more serious and completely different.

#4. At most of the pitches that I get, I end up being asked, “What do you think should we be doing?”

My pov: Most of the time I see that you do not have a person who has real experience with healthcare or pharma. Have a member in your team who knows the insights having worked with the domain. Even if they are not able to give you all the answers, they will guide you to the right person/place where you can get a lot of answers and validate your thoughts and take you closer to reality. Such a person in your team will be complimentary and will bring a lot of synergy into your activities.

Most of the entrepreneurs initially resist but agree with me when I tell them these points with examples customized to what they are building as a product. I hope to see some of them quickly finding their way into healthcare/pharma domain and wish them to come out with flying colours.

There is a great deal of potential with healthcare and pharma for IT applications. There is a lot of space for many more entrepreneurs to enter and contribute to healthcare/pharma and in turn building a successful company. There is so much potential for both IT and Pharma people to come together and create solutions. That way it will be more successful.

What do you think? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts.

10 Areas Where The Bright Pharma Reps Have Gone In The Last 20+ Years

 

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I started as a pharma guy (still I consider myself to be one) in the early 90s and the kind of learning that gave me has stood me in good stead. During that period the cream of talent joined pharma and we learnt a lot from each other in the market place.  I knew 100s of pharma people from the old times. Only a very few are still around with pharma domestic marketing of formulations today. So I undertook an exercise to find some of those guys whom I respected to see what they are doing and how they are doing. With the current social media networking platforms available and the word of mouth that it can create, it was not very hard to find many of them. We were more than happy to connect, exchange notes and have promised to keep in touch.  Here we go with what I found from my talking to those friends.

#1. Up the ladder in pharma: Let me start with those who still stay in Pharma Industry. They all have gone up the ladder due to their hard work and integrity and stay at the top today in various organizations. But personally when I interact with them, I hear most of them are unhappy. They love what they do. They do not regret staying with the industry, but are not happy about many things. Given a chance, they will get out to do more productive and meaningful things. My discussions with them on those areas are open and shall continue.

#2. Well into IT: As early as mid-90s, some seemed to have learnt about IT and had taken a sabbatical, went back to equip themselves with courses (like NIITs or with a post graduation in IT etc) and had joined IT. There has been no looking back for them. Most of them are well placed with IT today, given that they had learnt a lot of things in Pharma and combined with the domain knowledge of IT, they have done extremely well.

#3. International Marketing: As Pharma exports grew over the years, some had found international opportunity either with their own companies or outside of it, jumped in, learnt a lot by going to various markets and seem to have done extremely well with International assignments. They also have grown well rounded in terms of general management handling these international markets independently and have become matured leaders. I see them heading SBU of API and Formulations of various organizations. They also have been opening up opportunities for others.

#4. Migration: People who have a pharmacy degree (like BPharm or MPharm) seemed to have found attractive offers by migrating to western countries.

#5. Pharma distribution: Some had gone into distribution of domestic Pharma, in or closer to their home-towns, as they did not like the kind of touring that is associated with going-up-the-ladder in the industry.

#6. Pharma C&F: Some had taken C&F kind of opportunities growing up from the distribution platform as in point 5.

#7. Owners of pharma companies: Some had started their own pharma companies by marketing their own brands made from contract manufacturing. Early guys seem to have done well and late entrants seem to have suffered a lot. Both groups do not think they have any future with that. Very complicated it has become, they say. Apart from the newer regulations and uncertainties of markets, it also includes some of the reasons, which I had discussed earlier in my blog posts.

#8. Family business: Some have gone back to family businesses. They seem to be extremely happy for the decision for whatever personal reasons they stated.

#9. Exports and Manufacturing: Growing from point 3, some have done extremely well by opening up shop to export by themselves as trading houses and also some have gone the length to establish their own manufacturing plants and today run a full fledged export-oriented pharma company. This is very satisfying to hear and learn from.

#10. Sales and Marketing with others: Some people have chosen sales and marketing with other verticals like FMCG, hospitals and related healthcare areas. These guys are not very happy but happy enough that they got off from the troubles of the domestic Pharma selling.

This is only my sample. You can look around and share your findings/experiences.

Almost all of them, whom I had spoken to, have promised to keep in touch and are eager to discuss newer opportunities.  That is overwhelming feeling for me.

What is the way forward for Pharma to attract good talent and retain them? I found this excellent article “Is Pharma sales coming of age at last?” explaining how the industry is poised for transformation in the days to come.  Happy reading!!!

Feel free to add your experiences and comments here.

11 Posts On FDI In Pharmaceutical Sector

August had been a month of discussions on FDI in Pharmaceutical sector. We had argued leaning for and against with valid points on both sides. Obviously most of the pharma industry people have argued supporting it but have failed to acknowledge and see it from the other perspectives and answer the many questions that loom large. Here I present to you some posts(including the report on which the discussions centered around).

While I had kept most of my discussions private, you are free to either buzz me with your perspective privately for a discussion or take the liberty of commenting here in public. If you have read other interesting perspectives, feel free to add them here in your comments.

Stay tuned for next posts.

Mid-Career Equations

As kids we were used to being posed the question: What do you want to become? That question comes back in our mid-career for most of us, this time, posed by our own-self.

A lot of us in our mid-career take stock of where we started and how we grew till now. Most of us are happy with what we are now, though there are things, we always think we could have done better. But, the million-dollar-question is, how do we do better than this in future? While we are happy where we are, are we ok to do this for the next 10-20 years?  What kind of skills do we have? What kind of work do we want to do today to grow in the future? Should we take a step back and learn new skills? Or should we continue to run this race wherever it takes us? Do we have a choice? More importantly, are we ready to talk it out? Are we flexible in what we shall do for that bargain? Or do we think, in some magical way, those things will come to us? Ask yourself these questions. You will make a great start.

I am sure you have your own set of questions and answers. It helps to talk it out.  Decide your part of the equation first. . Say what you will not do for sure. Decide what you are ready to do.

A lot of people talk to me on their forthcoming interviews for a new job. Some ask me what they should do to start on their own. Some talk just to crib. Some think if they maintain what they have got now, for a life-time, it would be a Himalayan achievement for them. A lot of people ask me what I think about it. They ask me because I know them. They ask me because they want to talk aloud. They ask me because they find a listener in me. They ask me because I put people together to explore.

Keep your thoughts open and share what you think you are doing to decide your own future. Share your interesting ideas and anectodes on the same.