My Thoughts On Technology/Pharma Featured @PharmaVoice

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Pharma’s Social Journey Can Start With Opinion Leaders

Pharma marketing needs to concentrate on opinion leaders to get their prescriptions. It is an open secret that opinion leaders in every region heavily influence Rx habits of others. If you learn how these opinion leaders favour digital and social platforms and make a start with them, it will be a good start and learning. In this context, not necessarily and always, you need to think “product promotion”. Instead think of a differentiated relationship and “top of mind recall” for your company and people.

I think this is one of the key ways to start with “pharma and social” as each rep territory will only have a handful of such opinion leaders. You can also be a bridge among such opinion leaders and, if successful, the rest will happen automatically. It might even be worthy to consider a special team for exploring and executing.

The above few points I am typing and posting from my smartphone app. Just a thought. You can add to this and we can discuss.

Setting Sales Targets


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


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.

Empowering Systems For Pharma

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I wrote about a pharma case-study here: Big Data and What they can do

Meaningful reports on time

There are many situations in pharma where quality feedback in a timely manner is of paramount importance.  All of us in Pharma believe, and know, the reports of feedback that are written during the same work session or the same day is of higher value than what is written after a week. Hence many pharma companies have the practice of daily reports or feedback then-and-there. But for a working representative it is highly difficult to write such feedback reports. He has to take the time-out and this is always difficult when he runs from clinic-to-clinic in the race of finishing the day’s work of mandatory Dr calls. (“Dr calls” being the jargon used to state the number of doctors to be seen by a rep every day of work). While the unproductive data of whom he saw and what he did can wait, the feedback from the doctors (whenever, wherever applicable) could be very productive and important. Pharma people can well imagine how this can even work with Doctors’ requests for some information or a sample and how far it can take them with the competitive advantage it can provide. In a cut-throat market any slight differentiation towards better support to the field sales force creates a good distinction resulting in huge success.

Feedback through voice calls

Imagine if the representatives can just give their feedback taken from the doctors by voice calls. These can be submitted online immediately through the phone and will be available to the management almost on real-time. Evaluate such a feedback on the merits of its quality, timeliness and also relevance of being acted upon. It could apply in such a way that that one of the three or all the three could be of use in any given situation.  I am sure the field sales force people will be highly motivated to use such a system and also the results will be much more realistic feedback with better quality and will be timely too.

The system of voice call feedback that I am referring to is being used today by other industries for taking “customer feedback” in an audio form and there is enough proof to say that the feedbacks are getting better going by the number of customers who opt for such systems. I am not even suggesting that Pharma take a leap and start with such systems for “adverse reaction reporting” or for other patient feedback, which needs to be seen through the eyes of regulatory and legal departments in Pharma. But they can sure use it with their representatives for market feedback, which will stand them in good stead and allow them to learn a lot to fine-tune their market strategies.

There are quite a number of options available within these systems and everything is customizable. One can use just a phone for the voice call or through Internet or through APPS or through a smartphone APP with Internet. So it will fit many situations in many ways.

Incremental efforts yet effective results

Pharma has to think of new systems in the coming years to reduce the barriers of reporting and equip their field sales forces in a better manner in this digital age.  Many such systems are simple, yet effective and can offer solutions for many of Pharma’s pain points today.  Pharma can take incremental steps to try out newer ways and solutions towards a better future.

Feel free to post your comments on what you think.

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.

5 Ways Pharma Can Start Their Digital Learning

When I say digital in this post, digital=Digital tools like smart phones, computer, tablets etc. that can be used with various digital channels for use within a group in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner.

Transforming your organization towards a digital learning will make you highly successful. I always recommend that an internal start gives you confidence and, during my discussions, I see people prefer the same.

Where to start your digital journey is always a big question. There are too many areas where one can start and paralysis by analysis is often the end-result loosing important time without making a head-start. This post will indicate 5 areas that you can start your digital journey and learn it better.

  • Campaigns: Pharma is already used to campaigns. The campaign length varies between 45days and six months depending on what you wish to achieve. Campaign details generally involve products, samples, reports and priorities for that period. Pick digital tools which will allow you to do all the activities of your campaign. Map the campaign parameters with the tool features. You will find that your campaigns are run much better through the digital tools than you ever imagined. This can give you a rich learning.
  • Training: Pharma is used to continuous training. They train their marketing people on detailing, soft-skills, reports and product knowledge. These can be done easily and wonderfully with the digital tools available in today’s world. For example, a 2-minutes video-learning pushed through an app reaches people instantly and will be received and learnt better. Imagine the effect of such small doses of training without fatigue.
  • Product knowledge: The most important part of a successful company is the product knowledge imparted to their field people who face questions from customers when they go to promote those products. Product references, features and benefits are the other important areas that I can think of.  These can be effectively delivered through digital tools and channels for ready-reference and repeated use. This will go a long way in improving the whole image of the company in the market place.
  • Communication: The amount of money that is spent and the toil for an effective communication system with reports, feedback and answering queries between the various departments within the company is huge. Digital tools can make it more cost-effective, real-time and bring in a lot of synergy.
  • Sales: Finally the sales predictions, forecasts, targets, revisions, achievements and incentives. I am sure everyone will cooperate and be enthusiastic about making these go digital as a company lives and breathes sales systems and going forward with better tools will pave the way for a great transition into the digital world.

So without going all over the place, pick the digital transition using the familiar systems that are already working well. By taking these systems and familiar work-flows into digital tools and combining them with the digital channels, you will make a great start in understanding the efficiency, newer opportunities and pitfalls, if any.

These 5 things will give you a start to prepare eventually to move into a complete digital strategy with your employees, partners and customers.

What do you think? Feel free to comment.


Technology For Medical Representatives

This article was written for “medical representatives” as target audience. If you are not a sales representative or have sales representatives in your organization, you can skip this post.

Medical Representative : A medical representative is a title given to one who is hired by a pharma company to take care of its business in a given geographical area. Though the designations vary with various companies, the basic job remains the same, that of a medical representative. Hence let us use this as a basic term to describe the job function.

Background/Context of the job:
The job of a medical representative is tough to define. It is not limited to but includes the following basic realities:
      The job is to primarily maximize the prescriptions from doctors in that geographical area for the chosen brands of the company.
      Though companies have policies, guidelines, training and recommendations to the reps, generally they are inadequate in reality. Reps learn a lot from peers and also from their own experience in the field. The managers who work with them try to pass on and impart as much as possible both in the best interests of the company and the individual. This is a sound ecosystem that functions.
      Pharma reps who can think and translate their thoughts into new ways of approaching the business are free to do and hence they do well in creating business and also either go up the ladder or get better opportunities from other companies.
      Purely by experience, reps know their territory well and where business comes from. In line with the company’s policies and using their own innovativeness they arrive at a work plan for each day and execute it for productivity and maximizing the business.
      The work pattern involves both appointment calls and walk-in calls of doctor as customers and then once inside the chamber of a doctor the job involves prescription oriented detailing, sharing samples, documents, campaign gifts and so on.
      The reps learn to factor all the territory knowledge that they have into their plan for time management.
      They also do mass detailing in hospitals, medical colleges or with resident doctors(interns and PGs in medical college hospitals).
      Experienced reps learn to visit chemists to get more information on doctor’s prescribing habits, availability of stocks, competitor’s information etc. These also involve timings as chemists prefer to see and are willing to have a chat only when they don’t have customers to be attended to. Such information gathered help in fine-tuning objectives while visiting doctors either to request for more prescriptions or to thank them adequately to continue those prescriptions to maintain business.
      Reps also fulfill other requirements of the company like weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual sales reports, campaign reports of sales and samples, feedback reports, expense reporting, other special budget expenses etc.
      Maintaining a primary sales(company to distributor) and secondary sales(distributor to retailers) along with monitoring of take-backs(like expiry) and so on comes as a part of the job.

      Any knowledge, training skills, promotions and your career depends solely on how good you do this fundamental job in your early years and how well you have imbibed them into yourself to demonstrate when required.
The above is not a complete list but an indicative one. May be one can add much more that goes into making a successful medical representative. In a nutshell, a medical representative is trained to be his own business guy within his territory and the skills he develops stand him in good stead for life.
Current Status
Before writing this article, I interviewed a few national level sales managers of some pharma companies who are supposed to have moved the digital way and some have gone even mobile on it. But to my disappointment, I found most of these companies have bought bloated software at a big cost and are stuck either with the implementation or with obsoleteness after they had implemented with no way of forward integration without incurring huge costs again. Also buying costly software is not a solution for smaller companies.
Cloud Computing Technology that can be useful for medical reps
Read the following tools and imagine their places within the job functions of a medical representative. When you imagine, note that all these tools are available today independent of device and location. In other words, one can access these anytime, anywhere and through any device that is connected to Internet. You do not need powerful hardware(laptops etc) and also you need not buy any software. You can scale up or scale down your requirements. This would mean you can use it if you are a 5-reps company(SME) or a 2000-reps company(Enterprise). Size does not matter. You pay for what you use. You can use computing like electricity or water from a tap. You take a subscription and use everything. You can customize to your format. And much more.
I have categorized all the functions of a medical representative into these six major categories.

Data Storage and Management: Examples of this could be MSL(must see list) that every territory has which is a customer database, Chemists lists, rankings, all kinds of reports, detailing tools, detailing stories to go with it, photos/videos of CMEs/medical camps, expense and stock accounting, HR related documentation and all kinds of backups needed. All these can be available a click away.

Communication Tools: These include all your communication tools to be used within your team, with the rest of your company colleagues, partners and also customers.
Publication Tools: These can be used productively and innovatively in many situations in a representative’s life and business like training, updating trends, opinions, networking etc.

Information Management & Search Tools:Representatives are required to stay ahead with knowledge of current affairs, knowledge with respect to therapy areas and product category. Reps can use such tools to stay ahead of market. They can search for information and also they can let information come to them through such tools. While handling important business contacts, such information on customers and other relevant market news can provide the much needed competitive advantage.

Personal Information Manager: A rep needs to be a savvy person to plan his work and work his plan. Juggling personal and professional life can be a big task. The job demands a lot of personal time and accountability in handling the given area. So some of the easy tools can help them do things productively to stay ahead and achieve the much needed work-life balance.

Business Tools: Remember we talked of innovative ways. These tools will make the rep innovative in how he handles his customers, territory and the business. They can arrange web conferencing for some key clients with HO, collaborate well with distributor friends and manage invoices and payments in a much better way.

Each one of these tools can be mapped to existing ways of work of the representative. Organizations can integrate these in a swift and productive manner to have real time data and gain immensely from introducing such tools from the ground level of a representative.
Understand Cloud which is a boon today from the business perspective and optimize business processes for maximum efficiency. Once you map productivity and efficiency of your organization with traditional IT systems vs cloud, you will see the value in Cloud services.
What do you think? Feel free to comment. You can reach
me at or @varadhkrish

Originally posted on

Where Pharma Can Start With Social Media

When people talk of “Pharma and Social Media” they think of replacing in-house reps. They think “out-of-the-box”.  My idea of pharma and social media is completely different.
I am using the term “doctors” to denote medical practitioners in this post. In the Indian context, pharma generally refers to them as Doctors. Doctors include all kinds of medical practitioners. The general practitioners, physicians, surgeons, all specialists (including dentists) and super-specialists. In short, anyone who can legally prescribe your medicine to the patient. 
How Pharma Sells
In pharmaceutical sales, the most important customer is the doctor. Though patients buy and use the medicines, it is the doctor who prescribes it and hence doctors are their customers. Pharma companies try and visit as many doctors as possible through their representatives. In general, the numbers of visits to such doctors determine the results. Top-of-mind-brand-recall means more prescriptions. Hence they also try as many numbers of visits as possible to doctors. The whole of pharma strives to increase the time they spend with doctors who wield a lot of power in prescribing their brands.
Quality Time With Doctors
Some doctors see reps every day, any time during their practice hours. Some see on specified time every day. Some see on specified time on specified days. Some do everything to avoid meeting reps. The amount of time that reps get to spend with doctors is severely limited today. So there is an ever-shortening of the time that you get to spend with doctors to influence their prescriptions.  I don’t know how many companies have a record of the average time spent inside the doctor’s cabin by their reps. We used to have such parameters long back. This was used to plan the length of the detailing story and also the number of products to be promoted. Even patients, the paying customers, don’t get to spend quality time with their doctors. 
Pharma faces major challenges with their sales forces today. I already wrote about what plagues the industry. Reps today are not able to manage even the normal list of activities that makes the job.  Unless your reps are extremely smart in spending quality time with the doctors and influence them, you have no chance of winning in the crowded market place today. 
My Prescription
You have to fundamentally change how you sell your products in the future. The model of tens of thousands of reps meeting doctors will not go away over-night but greatly reduce in the future. Find out how much time doctors spend online. You will be surprised it is much more than the time they spend with representatives. Go where your customers go. Online. Its not a quick fix for growth. But the way to the future. 
It is high time that the companies learn to use Social Media tools to supplement and strengthen what they already have through their reps. Pharma can use social media tools and do the following to start with
  • Opening more doctors doors
  • To gain valuable time of doctors (supplementing visit time of reps)
  • Relevant exchange of information with quality conversations (share more clinical and informative data surrounding your products)
  • Strengthen your rep-doctor relationships (because of SM activities the prescription push will become more effective and also the time spent will stretch during visits)
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Train your reps better
  • Improve productivity of reps

This list is only indicative. We are working on a list of objectives, tools and actionable items and possibly a pilot program soon. 
What Next
Using new age tools with old strategies is a sure recipe for disaster. So you need to learn new ways of doing things to use social media tools. I believe Pharma is capable of bringing about “game changing” practices. It just needs to dedicate more time, energy and money. 
My thoughts have been shaping up well for actionable results. You can keep a track of it here
 Feel free to comment. Call me and I will be happy to talk to you. 
Originally posted on

Build Your Brand Series : Indian Pharma Domestic Formulations Business

While discussing Social Media Marketing with Indian Pharma companies, I am revisiting Indian domestic formulations business as a whole. I am sharing some of the thoughts and discussions here.

There are two kinds of thought processes that happens when Indian Pharma companies add products to their domestic market portfolio.

First, there could be an established market for a molecule and companies introduce their brand to take a share of already existing market for that molecule. This kind of launch happens when a company is purely looking at turnover increase and wants to achieve the same through me-too products. Most small companies will follow this kind of launch for their growth. In such launches, there is no need for concept selling. One has to convert existing business to their brand through their relationship and strength in the market. Most of the times, the brand recall is what brings in the success by way of prescriptions. So my discussion forward is how social media tools can be used for this kind of objective.

Second, the molecule is new and has great potential and companies want to cash-in on the first-mover advantage. This kind of launch is done by companies who have the resources to know what is happening at a global level and also have access to resources to do concept selling. Such marketing involves establishing the new molecule concept against existing molecules appropriately mapping them to the indications and also substantiating the same through quoting relevant literature to convince the doctors to convert and try the new molecule. Obviously, here Social Media can do much more to support a company succeed as SM tools can be used in multiple ways here.

There is a new discussion which goes as follows:

An existing molecule may have more than one indication. Many a times companies who go by literature and promote the molecule against a few indications fail to get feedback on how it is actually used. Though companies promote it in a way they know, there could be other interesting ways it is used by doctors by way of experience in their practice. It also happens that the missed indication is a greater chunk of market and this is being missed by the companies. My discussion hovers around how Social Media tools can be used for such feedback and validating the feedback before acting upon the same.

These are the three kinds of situations that I have in my discussions where Social Media tools can be used in Indian domestic Formulations business. Are there more situations? Feel free to add them by way of comments.

Stay tuned here to know more about Social Media tools and discussions mapping them to the objectives.B

Originally posted on