Changing pharmaceutical marketing environment demands a change in mindset for a new strategic direction.

Will the Tsunami of change hit India too?
In the matured markets of the global pharmaceutical industry, individual doctors are no longer the prime target customers. Healthcare providers, patient advocacy groups, pharmacy benefit managers, clinical assessment authorities etc have already emerged as key decision makers for use of various branded or generic medicines and other kind of healthcare facilities/ support for the patients.In India even today individual doctors are the prime target customers for the pharmaceutical companies as, by and large, they are the key decision makers for usage of medicines and other healthcare facilities for the patients.

However, a distinct change, albeit slowly though, is now noticeable within healthcare financing system in India. Slow but gradual emergence of healthcare providers with medical insurance and other related products, patient advocacy groups, standard treatment guidelines etc, are expected to bring in a radical change the way current pharmaceutical marketing strategy is formulated, which continue to revolve round the doctors, mainly. The small ripples of change, blessed by adequate dose of the Government’s financial policy reform measures, may soon get converted into a Tsunami of change, destroying the current pharmaceutical business strategy directions of majority of the companies. Rapid increase in the number of healthcare providers and other related stakeholders with attractive schemes for various strata of the civil society, will herald the emergence of very powerful groups of negotiators for products’ price and other healthcare related services. These groups will be capable to very strongly and significantly influence doctors’ products and other treatment choices.

Marketing will be a ‘composite value delivery system’:

In addition, during the coming years of post product patent regime in the country, pipelines of the domestic Indian companies for new ‘copycat’ versions of patented products are expected to completely dry up, making the price competition in the market place even more ‘cut throat’. In such type of environment Indian pharmaceutical companies will be under tremendous pressure to provide additional composite value, not just the physical products, as differential offerings to the patients, doctors, healthcare providers and other stakeholders, in and around the related disease areas. Ability to deliver such composite differential value along with the product will enable a company to acquire the competitive cutting edge.

Required leadership and managerial skill sets will be quite different:

In the new environment required skill sets of both the leaders and the managers of the Indian pharmaceutical companies will be quite different from what it is today. This will not happen overnight though, but surely gradually.

Skill requirements:

Leaders and managers with only individual functional expertise like, R&D, manufacturing, marketing, regulatory, finance etc will no longer be successful in the new paradigm. To handle new types and groups of customers, the leaders and managers will need to ensure:

• Multi-functional expertise by rotating right people across the key functional areas

• Knowledge of ‘Pharmaco-economics’ and/or ‘health technology assessment’ (HTA)

• Ability to interpret patients’ clinical benefits against cost incurred by the payors to achieve the targeted clinical outcome, especially in the areas of new products

• Insight about the thought pattern of the healthcare providers and other customers or influencers groups

• Speed in decision making and more importantly ability to take ‘first time right’ on the spot decision, which can make or mar a commercial deal.

Managing the phase of transition:

During the ensuing phase of transition in India, pharmaceutical companies should:

• Clearly identify, acquire and hone the new skill sets, which would drive the changing scenario

• Get strategically engaged with the existing public/private healthcare providers and health insurance companies like, Mediclaim, ICICI Lombard, large corporate hospital chains, retail chain chemists and others, proactively

• Drive the change, instead of waiting for the change to take place

• Ensure that appropriate balance is maintained in both types of marketing strategies, in innovative ways.


Indian pharmaceutical industry has been trapped in a difficult to explain ‘strategic inertia’, as it were, since long. It is high time now to come out of it and face the change upfront boldly and squarely to translate this challenge into a possible growth opportunity. Global pharmaceutical companies are now gaining expertise in the new ball game in the developed markets of the world. If majority of the Indian pharmaceutical companies, who are not yet used to handling such change, are caught unaware of this possible future trend, the tsunami of change could spell a commercial disaster to them. However, I strongly hope that this new and yet another challenge of change will be met with a clear and well thought out strategic initiatives to give a further boost to the growth engine of the industry.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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