Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vision and success


A universal theme of life that transcends age, gender and hierarchy is the need to experience success. From the owner of an enterprise, the directors, managers, clerks, and workers; ladies, gents, children and every human has a destination in mind that he or she defines as success. The picture one has of experiencing the successful event actuates the individual to be active. The driving force behind a person's efforts is the need to experience success.


A related word is vision - this word refers to the end point that a person or organization intends to achieve. A clear and proper vision helps provide a direction to one's efforts.

A vision is not a day-dream! The vision is rooted in reality and based on knowledge. If a "vision" stems from assumptions - is not based on facts and figures, then the vision becomes inaccurate.

So the point is that the vision has to be workable not hypothetical.

Visions from visionaries

In contemporary India there are many visionaries who have elucidated their vision in the form of books. It is very evident that their visions are products of deep knowledge, wisdom, imagination and analysis.

A) Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad: our Ex President of India is a deep thinker on matters related to development of India. His vision is that by 2020, India can become a developed country. A book dedicated to this concept is India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium. There is also a website dedicated to this vision (click here).

B) Nandan Nilekani: he is a remarkable business leader who gave up his job as the CEO and MD of Infosys to join the Union Govt. of India, as the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). His very famous book is Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation.

Both these books relate to the words vision and success. The above highly successful and accomplished individuals have compressed their wisdom, knowledge, imagination and analysis to produce their books that verily are vision documents.

The surmise is that knowledge in its various forms like practical knowledge (wisdom) and theoretical knowledge when combined with imagination produce a vision. This is shown in the graphic at the start of the blogpost.

Mahatma Gandhi: a visionary and the Father of the Indian nation

When an empowering vision actuates an individual, he starts following up with activities. The Indian revolutionaries like Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose both shared a vision of an independent India, but had different value systems. Gandhi took to ahimsa (nonviolence) and satyagraha (non co-operation) as the means of achieving the vision of an independent India. Bose is the aggressive one who founded the INA (Indian National Army) and set to work for his vision through armed struggle. Nevertheless, the vision is what is most important for activities.

Modern day organizations, hence, work keenly on developing a common vision and sharing it with organizational members to ensure that activities are done in concert - to produce an organizational outcome that provides strength and success for the organization.

Creating and Sharing a vision is Tricky: This requires knowledge and the presentation of the vision has to be rooted in facts and figures, for the vision to be believed as achievable. Or else, the vision will be seen as a pipe dream and the organization will remain rudderless.

The shared vision influences the language, ideas, and metaphors of an organization. A vision does not lie in a vision statement, the organizational vision is reflected in the every day language, ideas, and working of the organizational members. Once this phenomenon is observed in an organization, the vision of the organization is really at work. And this is happening at many organizations.


Knowledge is the state of knowing. There are many types of knowledge - it may come from books, or by studying markets, experiencing various events in the marketplace etc. Knowledge is also encountered through serendipity. Nevertheless, the type of knowledge leads to different types of visions. Knowledge is the parent of vision.

The basic marketing fact is that marketing success is based on HABIT CREATION and pleasure experiences. Marketers strengthen habits in the market that create pleasure in customers. Corex - the no. 1 product of Indian pharma market owes its success to codeine phosphate that suppresses cough and creates calmness or pleasure. Despite various antismoking regulations and advertisements tobacco smoking or consumption continues to thrive, because HABITS once established are difficult to break. Another simple fact is that sugar and salt in combination are very tasteful and help create habits in customers. Habits are very vital for marketing success. Pleasure experiences promote the 'habit mind'. And this part of the mind is not fully guided by the 'logic mind'. Marketing is hence, based on the 'emotional mind' of the customer. It is not without reason that marketers emphasize - buying or purchasing or prescribing decisions are very much an emotional decision making process. People do business with people.

Lux - the beauty bar of filmstars - thrives on advertising where divas like Aishwarya Rai and Katrina Kaif stimulate viewers and create an emotional bond between the brand Lux and prospects. The marketing communication activity of Lux too attempts to create pleasure in the mind of viewers. This strengthens the habit behind Lux sales.
We see Aishwarya Rai with her hubby Abhishek Bacchan in the ad for Lux above.

So the point is that vision is a product of knowledge. The type of knowledge influences vision creation. And when there is a cumulative impact of various types of knowledge it produces a comprehensive vision which can see the light of the day. Knowledge creates vision, which leads to activities. The performance of activities in turn creates experiences that add to the knowledge bank - and this redefines or sharpens or fine tunes the vision. It is an ongoing process. Thanks for reading this blogpost, which I hope will influence your cycle of knowledge-vision-activities for the better. Please scroll down, click on older posts to read other blogposts. Do recommend this blog to your acquaintances!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spoiling the party!

Kunnath Pharmaceuticals is a very interesting company boldly treading gray areas of pharma product promotion (particularly with reference to their brand Musli Power, seen above) and spoiling the 'party' of conventional pharma marketers. But this interesting company has belled the DTC (Direct to consumer) advertising 'cat' for pharma products, and may be, it is showing the way forward for pharma marketers! Kunnath Pharmaceuticals keeps making headlines every now and then for their DTC dalliances and trysts with law enforcers!! But this company, mind you, will unwittingly, pioneer a new era of pharma marketing communication.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) has decided to become the party pooper! Pharma marketing has always been a grand party for doctors: wining, dining, gifting, sampling, sponsoring, freebies, package tours, cruises, conference in-stall activity that pampers doctors ... it has been real fun doing it all! The MCI has now donned the garb of a moral police and decided to penalize doctors accepting gifts more than Rs. 5000/-, only gifts up to Rs. 1000/- are ok. So I guess, what this means is you give a gift up to worth Rs. 1000/-, every time you gift. What is the frequency of gifting? There are no clear guidelines on that from MCI.

Unenviable position

MCI is in an unenviable position - they are doing the right thing by trying to discipline pharma and doctor give and take. However, where does one draw the Lakshman Rekha?! What is rightful gifting? Isn't the doctor justified by taking some 'justifiable freebies'! The MCI has made the right moves to give out the correct message to the pharma and doctor community that pharma marketing give-and-take needs to be disciplined. After all, ultimately it is the hapless patient who bears the brunt.

Hey, what about the freebies to chemists?!

Another interesting pharma market phenomenon are the freebies to dispensing doctors and chemists (medical shops or pharmacies). There are pharma products that give 1 + 3 offer! That means if the chemist or dispensing doctor purchases 1 strip he gets 3 strips free!! The patient does not get any benefit of the free goods parted by the pharma manufacturer to medical shop. The traders get the benefit. Will somebody spoil this party, enjoyed by the medical trading community, next?!

Fierce competition, spoiling the party!

Spoiling the party of pharma marketers, is the no-holds barred competition at the market level, in today's times! It is not only the PCD (propaganda cum distributors) operators who are intensely marketing their pharma wares, chemist and druggist associations too are in the marketing fray!

BCDA (Bihar Chemists and Druggists Association) has launched its company: BCDA Ltd that markets its brands of pharma drugs. They have given "targets" to chemist members on the minimum amount of their brands that need to be sold!!

UTKAL, the body representing the chemists and druggists of Odissa state (formerly Orissa state) plan to launch their company UTKAL Ltd., shortly!

So Alice in pharma wonderland is shrieking "Curiouser, curiouser!"

We have traders becoming brand marketers, trader associations becoming brand marketers, dispensing doctors patronizing select PCD and profit sharing brands, doctors are in to buying quantities of select custom brands and ensuring their consumption at chemist outlets in their hospitals, doctors are starting companies or becoming directors of pharma companies, hospital chains like Apollo have their own brands, MNCs are in to launching branded generics, PCD companies and marketers are making inroads in to the pharma market ... the pharma market mosaic is truly colorful and very intense!

In the above context, it is no wonder that prescribers are plied with everything from the MR bag! Competition is intense for the attention of the prescriber and the share of prescribing power. So can MCI really discipline medical practice in this melee!!
MCI's intentions are good, but are they sufficient measures to bring solace to the patient?

The answer is the bitter pill of DTC advertising

DTC (direct to consumer) advertising of Rx brands is currently disallowed by the Drugs and Magic Remedies Objectionable Advertisements Act, 1954. Kunnath Pharmaceuticals is always in news for contravening this act!!

Everyone dislikes DTC advertising (because it can be a major party pooper!):

  1. It will increase self medication (as if it doesn't happen now!)
  2. Doctors' will lose control and their vice-like grip over influencing consumption of pharma products (doctors will lose prescription secrecy)
  3. It will empower patients who will start asking uncomfortable questions to doctors, chemists, and pharma marketers (patients may start demanding value-for-money generic generics)
  4. Pharma marketers will have to spend more on marketing communication activities
  5. Pharma marketing will become more complex: now it is easy - just control prescribers and you are ensured of sales, with DTC advertising coming in to the game, marketing spend planning will be a new game altogether
  6. Patients will demand value: price to benefit value, patient information, counseling on side effects and other aspects of drug therapy etc.
So DTC advertising of Rx and nonRx pharma products will be the greatest party pooper and disruptive force of all times in the pharma cum healthcare market, if allowed (the Drugs and Magic Remedies Objectionable Advertisements Act needs to be modified for that to happen). MCI's moves as spoiling the party for doctors will pale to insignificance, if DTC advertising of Rx and nonRx pharma products gains scale! Doctors cannot be just plied with gifts, freebies and other packages to generate sales. Pharma marketing processes will be more intense and complex than that. In fact, if DTC advertising of Rx and nonRx products is allowed it will be a colossal paradigm shift in pharma and healthcare marketing.

The way media or the fourth estate is becoming all powerful in our democracy, the age of DTC advertising for pharma goods (both Rx and nonRx products) is not far off. The pharma marketing game will get very much complex after that.

Finally economics will rule! And DTC advertising of Rx pharma products will be allowed!!

Topline (sales) and bottomline (profits) is sacrosanct in business! Today, pharma companies are at their wit's end to increase sales. They are doing everything possible: free gifts to doctors, chemist offers (in fact, the buzz is that two big pharma companies in India have given away so much of free goods to chemists that it created 5% growth for the pharma industry, in Dec 2009!), detailing, sampling, freebies, incentives to field personnel, in-conference promotion through trade stalls, CME activities etc.

Doing the above is in fact passe!! Everyone from the top pharma companies to the regional and subregional/PCD companies are doing that. So next what!?? Where is the game changer?!

The PCD and other regional/subregional companies are making life tough for national pharma companies to grow! And to add to their woes, MCI guidelines!! So what next??

ENTER DTC ADVERTISING (of pharma Rx products), it is inevitable!!

In fact, the pharma biggies (like Piramal, Cipla, Mankind etc) will be forced to prefer DTC advertising of pharma Rx products - it will help them tame the PCD and small pharma company "beast" that is preventing them from growing further.After all, DTC advertising will not be possible for the small players.

DTC advertising of Rx products will also help them beat the MCI guidelines on gifting.

It will also help pharma marketers beat the ever increasing 'avaricious' demands of chemists and doctors. How much will you give - how much will satisfy them?

In the end, the topline and bottomline truths are the realities of pharma business. My hunch, come Nov 2011, DTC ads of pharma products (Rx and nonRx) will start!

Why?! This financial year will be a very tough year for pharma companies. MCI guidelines, intense pharma competition - PCD companies, regional and subregional companies, Piramal Healthcare and Mankind will taste some success in their OTC businesses, Rx businesses will have more competition, ever increasing free goods to chemists - so tough calls will have to be made by pharma companies seeing the challenges particularly when Dec 2010 and March 2o11 sales and profit reviews are made. Along with this media will continue to grow in Indian society.

And, then finally, big pharma companies will bell the DTC cat!! Let us watch and see my prophesies fall flat on the face or may be (if I am lucky) they will come true!! Thanks for reading this blogpost, you can kindly scroll down, click on older posts when required, and please do read all blogposts. Kindly refer my blog to your acquaintances.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hey! Why are we stuck!?

The bike in the photo is stuck in quicksand! A quicksand sucks!! And when marketers are in a quagmire one can understand the stuck feeling!

Why are we stuck?! We have the same quality, competitive practices, and product range as our competitors - particularly the new "upstarts" like Mankind and Piramal Healthcare. But Piramal Healthcare is the 4th largest pharma company in Indian pharma (retail) market (growing very fast) and Mankind is the fastest growing pharma company in India! Why are these "upstarts" becoming biggies?! Does it have something to do with the way they work?!

Organizational success depends on people behavior. Eliciting desirable responses of people in line with the organizational goals is the key focus of management personnel. To ensure that this happens managers and management inevitably use the CARROT AND STICK POLICY. In the traditional mindset of organizations, particularly when organizations were operating in a protected (nonliberalized) seller's market, the emphasis has always been on the "stick" rather than on the "carrot" to ensure appropriate employee behavior. In fact, getting a job itself was a carrot for the employee during the preliberalization days. But is it the same thing today? It is a universal lament of all companies from Pfizer to Abbott to hear that they do not get MRs! In such conditions, eliciting appropriate employee behavior is just not possible with sticks! It requires more management acumen than that!!

Today the challenges are different!

After the rolling in of the LPG bandwagon (ie., liberalization, privitazation and globalization) in India, the mindset for employee management has undergone a sea change. No more can the emphasis be on penalty based management - employee management is much more challenging! Ability to attract talent, retain talent, engage talent and align employee behavior in line with organizational needs or goals has become a major science or art of managership!!

The emphasis is on positive reinforcement

Simply put, positive reinforcement is putting the emphasis on rewards for producing the desired behavior. The entire premise of positive reinforcement for modifying organizational behavior is BEHAVIOR IS A FUNCTION OF ITS CONSEQUENCES. If the consequences are happy for an employee, there are greater chances of the employee indulging in that behavior. Hence, managers play with a range of rewards or reinforcers in the environment to produce a desirable behavioral pattern.

Managers use a range of positive reinforcers to enhance productive work behavior. These include:
  1. Approval
  2. Social recognition
  3. Money
  4. Feedback on performance
  5. Independence
  6. Participation
  7. Time-off
  8. Increased responsibility
  9. Praise
It requires manager insight to use the appropriate reinforcer. This can be understood by observing the employee behavior. The employee's verbal reaction to the reinforcer or the result of attitudinal surveys are not dependable. It is direct observation of employee behavior that helps the manager find out which reinforcer is most appropriate to produce a desirable work behavior.

Emphasis on positive reinforcers

Research has proven many times that penal management system gives a satisfaction of doing justice to the manager ie., to the manager's ego, but from business and organizational point of view, it does not create behaviors that help in realizing organizational goals. Behaviors are modified by carefully selecting positive reinforcers, giving the reward only after the behavior modification is done by the employee (advance rewards in anticipation of behavioral change does not work as per researches!), and rewarding the employee for even the smallest but desirable behavioral change, is also very important. Many employers or managements have outcome based positive reinforcers, however, the trend today, based on research, is to have behavior based positive reinforcers. Business outcomes are not based on just one person's activity in today's complex business environment. So positive reinforcers contingent on behavior rather than outcomes gives advantage to companies.

Feedback is an important input that helps in employee's behavior change. Feedback however should not be threatening! Feedback itself can be an important reinforcer.

Identifying new rewards is a creative challenge to managers - the new rewards should not hamper current reward system, as per researchers, but help employee behavior raise itself to higher organizational goals. If current reward systems get affected it leads to extinction of productive work behavior.

Why are organizations stuck or have the WE ARE STUCK FEELING!?!

Change is occurring in today's dynamic world @ speed of thought!! Disruptive forces in the market are many. Competition is cut-throat!! Many organizations in India operate with a preliberalization mindset, which is out of sync with today's business climate. This means: penal management with subservient employees was/is the organizational goal with preliberalization mindset. This is/was OK in a seller's market with protectionism (in the macro environment). But it's just not going to work in today's era.

Today, most markets are buyer's market. Employees are a part of the competitive cutting edge of a company. Hence, producing productive work behavior in employees is a key to market success. This requires more than giving the stick. It requires imaginative, sagacious and careful use of positive reinforcers to ensure employees give desirable work behaviors and prescribers provide the desirable prescribing behaviors.

Hence, organizations that are basically a part of the new liberalized atmosphere like Mankind and Piramal Healthcare who use positive reinforcers (to employees ie., the internal customers, and to the external customers like doctors, chemists and stockists) with intelligence, creativity and tact are succeeding faster in the Indian pharma marketplace, while other top pharma companies are wondering: Why are we stuck?!

Thanks for reading this blogpost, India is a very strong emerging market, with more marketers (including pharma marketers) pouring their efforts to succeed here. And as competition gets thicker, corporate mindsets are becoming more important. Earlier you had to just produce, distribute, and appoint personnel to man the operations, it was sufficient to survive and grow at a sedate pace. Today, one has to market the produce! And this is a very challenging process. Please do scroll down and read all other posts, kindly click on older posts if required, and do recommend this blog to your colleagues.