Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Sweet prospects in selling bitter pills
Nalini Ranjan

THE concept of pharma marketing has been changing over the years, particularly after the ushering in of the era of liberalisation and globalisation of the Indian economy. The market for pharmaceuticals has expanded tremendously in the past few years. At present, the Indian healthcare industry is worth about Rs.1,00,000 crore and accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the Indian Gross Domestic Product(GDP). It is expected to register a growth of 15 per cent and become worth more than 1,76,000 crore by 2006.

This sector is on the track of high growth, both in terms of volume and sophistication. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has promised to provide minimum healthcare facilities to all by 2005. The Indian pharmaceutical sector is likely to witness major changes in the wake of certain GATT (General Agreement of Trade and Tariff) and WTO (World Trade Organisation) recommendations. For example, it will be essential for every pharma company to set up its own Research and Development laboratory. Since small pharma companies will not be able to bear this cost, they will have no other option than to do go in for mergers or joint ventures. In the past, MNCs have faced constraints in launching new products because of strict patent laws governing their home countries. They are eagerly awaiting new patent rules in 2005, which will provide greater freedom to introduce new and advanced portfolio products. In view of this scenario, a career in pharma selling holds out bright prospects.

Training talk

About one lakh MRs are right now working for various pharma companies in India. Despite this, there is a great dearth of training institutes for them.

Some of them are:

  • Indian Institute of Medical Representative (IIMR),(affiliated to Indraprastha Technological University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh), D - 354, Vikas Marg, Laxmi Nagar (near Subway), Delhi - 92; iimr@indiatimes.com, www.iimrworld,com

  • Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, Mumbai

  • National Institute of Pharmaceutical and Research (NIPER), Mohali, Punjab

  • Pondicherry University, Pondicherry

(The list is not exhaustive)

Scope in sales

Pharmaceutical companies broadly fall into three categories--- the MNCs and top Indian players, the middle-rung companies with an annual turnover of Rs 40 to Rs 50 crore and the local companies with no national network.

Most medicine sales are done on the prescription of doctors. The doctor is thus the key deciding factor in the sale of pharmaceuticals. All pharmaceutical companies thus try to tempt doctors into prescribing their drugs.

Pharma selling is normally done at two levels by the Marketing Team(MT) and Product Management Team (PMT). The basic difference between the two is that the MT works directly for the sales promotion of various products of the company. The team members personally meet the doctors and chemists in their areas. The PMT indirectly works for promotion the sales of the company. They basically focus on brand promotion of the products. For this, they use various modes of publicity like advertising, and holding workshops and seminars for doctors and chemists etc.

According to a survey, pharmaceutical companies spend about 35 per cent of their funds on the brand promotion and sales promotion of their products. The entry level post in the marketing team is that of a medical representative (MR).

Role of medical rep

The role of a MR is like that of a beat constable. He knows every doctor and chemist in his area and he is the backbone of any pharmaceutical company. His job is to convince doctors to prescribe the products of his company. For this, he also offers incentives and gifts, literature and free product samples to doctors.

MRs also meet chemists of their area from time to time to check and promote sales. Normally, a B.Sc degree is a must to become a MR. However, big pharmaceutical companies like CIPLA hire people from the arts stream also. But most leading firms and MNCs still demand a M.Sc, B. Pharma, M. Pharma, MBA or Animal Husbandry degree or a qualification in Pharma Management . Primarily a field job, it is preferred more by men than girls. Males comprise 80 per cent of the professionals working with various pharmaceutical companies. However, in recent years there has been more influx of girls in this field.

Since the job profile involves convincing doctors in various medical specialisations about the products of the company, an MR needs to have excellent communication skills and a pleasing personality. Good understanding of the product is also essential.

A diploma in pharmacy also makes a person eligible to open a chemist shop.

Money matters

In a good pharmaceutical company, a MR gets anything from Rs 7000 to Rs 15,000 at the entry level. Apart from this, he gets bonus, PF, gratuity, insurance cover, LTA, medical allowance and other benefits.

``The combination of B.Sc (Medical) with MBA or B.Pharmacy with MBA is the most sought after qualification to get a job in top-notch pharmaceutical companies, which are offering a start of Rs 15,000 a month. Most are offering a package deal for the medical representatives. Middle-rung companies are offering a basic of between Rs 6000 and Rs 7000 under a system of commission, wherein the MRs can earn additional incentives in lieu of sales target achieved,'' says an expert.

On the basis of performance, a MR can rise to higher positions like Area Manager, Regional Manager, Zonal Manager, Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, GM, Vice-President, President and CEO of the company.

In the PMT, the entry level post is that of Product Executive(PE). In a good company, a new entrant gets between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. Normally, they are work at the headquarters of the company or in metropolitan branches. Their basic job is to promote the brands and image of the company. They also create a lobby of prominent doctors in the favour of their company. On the basis of performance, a PE can rise to senior posts like Product Manager, Group Product Manager and Brand Manager of the company.

With inputs from Neelam Sharma

corporate Chat

"Entry of MNCs means more jobs in pharma sector"

S. K. Singh
S. K. Singh

"THIS is the most upcoming field after software," says S. K. Singh, Chief Operating Officer, Indian Institute of Medical Representatives (IIMR). Excerpts from an interview:

What are the future prospects of pharma selling in India?

At present, about 23,000 pharma companies are operating in India whose annual turnover is about Rs 33,000 crore. After the implementation of the patent procedures of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a lot of multinational pharmaceutical companies will come to India for business. Many are expected to set up joint ventures and enter other types of alliances. The turnover of these companies may thus go up to Rs 67,000 crore and increase two to three times in next year. There will thus be a great demand for trained people in this field in the coming days.

What type of courses is your institute offering?

Our institute is a pioneer in this field. Its inception took place in 2000 when there was no other institute of its kind in the country. We are offering MBA (Pharma Business Management), PG Diploma(Pharmaceutical Marketing), BBA (Pharma Business Management) and diploma courses in Pharma Management. We cover almost all aspects like principles of marketing, business communication, phrmaceutical marketing management, consumer behaviour, pharma advertising and sales promotion management, health education and community pharmacy, pharmacology etc. to prepare our students for working with top pharma companies.

What are the placement prospects?

We give 100 per cent placement guarantee. Normally, our students are picked up by pharma companies after on-campus interviews. Our institute has been adopting new and innovative methodology to assist the student community in fulfilling their objectives and aspirations. Whether it is pre-joining orientation, mentorship plans, learning through out-bound programmes, internships and field assignments, our aim is to keep the students in sync with the needs of the job market.

Apart from basic qualifications and professional training, what other qualities can make a difference in this field?

Confidence, experience, a good rapport with doctors and persuasion skills can play a major role in achieving success in this field. There are many examples where medical representatives have reached top positions in their pharma companies. To name a few D. S. Brar has become the CEO of leading pharma company, Ranbaxy, Ganesh Nayak is now the CEO of Zydus Cadila.

Nalini Ranjan