“Therapy is the new brand” Mr Homi Bhabha

In a career that’s spanned almost four decades in the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Homi Bhabha has been at helm of affairs at Wyeth and Lederle and has headed the Marketing/Sales/Distribution teams atBoots and Nicholas. He has been the past Director at Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India and is a guest faculty at leading B-Schools. In a candid one-on-one, he speaks to Brandcare on changes that the industry has witnessed and how the industry has evolved over the decades and its impact on the brand building process.

1. According to you, what has been the key change that the industry has witnessed in the last decade?

Pre 1970’s the Indian pharma market was a seller’s market. If you could get the product into the country, selling was the easiest part of the process. There was a time when traders would come to the Company’s depot to make a purchase. When Govt did away with product patents and process patent came into force, the game changed and with reverse engineering any Indian manufacturer could launch the latest molecule at a lower price. This increased the offerings in the industry and the market changed to a buyer’s market—highly competitive & crowded.

2. The natural transition of a manufacturing industry is research and innovation, with such inherent strength why hasn’t India been able to identify a potential blockbuster?

Though the process patent era helped us grow it didn’t really do wonders for the top end of innovation. From 1995, when we joined WTO, we have lacked the vision to create an opportunity for the industry on a larger canvas. Research has not been the focus mainly because it requires huge investments DPCO being stringent does not allow for healthy margins which results in R&D being neglected. If you analyze the trends in the last 15 years, there have hardly been any upward price revisions. The growth has come from volumes and new product launches. Price control in its present form is only hampering industry’s growth & government should examine alternatives to keep prices affordable.

Also India lacks the expertise for basic research & Indian companies have to lure back Indian talent working in overseas R&D labs of MNC’s, at a huge cost. Inspite of these constraints large Indian companies have increased their R&D spends & there should be some innovative products launched in the market soon. .

3. Today a brand manager is overwhelmed with data (ERP, Sales, ORG) , what are the data point he cannot ignore?

Data is needed to make crucial decisions. There is a need for specialized data analysts who can assist the marketing team in converting data into insights. Data if analyzed well can throw a lot of actionable areas. I think that a lot of data to day remains under-utilized.

Also the best data point is the customer. Nothing can be as insightful as that. Not just the good customer but a non-customer is also responsible for change and perhaps more so. Brand Managers should not be complacent with the happy customer check but should insist on the non-customer feedback too.

4. In this era of quick launches, brands get launched within weeks. What would be the ideal branding checklist?

With these speeds we are just launching products and not brands. We are in a me too market and the real differentiation will come only when the company focuses on a category and shapes up the category with better formulation, dosage forms, innovative drug delivery. Unless you have addressed a need, the customers will merely see you as another product

I feel we have a huge unrealized opportunity; we have just scratched the surface.

5.Which are the areas which needs focus in terms of brand Building?

As a company the focus should be on a therapy area. A well represented therapy portfolio defines your position. Once you pick a therapy position, the customer views you as a committed provider of solutions. The therapy evolves as a brand over a period. Brand is a promise you make. Branding is a promise you keep every day.

6. The med rep and doctor relationship has changed. Your take on it?

The rep image needs a complete makeover. Doctors do not view the representative as adding value r to his practice. He is an interruption to be handled as quickly as possible. The representative as a community is seen as lacking knowledge, dedication, expertise and problem solving abilities. He is merely a postman delivering samples & gifts today.

Training and recruitment process has to be seen with more rigor and discipline. The personnel and marketing teams in companies have to develop newer yardsticks to scout and train talent. If a company is interested in finding a future, most of what it needs to learn, it must learn from outside its own industry. Look at the other service providing industries and how they train their talent.

Training is key; additionally one must look at newer technology. Technology has to be leveraged to overcome the talent limitations, the internet and communication channels can be put to better usage.

The industry should tie up with universities and start accredited Rep programs, to attract the right talent and help improve image of reps job. And lastly it has to pay well to get the right talent. Today a graduate has numerous opportunities in BPOs, Retail Sector which are better paying.

7. Can you share with us your experience of successful brand building?

Brand building is a team effort and every person in marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, dispatch plays an active role. This ownership has to be built in each individual; though the marketing team drives the initiatives the support teams are equally important in creating a successful brand.

At Lederle we had a practice of a review meet every 3 months which was attended by all those impacting branding. This helped create a unified vision and helped build ownership for the brand.

Second most important thing is the right positioning and consistent messaging focus. You have to give the customer a single good reason to prescribe the product and stay consistent with that single good reason.

At Glaxo, when we promoted Betnelan a multi-use corticosteroid, we stayed away from the temptation to say that it’s a do-all. Instead we focused singularly on Asthma and created the unique message of 6-5-4-3-2-1, which was about the dose tapering and how it reduces the episodes. “A brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus”- Al Ries and Lura Ries

Consistency of messaging is important – Taglines and key messages should be consistent. Changing these is not creativity. Secondly the messages have to detailable If the rep is not comfortable with the detailing story he will distort the messaging.

Frequent workshops with reps to highlight the importance of consistent messaging can improve the overall percolation of messages.

8. Do you feel branding agencies are underleveraged by today’s marketers?

The success of FMCG category is because their strong partnership with their advertising agencies. They view them as their branding partners.

Today we need communication specialists who can identify the right messaging and positioning for the brand. Companies’ needs to involve their agencies in more decision making and listen to the recommendations provided. A good branding agency can add real value to the branding process. Agencies on their part should provide well researched recommendations and stand by their conviction.