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Pharma Sales - A view from India

by A. Nair
Posted on: 20 Oct 08


The ever-evolving healthcare industry has very few constants, and the pharmaceutical sales industry is just another piece of the puzzle that is in the middle of a major transformation. For multinationals, eager to sell their drugs in different countries, juggling between scores of different languages and different laws has always proved to be a major dampener.

 Enter the medical sales representative, whose job does not entail just doling out drugs anymore. Sales reps have to understand the finer nuances of similar medications, and be able to succinctly explain the pros and cons of each option to demanding patients and health-care providers, in their preferred language.
With mergers and alliances hitting an all-time high in the pharma sector, the effectiveness of the sales force can make or break a company's financial results. Companies can't afford to have a sub par sales force. After all, these men and women are the face of the company and much of what they do and sell on the field, reflects in the company's bottomline.
The global financial meltdown has, however, put sales reps in a quandary. Much before the credit crisis made headlines, Big Pharma had already announced multiple layoffs. Not just research scientists, medical reps too were greeted with pink slips.
The situation is vastly different in India, however, where the pharmaceutical sector continues on its 10%-12% growth trajectory. Sales reps are in great demand here, where domestic drug firms continue to launch new divisions to sustain their volume growth.
Many like Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's (which bought out Germany's Betapharm for Euro 480 million) have grown their sales force by 300. Ditto for Cipla and Sun Pharma. Japanese drug market Daiichi Sankyo's $4.6 billion buyout of Delhi-based Ranbaxy Laboratories has only ensured a change in `pitch' for their foot-soldiers.
Earlier, Ranbaxy's medical representatives were the face of an `Indian multinational'. Now, the 2,100-odd field-force approach doctors as part of the world's fifteenth largest pharmaceutical company. At present, Ranbaxy's field-force promotes about 500 generic products across 10-odd divisions. The company is all set to consolidate its leadership position by expanding its existing field-force.. More innovative products are to be offered to physicians, giving them a wider choice to meet patients' needs.
It's a growing market here in India, and though it cannot be construed to be an employment spree as such, medical reps are being hired. Unlike the West, where several medications offering good margins and revenues have gone off-patent and have become genericised, emerging markets continue to grow. Firms have no bloated costs to speak of, no marketing shindigs like `Tomorrow's Christmas' and definitely no `direct marketing' spiel. For the sales representative, the changing market dynamics have ensured that they must tackle the inevitable challenges in order to keep ahead of the curve. It's time to wake up and smell the coffee.

A. Nair

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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