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Redesigning market forecasting

Dr R B Smarta
Thursday, July 3, 2008, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Indian pharma market has characteristics of both matured and emerging markets. Many big pharmas in India might find out that their heritage brands are almost providing them 40 per cent to 50 per cent top line. On the other hand, emerging big as well as medium size pharma companies depending on their strengths give an assurance of establishing new brands as quickly as possible.

On one hand the market leader does not have more than 7 per cent of the size of the market which mean the market is fully fragmented, on the other hand, while you will observe that the stiff competition is amongst those top few or amongst top and bottom few. Similarly, like an emerging market, there is also an emergence of new players in every segment. So there are progressive, non-progressive, stagnant, delaying clusters. A tendency towards matured and fragments of segments.

Having these characteristics, you will find that India not an easy market for marketing any of your product / brand.

Overtime, it has been seen that characteristics of 600,000 to 800,000 western medium practicing doctors along with 600,000 alternate medico doctors make the marketing processes more complex. It's possible that one physician is perhaps met by 100's of companies and the other one is not even met by anybody. Omission and commission, inclusion and exclusion, selection and rejection of any physician is at the moment highly subjective and does not have any scientific base.

Do marketers in pharma look for parameters of customers like a physician and validate them even before thinking about the competitive segment mapping? Do they even think of looking at differentiating their brand amongst those whom they are meeting or not meeting? Do they assess their needs or do they take a safer route of indications, dosages, fragrances, pricing and all other inert advantages of the brand as part of his differentiation?

In order to address these ground realities and the needs of this complex market like India, the marketing process has to be redefined.

Let's start at the level of forecasting which is the origination of any pharma business. Are there any methods today which are scientific and if they are scientific which tools companies are using today other than wisdom of crowds. Recently, a book written by James Surowiechi named Wisdom of Crowds outlines ways to new definition of prediction markets. However, it's an important issue to look at from pharma viewpoint. The issue is whether should I concentrate on experts and their opinions or do I have wisdom of crowds and develop prediction of markets. A few use wisdom of crowds and expert opinion together while forecasting and targeting for their financial year. People call it, top down or bottoms up approach but it's just a sheer compromise between aspirations of top and realities of bottom. This is because this process of forecasting and targeting is not starting at the right base.

First base:The base is a segment, base is a target customer, base is a prescribing and non-prescribing customer, and base is a prescriber.

Second base:The base is the realization of prescriptions, base is the function of availability of prescribed products, base is the function of above average and below average productive territories. Hence, considerable analysis of both sales and marketing need to be carried out in forecasting and targeting.

Third base:Besides these internal parameters, one has to also look at epidermology, algorithms and protocols of our physicians and hospitals in terms of treating their patients and pharma marketing. Forecasting and targeting has to be scientific. Moreover, prediction should also consider what would happen on the basis of disease burden which a particular Country or State or the Territory is carrying on.

Fourth base:In India, every State is governed by its own infrastructure in terms of healthcare, retail outlets, pharmacists and also enforcement of regulatory mechanisms. States have different patterns of income and education of patients or even those healthy people who may fall sick.

Realization of this last variable is manifested in the different patterns of demand of even one brand in different States of India. You will find that few brands are so heavily marketed towards a particular State as if the brand does not even exist in few States. There are many brands which have more than 60% to 70% of consumption in just two or three States of India. For most of the organisations, the rule of average prevails, although there could be a few exceptions.

A good analytical tool can be evolved by each organisation on the basis of relevant bases with weightages and a software can be prepared to measure that wisdom of crowds. It can be authenticated with the experts (customers) opinions to arrive at the statistical forecast. IT savvy company can evolve its own method to forecast. It is possible.

As the realization of this potential forecast, achievement of target is solely in the hands of those who need a different marketing dimension. They play a dominant role in arriving at and achieving the forecast or potential.

The strength of pharma industry is field force, but today it is becoming a limitation of pharma industry for its growth. Should we not really redesign the forecasting and targeting method and have a standard operating procedure so that every organisation, on the basis of these SOP's, develops at least one year realizable future for themselves so that the process of marketing starts with the right base to acquire relevant market size and market share for themselves!

(Dr. R B Smarta is managing director of Interlink, a business and management consulting firm)


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