How is the Situation in your Organization? by shridharlolla


More Info
									                                    Pharma at Cross-Roads
                              Is it a different situation in your Organization?

                                                 Shridhar Lolla, PhD

First Draft
Needs Editing

With this article we extend our exploration into the Pharmaceutical Industry.

Key words: Indian Pharma Industry, Pharma, Pharmaceuticals, Change Management,
Business Innovation, Business Model, Operational Strategy, Describing Situation


26 Dec 2011

Sitting in the jetliner, I looked out through the window into the fog at Delhi Airport. It
was 9am, and outside it was 5 degree Centigrade. It was long, since I was into this level
of cold. My nose was painfully dry and my throat was jammed. Probably, I had
underestimated the cold and did not cover myself sufficiently, when I had taken a stroll
with Siraj and Anand, the previous night.

A curly haired person threw himself on the seat next to me. When I looked at him, he said
Hello and introduced himself. I greeted him, and introduced myself.

The gentleman was a senior executive in a leading pharma company. As we talked about
the weather and the business environment, I found his voice a bit wavering. I asked him if
everything was ok, and if he was comfortable.

He said, as he tightened his seat belt, “Yes, … but there is a little bit growing pressure to

“That’s there all the times, and the higher you rise, more is the pressure to perform
(unlike the atmospheric pressure).” I said.

"But in either case, when you fall, you are not safe," he said with a laughter.
Then he said, “True! We are worried a lot about the rush of global big pharma companies
into India and the onslaught on our market share. We went to the government to protect
ourselves. “

“Did it work?” I asked

Copyrights ©2011, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
“Yes, the policy makers were more than willing to help. But then the government put a
lid on our pricing and squeezed our margins. We gonna lose a minimum of 10% of the
top line, and more of the bottom line.” He said.
“So what are you going to do now?” I asked.

“I do not know. Even the market abroad is becoming tougher with the growing scrutiny
by the regulators.” His exasperation was clear.

“But I think your cost base is pretty low and at least till 2014, you are safe.” I recalled the
latest news item that I had read in the Economic Times.

“Patent Cliff has only been our hope. But Innovators are coming out with new strategy
and entering the generic market. Their aggression is making the Para-IV filing riskier
and costlier.” He said.

“But, surely the pipeline is long enough.” I said.

“It looks so, but low hanging fruits are already plucked. Our company is, of course,
giving a little more focus on difficult to make drugs, but given our legacy and skill levels,
there is not much hope. Remember that our understanding of chemistry and human
anatomy is only borrowed from abroad. It may mean that deep technical competency
could become a necessary condition to be in the business. ” He revealed his frustration.

“But a vast majority of India is still unexplored, and you could leverage your sales
strength. In fact, the next growth for Pharma is going to come from emerging
economies.” I suggested, as the plane took off the runway.

“Actually, we have already exploited sales too much in India, and built too bad a culture.
We need to totally revamp the assumption on which we have been selling. There is a
limit on how much you can indirectly influence the doctors and the KOLs (Key Opinion
Leaders).” He did not mince words in doubting the viability of current marketing and
sales practices.

“But the reach of your sales team can still be an advantage.” I suggested further.
He said, “We cannot beat the deep pockets and structured approach of the Big Pharma
companies. All of them may not be new to India, and they are very systematic in the way
they approach their business and they are catching up soon. If it is only about numbers of
sales hands, then they can anyway build it very quickly. We need to innovate a cleaner
sales model.”

“The future growth is in the lower tier towns and the rural areas. But we fell into the
same trap as did the IT companies in India. Most of the IT companies built their business
on market abroad and neglected the local market. Now with the global factors playing in
strongly, they are on the back foot. Similarly, most of leading Pharma players from
India, took their sight off the Indian market and jumped after the dollar market when the
Copyrights ©2011, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
Generic business opened up; but by then, others penetrated India gradually and are about
to beat us in our back yard. Most of Innovator companies from abroad have invested
hugely in understanding Indian patients and channels. And they have better insights into
Indian market than several of us. Most of Indian Pharma companies have no idea about
how to do business in tier-III and the rural areas. The issues are different and it needs
deep capabilities to identify the core issues and come out with a robust delivery model to
build a successful business there. In fact, some of prominent people in the industry feel
that standalone Indian marketing companies may be better suited to make inroads into
typical Indian rural areas.” He said, almost in a breath.

He seemed relaxed after he spoke out. It took some time for me to co-relate what he had

The airplane was now cruising at 30,000 ft in the clear sky. I could feel the heat of the
sunrays on my palms.

“How much the pressure is really on you,” I asked him after a while.

“A great deal of... the margins were too good so far. But our existing R&D and Sales
strategy is no more sufficient to hold our market position. Things are changing too fast
from all the directions. The moment we get into taking care of one issue, the other one of
entirely different nature, props up. There is a growing activism by the investors and they
are getting deeper into operational issues, if we are addressing these changes swiftly.
There is increasing scrutiny on how do we do things on day to day basis. The complete
organization is turning into operational mode. It is now a sort of 24x7.” He went a level

“Thank you!” He said, as he received the breakfast from the airhostess.

I asked the airhostess to serve me the coffee first. The breakfast plate contained hot
sandwich and black pepper sprinkled pudding. Quick sips of coffee and a few spoonfuls
of pudding made my throat clearer. By then, we were talking so freely, as if we knew
each other for years.

 As he took a bite of the cheese sandwich, he said, “Investors and the Board are no more
satisfied with our plans of new products and sales deployment. They are asking for the
type of numbers, which were never looked into before. They are forcing us to look into
the productivity numbers in the plant and the inventory across the supply chain. They are
asking about the variability in demand and about our delivery performance. They are
asking us to be more agile. Increasingly, we are realizing that we have been doing very
badly in terms of efficiencies in our plants. Our MIS now includes operational figures
like, product availability, resource utilization, inventory turns, WIP etc. Actually, it is an
eye opener… our return on asset is very bad.”

Copyrights ©2011, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
“It looks like the life in pharma would not be the same again.” He commented, as he
sipped black tea.

“I see. So you are damn unsatisfied?” I put a personal question.
He said, “Unsatisfied! I am not though. Value creation has not been straight forward in
Pharma Industry; and it was natural that some time, it opened up, bringing the
transparency in the way value is added and business is done. It seems to be coming to a
better way of doing things. We are getting into a more competitive market, significantly
removed from the mystic way each pharma company has been making money.”
He continued, “So far, whatever we did, there has not been much exceptionally great
about it. We were just lucky to be in India, were well protected by Indian trade and IPR
regulations, and tax concessions, we had low cost structure, nobody ever scrutinized our
margins, market was green field with a lot of low hanging fruits around for everybody
who betted into it…you had to just walk around, put more money and make more
money… just like trading business. So that was not a matured business landscape,
anyway. There was no pressure to do a breakthrough in R&D nor innovate the business
process. We simply copied, reengineered and did a bit tweaking to earn a lot of money
under government protection.” It was amazing to know his conclusion.

“You mean that you are looking forward to the things favorably, as they unfold.” I asked

“Yeah! I know that there is a little pain, but I would like to enjoy the journey, of running
my organization in an operational centric way. This is an entire paradigm shift. Here
onwards, Operations is going to be a new dimension in Pharma. The reality is that thus
far we were blinded by the high margins in our business; and driven it based on "R&D
and Sales" centric model. We perhaps, gave a damn step child treatment to Operations.
Now, we realize that operational efficiencies in pharma companies is shamelessly low,
compared to all other industries. Which means that we have a huge hidden capacity in our
plants, that is waiting to be realized. And we have a lot to catch up with.” He said.

“How are the business leaders reacting to the situation?” I pushed him to the strategic

He said, “Actually, things are not that smooth. We see some major changes. Some of the
first generation entrepreneurs are hanging up their boots, just at the time when the
competition is picking up and low cost advantage and local incentives are ebbing out, and
all other factors are disrupting the business. I am not sure if it is a coincidence. Though,
this is partly creating a way for consolidation in the industry and it may not be a bad idea
to exit at a good valuation.”

He continued, “In other cases, where the business is being passed onto the heir apparent,
it is causing much uneasiness to the second generation that has taken over, for they are
born in a different era and pharma may not be the high octane business that it used to be.
And so, you see the rigor, the first generation entrepreneurs brought into the business,
dilutes a bit.” He said.
Copyrights ©2011, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
“With so much of opportunities around in a growing economy, this is quite possible.” I
Then, I asked, “But do not you have local companies that are health care centric, and say
actually bent upon giving healthier lives to India. I mean those who are purpose built to
provide healthier lives through better medicines. And perhaps, that might create an
innovative local company.”

Our talks were so engrossing that I did not realize how time passed, till the cabin crew
announced landing preparation.

He said, as the plane started descending, “The days of building pharma companies with
the emotional and philanthropic objective of providing healthy lives are over. Getting
into something like that needs innovation, you would find deliberate health care purpose
companies in Bio-Pharma, Critical Therapies, Medical Devices and Diagnosis. In
Chemistry led Pharma Industry, it is mostly, pure business sense and opportunity to make
money that drives businesses. Although, there are still some of the organizations that are
hell bent emotionally to bring better medicines, make them affordable and accessible; a
vast majority of the existing pharma companies are opportunity based, running
themselves as chemical companies (bulk drug) or drug suppliers (formulation). I could
count on fingers, the companies that are trying (though struggling) to get into the
Innovator Club, where they are seriously attempting to push the boundary of cure, to
provide new and more effective medicines.”

The plane landed smoothly at Hyderabad airport, and as we walked out of the airport, we
shook hands, and wished to meet again.

As I walked towards the taxi stand, it just appeared to me as if I received bulleted status
of pharma industry in India, and wondered how things are going to unfold for Pharma,
from 2012.


CVMark handholds business leaders in creating organizations that are built to transform.

For developing, innovating and executing your business model, call Tel: +91 94480 70081 or Email details to : .
CVMark Consulting, #2304, Nandi Park, Gottegere, Bannergatta Road, Bangalore 560083, INDIA Web:

Copyrights ©2011, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.

To top