Bayer Consumer Health aims to reach 100 million households over the next five years in India

Sandeep Verma, Country Head, India, Bayer Consumer Health Division talks about the change in consumer preferences, emerging trends, evolving mindset due to the pandemic, as well as plans for driving business growth, in an exclusive interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair

What is the market size of consumer health in India?
Today, India is amongst the top 10 consumer health markets in the world and is the fastest-growing market, globally. We believe that by 2029, India will become one of the top three markets in the world. Bayer Consumer Health aims to reach 100 million households over the next five years in India. Our brands are already reaching roughly 40 million consumers. So, the plan is to more than double this reach and expand access for both the urban as well as rural consumers.

Tell us about the shifts and trends in consumer healthcare. How has the pandemic impacted growth in this space?
The pandemic has drastically reset our priorities. Consumers in India are becoming increasingly health-conscious and proactive about their health, both in terms of prompt treatment of the existing conditions and preventive treatment to boost immunity and wellness. However, to enable effective self-care, there is a need to provide reliable health information as well as innovative OTC products catering to daily health needs.

Two big needs have emerged during the pandemic amongst the consumers in India. Firstly, the level of stress has increased a lot and so have stress-induced headaches. Secondly, the need to build our immunity and energy levels and proactively protect ourselves is a lot higher now. In order to meet these evolved healthcare needs, we have recently relaunched our core brands Saridon and Supradyn.

Saridon, the headache relief solution, relaunched with ‘Sar dard chhupao nahi, mitao’ positioning itself as the first line of defence for relieving headaches. The genesis of the campaign lies in its category-first insight that, young adults today face frequent stress-induced headaches caused by the increase in responsibilities and associated factors like WFH-led screen time increase, financial stress, etc. However, they choose to silently suffer from the pain instead of acting on it. Leveraging its iconic five-decade-long legacy, the household staple brand’s campaign appeals to the heroism drive of the resilient young Indians to make Saridon’s innovative triple-action formula their secret ally in finding relief from their headache.

Further, Supradyn was relaunched with an improved formulation containing 5X zinc and 12 essential vitamins for greater energy and immunity. The brand’s first-ever consumer campaign ‘Sahi poshan harr din, khane ke saath supradyn’, is rooted in the insight that an average Indian diet meets only up to 70 per cent of one’s daily nutrition requirement, according to nine out of 10 doctors and nutritionists from urban India, as per a recent survey conducted by us.

Which are the fastest-growing categories in this sphere? What are their key drivers?
Overall, the industry growth during the pandemic has largely come about from the nutrition category, especially from the immunity segment, with the increase in demand for immunity-boosting products.

In general, the pandemic has brought a heightened focus on health and nutrition, particularly in line with ensuring adequate immunity and energy levels to tackle present-day health challenges. It has changed the way in which consumers seek care with individuals now increasingly opting for self-care solutions, so that they can take charge of their health. One challenge that the industry needs to work on more, is to also provide consumers with better quality of information which can lead to more responsible self-care.

As we are trying to leverage this higher health awareness and the greater need to find self-care solutions, we are also trying to provide consumers with the best-quality information which can lead to better choices. Both our re-launches – Saridon in June and Supradyn in September – are steps in that direction of combining the right products with the right information.

We will also continue to work on bringing innovations in digital technology that can transform self-care by empowering people to maintain and improve their health. The widespread adoption of technology gives people the information, support and convenience they need to manage their health more proactively. Digitalisation can thus be leveraged to provide individuals with high-quality health information.

How is Bayer strategising to optimise the growth potential in consumer health? Which are its focus areas and why?
At Bayer’s Consumer Health division, our vision is to make self-care for a better life a reality for billions of people around the world through everyday healthcare. We touch billions of lives all over the world, helping provide them with safe, convenient and effective daily health solutions to treat minor illnesses and improve their lives.

The launch of the Consumer Health Division in India in May 2021 has received a positive response from the consumers. In India, the division currently offers ten brands, with segments focussed on pain management, nutrition, dermatology and allergy. We will be driving these four categories as our major focus areas in the coming years. We aim to drive our expansion via a digital-led approach and increased accessibility by making the product available at multiple touch points. Our goal is to leverage our portfolio in both the urban and rural markets with a focus on enhancing accessibility, crafting new products, and also raising awareness on self-care. Over the next five years, Bayer aspires to expand access to everyday health and reach 100 million households in India with our self-care products. This is in line with Bayer’s overarching vision of ‘Health for all, Hunger for none,’ and we are focussed on improving human lives while ensuring nobody is left behind along the way.

How has the regulatory and operating environment for Consumer Health changed in India?

Effective laws and well-defined regulations are essential for the smooth functioning of the OTC market in India so that consumers can be well-informed of the relevant health information, the right kind of responsible self-care in line with their needs. These are necessary to define preventive health options as well as those that do not require a prescription. The industry bodies have been closely working with the health authorities to put together the OTC Policy for India.

Globally, information on each product within the OTC space is available, but India still needs laws mandating defined regulations for OTC medicines. This will help circumvent challenges in the Consumer Health space while also supporting responsible consumer behaviour and providing a level-playing field for all companies operating in consumer health. Further, the OTC space in India is still at a nascent stage. The penetration across all these categories in the sector is still low. The core task we will endeavour to do is make the OTC market size bigger across the categories (pain management, nutrition, etc.) that we are present in. Our focus is to get more consumers to adopt these categories so that they can proactively manage their health and consequently also reduce the stress on our primary healthcare systems.

What are the most important steps that need to be taken by both, stakeholders and regulators, to streamline this segment and spur growth?
As previously mentioned, there is a need for effective laws and defined regulations for the smooth functioning of the OTC market in India. In India, our contributions are closely linked to national priorities and we aim to contribute towards ‘Digital India’ through the creation and delivery of digital technology services across crop science, pharmaceuticals and now consumer health, with a focus on increasing access to information and tailored solutions for farmers, patients and consumers. Bayer Consumer Health also plans to launch a national self-care knowledge service which will be a digitally-enabled solution, backed by scientific expertise, to empower consumers with uninterrupted access to credible self-care information.

We have announced the launch of a Self-Care Council in India. The focus of the council’s discussions and work will be on identifying how the creative industry can address pressing topics including misconceptions about health, brand sustainability and to inspire and generate interest with other companies as well as to partner in addressing global challenges in consumer health. Educating our consumers remains a key global and national priority while we deliver self-care solutions. We are excited to bring this council and key insights and learnings generated from its global experiences, to India.

BayerBayer Consumer HealthSandeep Verma
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