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Book Review: The Perfect Pill

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Industry veteran Gauri Chaudhari, co-founder, Brand Innerworld gives an in-the-trenches perspective of brand building in her first book, The Perfect Pill, which outlines the 10 steps to build strong healthcare brands


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s pharmaceutical industry had been facing headwinds on many fronts. Price controls on the domestic front and more stringent cGMP norms for export-oriented companies have squeezed the profit margins of most companies.
In addition, a more vigilant/activist patient community keeps the sector on its toes. The oft-cited ‘nexus’ between pharma companies and doctors has eroded the trust between all stakeholders. Policymakers, from Prime Minister Modi downwards, too have sought to address this trust deficit by mandating the use of generic medicines to reduce the cost of medication, while ensuring quality and value.

Backed into a corner, pharma companies find themselves on the defensive. After playing the cost game for so long, most companies find themselves unprepared to deal with this situation. To compound the situation, India is probably the only nation to have a category called branded generics.

But some companies are more trusted than others, their brands stand out in chemist shops as well as in prescription sales audits. What differentiates these outliers from the herd? Especially in a market like India, where there are copies of every medicine, vying for the mind space of the prescribing community as well as the wallets of consumers?

The answer is that these companies ensured that they continuously built and communicated their brand values to the relevant stakeholders. Whether it defined the values of the company or of individual medicines, care was taken to define the value proposition so that the company/product stood out in the market.

Is the herd condemned to remain faceless? Not if they start building their brands. And to help them get started, they may need to follow the 10 steps laid out by industry veteran Gauri Chaudhari, in her first book, The Perfect Pill. A co-founder of Brand Innerworld, a healthcare brand consultancy, Chaudhari’s belief is that brands should be are treated as brands, not generics. They need to be built on fundamental brand-building principles to stand strong in the market. The question is how?

As Ambi Parameswaran, Brand Strategist, Brand Advisory and the Founder of puts it in his foreword, ‘Can branding principles be applied to both patent-protected molecules/brands and branded generics? Often companies tend to paint a gloomy picture as far as brand marketing of branded generics is concerned. Given the fact that the same molecule is available in multiple brands, what is it that one brand can say that others cannot or will not say?’

Drawing on her 12-year stint at advertising agency FCB Ulka, as well as her experience with over 50 flagship healthcare brands in her 27-years long career, Chaudhari sets out to answer these questions with a huge ‘yes’, while also giving her perspective on the ‘how’.

This book is billed as a practical guide to brand building. It incorporates brand-building principles advocated by marketing and brand gurus including Philip Kotler, Peter Drucker, J.-N. Kapferer, Kevin Lane Keller and Indian brand-building experts like M G Parameswaran as well as examples from the pharma as well as non-pharma world. Indeed, as pharma companies strive to be more ‘patient-centric’ they would do well to emulate sectors like FMCG which have always been customer-centric.

Chaudhari sets out the 10 brand-building steps into three parts spread over 10 chapters. The first part deals with the first four steps (Know your brand, market, customer and competition) The second part deals with steps 5 and 6 (Arrive at the brand value proposition and brand articulation) while the third part deals with the last three steps (Arrive at a strategy, media, metrics and evaluation). A founding principle seems to be that pharma brands must create value for the patients and ultimately benefit them.

Chaudhari illustrates each brand-building step with examples. For example, she explains that differentiation just for the sake of it has no meaning if it does not bring unique but relevant benefits to the customers. And proceeds to illustrate this point with how Dynapar, a brand of diclofenac from Troikaa Pharmaceuticals, differentiated itself from other brands of diclofenac, like Voveran of Novartis and Diclomol of Win Medicare, by promising quicker relief. It delivered on this promise because the brand uses decompaction technology, which converts into micro- fine particles within 45 seconds. This technology ensures relief within 20 minutes, unlike other brands that lag in action. This is value-added differentiation.

The author uses non-pharma examples too. For instance, she explains how Snickers differentiated itself from the other brands by defining the ‘hunger satiety’ market differently. The brand managed to carve out a niche even though it was competing with more established brands mainly from Cadbury and Nestlé. Hero Honda is held up as a good example of market segmentation, as it was the first to exclusively position a scooter brand for women in 2006.
Such examples and snippets from Chaudhari’s corporate journey have kept readers engaged (if the readers’ comments online are anything to goby). The book is a valuable addition to the sizable literature on this topic. It has something for everyone; from management students looking for a glimpse into the healthcare sector to pharma veterans desperate to revive flagging sales.

e-Book: Rs. 415.00; Kindle: Rs 169.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd; 1 edition (1 March 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9353882516
ISBN-13: 978-9353882518

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