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Digital can help bridge the growth gap for Indian Pharma – EY Report

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EYDI identifies the gaps as pharma companies navigate their digital journey

EY has launched its latest report, ‘Reinventing pharma sales and marketing through digital in India’, providing insights on the current state and on how digital can help bridge the growth gap for Indian Pharma as well as vision for digitisation in the industry. Based on discussions with over 15 leading pharma companies and hospital chains in India, the report focuses on their digital readiness and sales and marketing plans.

EY’s Digital maturity Index (EYDI), a five-step digital maturity framework, discloses that Indian pharma companies lag behind in their digital journey when compared to their global counterparts. The five stages of digital maturity are beginners, conservative, explorers, practitioners and disruptors. Of the surveyed companies, more than half (53 per cent) are still in the beginners stage while 40 per cent are in the conservative stage, and 7 per cent have moved toward the explorers stage. On the other hand, companies globally are now rapidly moving towards being “digital practitioners.”

Analysis of the data and insights from EYDI and industry discussions respectively, reveals that for 80 per cent of the companies, digital is still not central to their business strategy and 93 per cent are still focusing on stand-alone efforts that lack strategic context.

The challenges to digital adoption are multiple, reflecting the scope of evolution that is required. Many of the key hurdles are not technological, but organisational, cultural and regulatory. Organisational silos (87 per cent), lack of authentic and enough digital data (75 per cent) and regulatory risks (73 per cent) were cited as the top three reasons for limited organisational readiness. The industry also ranks low in stakeholder engagement through digital channels. Lack of a clear value proposition in solutions is a key gap in engagement with physicians and patients, as identified and acknowledged by the pharma executives. Often, pharma companies do not have a unified customer engagement approach or strategy for emerging customer groups such as hospitals, patient support groups, etc. Real-time disease monitoring and interventions through digital technology are yet to become a reality.

At the launch, Sriram Shrinivasan, Global Life Sciences Emerging Markets & Generics Leader, EY said, “The pharma industry is currently in a ‘perfect storm’ given pricing pressures and demands not just from the domestic market but also on the global front as well as supply side pressures. Domestic markets continue to remain a key focus area for the Indian pharmaceutical companies. To fully realise the potential of the market, the sector can no longer ignore the digital wave characterised by increasingly informed patients and physicians, new range of customers and new disruptive market entrants. There is a need to move away from the traditional ‘increase feet on street’ strategy to multiple touch points across digital platforms.”

Commenting on the findings, Hitesh Sharma, India Life Sciences Leader and Tax Partner, EY said, “There are several myths among pharmaceutical companies in India around digitization – unavailability of data, challenges to generating ROI, people resistance to digitisation and unfavourable regulations, to name a few. In reality, the forerunners are using digital effectively to capture untapped and unstructured data, making their decision more agile and robust, while staying within the realms of regulatory boundaries.”

Sriram added, “Successful pharma players are making people their strength, by “selling” the concept to medical representative and involving them early in the digitization process. Digitisation can not only enhance trust, transparency and brand equity, but also generate new revenue streams beyond the pill.”

To build customer-centric digital commercial models, pharma companies will need to adopt changes across internal and externals aspects of business. They will need to redesign their digital agenda and operating models, rethink how they attract and nurture digital talent, and consider afresh how they measure the success of their business.

The report covers many success stories of adapting to the digital world and highlights pragmatic steps that pharma companies operating in India can take to advance on their digital journey.

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