Kezzler has created a unique programme which helps in eliminating counterfeit drugs. Dr Avi Chaudhuri, Chief Business Officer and Head of India Operations, Kezzler talks about the programme, its USPs and more, in an interaction with Usha Sharma
Counterfeit drugs are a big challenge in the pharma sector. What are your solutions to counter this problem?
Kezzler has a diverse set of solutions to meet virtually every brand protection required for the pharma sector. Broadly speaking, our solutions can be divided into two areas.
The first solution is consumer empowerment. Kezzler was the first company in India to set up a robust point-of-sale (POS) verification system to empower consumers to authenticate their medicine right after purchase. Each saleable unit protected by Kezzler contains an encrypted alphanumeric code generated by our patented cryptographic algorithm. The consumer can text the code to a dedicated number or scan the 2D barcode on the medicine packs. Either way, a verification message arrives on the handset immediately, providing both assurance as well as any other pertinent information that the brand owner wishes to transmit.
The second solution that Kezzler offers is aimed at the brand owner. The idea is to empower them via their own personnel to survey the market place in order to find and document instances of counterfeit medicines.
Over the years, we have developed a large set of tools and technologies to assist our customers and to ensure that their brands are fully protected. It is our view that the fight against counterfeits must be a shared cause. On the one hand, consumers need to be encouraged to verify their purchases, but at the same time, the brand owner must undertake robust initiatives on their own to combat this menace and protect the equity of their brands. We provide a highly customised set of solutions that are tailored to each individual client in order to meet their risk mitigation objectives.
How effective is Kezzler’s technology ‘PASS’ SMS? How is it designed to suit the pharma sector?
The Kezzler PASS programme with Pfizer is a great success story that is now being expanded to more products and territories. We currently protect some of the biggest and most important drugs for Pfizer, including Viagra, Lipitor and Norvasc. In order to protect its consumers and the brand, Pfizer had experimented with different solutions over the years, all well documented in the public domain. Pfizer then relied on Kezzler’s global experience of more than a decade in combating the counterfeit menace to put together an exceptional solution, with fantastic results. The Kezzler programme was launched a couple of years back based on a unique tamper-evident label with our encrypted security code and various other protective features.
The combination of technologies that we brought to bear on this programme representing both consumer empowerment through POS verification as well as trading partners throughout their supply chain, has resulted in substantial escalation of genuine sales, providing an excellent return on investment (ROI). Most importantly, customers are no longer being duped into buying fake medicines.
What is the USP of your products? Are they cost effective solutions as well?
There are two broad areas that encompass our unique selling point — technology and service. In terms of technology, one of our USPs concern code security. The unique identifier (alphanumeric security code) that we apply on each product is created by our patented cryptographic algorithm. The most important aspect of this platform is that none of the codes generated by our algorithm are actually stored in a database for future look up. Instead, when we receive a code for validation from a consumer, agent or inspector we simply run the algorithm to determine if the code was generated by us. If so, the validation test passes and the code (along with the product) is determined to be genuine. The absence of a database means there is nothing to hack and no data to steal. Imagine a situation where a database gets hacked and the data is stolen. It would represent a public relations nightmare for the owner, something that actually happens quite frequently. This is a critical reason why seven of the top 10 global pharma companies rely on Kezzler to protect their brands and consumers. The absence of a database in the Kezzler environment also means that the number of products we protect can be infinitely expanded. Hence, programme scalability represents a second core USP of the Kezzler platform. Even a mid-sized Indian pharma company creates many millions of consumer units each year. Given the fact that all this data needs to be maintained for several years, it can easily be seen that expansion limits will quickly creep in with standard database formats offered by all other companies. The Kezzler platform can even accommodate security coding down to the individual tablet level so that expansion to trillions of unit codes is fully possible. Our clients will never be constrained by code delivery capacity or validation limits.
A third technology-related USP concerns system performance. By not having to rely on a database to look up a particular security code at the time of validation, we are able to bypass the prolonged search times that occur with large database systems. We just run our algorithm to decrypt a code when it hits our servers and therefore the response time is in the order of milliseconds, whether we have generated five thousand or five billion codes for a client. The last thing a brand owner will want is to test their customers’ patience by having them wait intolerably to discover whether they have a genuine product in their hands.
The second broad area of our USP is with regard to service. As an engineering company, what we love to do most — and what we are best at — is customising our offerings for the specific needs of our clients. It would be accurate to say that all our clients in India rave about the ‘Kezzler service’. But it all starts long before the programme rolls out. There are no two clients that have exactly the same requirements — their products are different, their brand protection strategies are individualised, and each has a different long-term vision. We work with each company to tailor a custom-designed solution that fits their risk mitigation objectives and requirements. We are often told that we are the only company in this space that has the global knowledge of best practices combined with the technological capacity to deliver winning solutions. And that to me is our core USP because after all, our customers must be satisfied with the outcome.
And yes, Kezzler does all of the above in a most cost-effective manner. We are a benefit-driven company that operates on a competitive cost scale to create an outstanding value proposition. The resulting ROI is perhaps our most endearing USP.
What is your experience regarding the deployment of serialisation in India’s pharma industry?
We see two types of pharma companies in India. One that is value-driven and another that is purely cost-driven. The companies in the second category want the cheapest solution, period. On the one hand, I can understand the necessity to be economically sound and not pay more than you need to, especially in a competitive climate. However, an outlook that is purely cost-centric in my opinion creates a myopic vision of running a business because the long-term economic benefit of having a ‘good’ solution rather than the ‘cheapest’ solution is then thrown out the window. Many pharma companies are discovering the folly of this approach because the regulatory requirements are becoming ever more demanding. Furthermore, their competitors in the pharma space who decided to proceed with a value-driven approach are able to take advantage of innovations and best practices in our field that low cost solution providers simply cannot deliver.
The gain perceived by companies taking the cost-driven approach is short-lived and quickly leads to major problems. There are many examples, but I will give just one here as an illustration. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) programme initially required a mere unique serial number on a package for it to leave India. That is simple enough and therefore many Indian pharma companies chose to adopt very low-cost solutions without thinking of the expanding requirements ahead. Well, now that time has come. The DGFT recently introduced a significant new requirement — the so-called monocarton rule — along with additional procedural mandates that are to be introduced in early 2015. Furthermore, the growing list of countries with stringent new regulatory demands for pharma exports will impose a whole new set of challenges. The low-end vendors are simply not capable of meeting all these new regulatory demands, leaving their clients struggling to find alternative solution providers that have the technology, experience, and expertise to help them.
So, an interesting dynamic is emerging in India. Cost-driven companies are now discovering that they need to join their peers in the value-driven group. And that is good for us, because that is exactly the space Kezzler is in, and where we firmly want to be.