Express Pharma

We must learn to anticipate what the future might bring

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Milind Thatte, Managing Director, Procter & Gamble Health Limited and Vice President, Consumer Health-India Sub-continent speaks to Ashwini Prakash, Managing Partner and Board Director, Singapore and India, Stanton Chase, about the challenges posed during the pandemic, growth opportunities and lessons learnt

Did the pandemic pose a challenge OR a growth opportunity for pharma & healthcare industry? Your views

All through the pandemic, our challenge and primary focus has been and continues to be to protect the health and ensure the safety of our employees and partners; maintain the uninterrupted supply of our vitamins, minerals, supplements and medicinal products for patients and consumers; and support communities through relief efforts.

The onset of the pandemic initially posed two challenges for the industry. One was on the supply chain front where there was impact on multiple fronts: raw material, packaging material, and several other critical components. The other was on the distribution of finished goods and reaching them to the pharmacies, to ensure they reached our consumers and patients on time. These were the challenges for the first two months, until till the whole industry and government came together in a collaborative effort to address them. For e. g – the transporters were granted permission overnight to enter factories, although we were under a national lockdown.

Subsequently we faced another challenge in how to manage our salesforce, who were required to be on the field, to meet customers, visit pharmacies and meet wholesalers. They had to adapt to the ‘work from home’ procedure as well. The big challenge here was that our industry was not used to having such a large work force operate from home. I can say with great pride that our teams responded to this with speed and agility, adapted to the changing environment, embraced virtual mediums/outreach channels to ensure that the connection with HCPs and partners did not break down, and stepped up our consumer outreach efforts which resulted in positive brand recall across categories. During this period, we also found time to upskill our teams through be-spoke training programs designed around working in the new normal including hybrid detailing and retailing in healthcare.

We have also seen an increased awareness of preventive healthcare and the benefits of supplementation amongst consumers and Healthcare Professionals (HCPs). There is growing consumer demand for trusted brands amongst families who want to stay strong and safe together as they adjust to living in the ‘new normal’. Therefore, our portfolio of quality and affordable vitamins, minerals, and medicinal products continues to be more relevant than ever because of their superior product quality, acclaimed benefits, widespread availability, and always-on communication.

What measures did P&G health take to mitigate the business risk caused by the pandemic? What were your key learnings and take away for the future?

The agility and robustness with which our teams planned to ensure business continuity helped us prepare for and mitigate the risks. In the early weeks of the pandemic and within a short time span, all our teams had their business continuity plans in place. Furthermore, we leveraged the strengths of our entire company and shared ideas and best practices across geographies. As part of the healthcare sector, we also worked closely with our industry peers to ensure uninterrupted supplies of medicines.

That being said, we did face challenges in reducing the impact on our day-to-day field operations. We are very proud of our teams who were quick and agile to adapt to the changing environment, embraced virtual mediums/outreach channels to ensure continued connect wi