I reached Bahawalpur the same evening. Through the long travel, I kept thinking about Rawalpindi tenure. I did not have to think too much to analyze. It was written on the wall and we thought it will not come. This is a usual mistake we make and many times may be. Great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah says ‘ Bulleh Shah asee marna naahin – gore peya koi hore {Bulleh Shah! I shall never die – it is someone else lying in the grave}

The major business at that time came from Rawalpindi. Islamabad was still small. I worked in almost entire area, all major towns in Azad Kashmir, and all towns on and off GT road. Getting business in those days was not difficult. The competition was not intense, the customers were not too busy and special activities were not expected. You just worked and got results. The products sold on merit. Of course, the capability of organization and the skills of individual salespersons made the difference between more and less business. New launches were few and companies did their best to make the launch a success. There were mega successes, some of which we shall talk about.

One mega launch of that period was Vibramycin (doxycycline – antibiotic) from Pfizer. Pfizer was already head to head with Glaxo as number one or two company. Pfizer did a very different activity in early 70’s. They established a mobile team. These medical reps were given Volkswagon cars and they traveled the length and breadth of the country, going to small towns and promoted Pfizer products. Pfizer therefore reached every nook and corner of the country.

Vibramycin was a mega launch by any standard. It was introduced to virtually all the doctors Pfizer had access to. Vibramycin had two distinct advantage. It had very broad spectrum and it was administered only once a day. Septran (sulphamethoxazole + trimethoprim from Wellcome) came to market couple of years earlier but still had not become a giant which it became later. The second-best alternative was Ledermycin (chlortetracycline from Lederle) but it was to be given twice a day and was not treated as equal.

Vibramycin launch strategy was simple. They promoted the product on priority to every customer and distributed lots of free Physician samples. Not much else. Aggressive promotion, ease of use and good clinical results made Vibramycin a huge success. Septran also grew in its own right. I don’t have stats but looking at the market, I believe Septran later overtook by a good margin. Both products still sell but Ledermycin became extinct.

Bahawalpur in 1977 was a small, serene town. Bahawalpur State was an independent royalty which joined Pakistan at partition. In 1958, the status was changed, and the state became an administrative division of Punjab province. The state/division comprised of three districts; Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahimyar Khan.

Bahawalpur city was small. You could walk through the entire old city from one to the other corner. Farid Gate was the most happening point. Newer areas outside old city were not very far and not very big. Major means of transport was cycle rickshaw pulled by a man. It looked cruel, but it was the main transport for all and livelihood for many. Cycle rickshaw remained in use until Nawaz Sharif government forcibly stopped it in 90’s and provided auto-rickshaw as alternate.

The working was small and simple. There was one teaching hospital, the Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) attached to Quaid-i-Azam Medical College. All consultants lived in the adjacent medical colony and did private practice in their homes. Around 20 medical reps were based at Bahawalpur, only 3 or 4 were local residents. Most companies preferred not to base there but rather send the medical rep from Multan. My Area Manager was also based at Multan and came once or twice a month to work with me. I had to travel to Rahimyar Khan every alternate week and work there for 3-4 days. I also visited couple of small towns near Bahawalpur.

There were few small hotels and I stayed at Al-Hilal hotel which was near Farid Gate and BVH so that I could walk to either place in a few minutes.

I kept staying at the hotel for almost a year, thoroughly enjoyed work, and met the friendliest-ever colleagues.

Some of my fondest memories are attached to Bahawalpur……..

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