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Dear Pharma Veterans. This series of Blogs is to share my learning about Pharma Business in Pakistan. It will be a series spread over several parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.

Pharma Business – Marketing

We go over to functional elements of Marketing.


Strategy is a plan which arises out of analysis of factors-at-play, and vision to take the business to the visualized place. It borrows from external factors because you are in the marketplace, and it mixes it with the internal objectives. Strategy recommends to you on what to do; and advises you on what not to do.

Michael E. Porter the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor based at Harvard Business School introduced the concept of forces that shape the strategy in 1979. His Five Forces Model is a great tool to understand the competitive forces while shaping strategy.

5 Forces

Porter says “In essence, the job of the strategist is to understand and cope with competition. Often, however, managers define competition too narrowly, as if it occurred only among today’s direct competitors. Yet competition for profits goes beyond established industry rivals to include four other competitive forces as well: customers, suppliers, potential entrants, and substitute products. The extended rivalry that results from all five forces defines an industry’s structure and shapes the nature of competitive interaction within an industry”. (The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy – HBR).

The purpose of business to earn profit. Five Forces model helps to understand the profit-adding-and-eroding factors. Profit in generic pharmaceuticals will continue to erode, and appropriate steps should be put in place now to protect future.

Note. What we see in the name of strategy in most Generic Pharma, is actually a set of ‘Reactive Tactics’ vis-à-vis competition. It is neither holistic nor sustainable.


One way to define positioning is ‘how do we want our customers to perceive our product’. It may or may not involve reference to competition. Strategic Positioning, Porter says ‘attempts to achieve sustainable competitive advantage by preserving what is unique about a company. It means performing different activities from rivals or performing similar activities in different ways.’

The innovator companies used to put a lot of emphasis on Positioning. Their sales staff was better trained who would communicate this more effectively. In my view, one company which reaped the greatest benefit from positioning was Abbott. Their products were similar to each other but through precise positioning, they were able to grow each brand separately.

It was easier for innovator brands to position themselves because they were original research with plenty of documentation. Generic Pharma has a problem in identifying their competitive advantage because the products are similar, even identical. The difference may be created with prices and/or services. Services are identified more with the company, rather than the product.


Generic Pharma marketers are probably one of the biggest followers of tradition. They still make millions of promotional stationery and gift items; cards, folders, slips, writing pads, pens, stickers, banners among stationery; gift items depend upon what the vendors offer. It is common observation that a vendor would bring three new items and take it to thirty companies. As a result, you may see the same gift being distributed by more than one company. It is well-nigh impossible to design an innovative gift and get it made through local vendors.

The entire subject of promotional materials needs revisiting as to why or why not select a particular item. Target audience, Indications, Season, Dosage form, Price, are but some factors to consider while choosing a promotional theme or item.


  • What is strategy? Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review
  • The five forces that shape strategy, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review


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