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Continued from Previous……

Pharma Sales Job is not Respectable – In the last part of this series, we discuss the social aspect of Pharma Industry.

Pharma Industry is a relatively small industry. Little is known to common people about this industry although everyone uses some medicine over a lifetime. This is not enough justification anyway. We drink tea everyday but hardly know anything about tea industry.

Jobs in Pharma Industry are not considered mainstream jobs; particularly sales job. No student, even in his wildest dreams, ever thinks of becoming a Pharma Salesperson, more popularly called Medical Rep (short for Representative). Pharmacists think of joining Pharma manufacturing units in production, quality control, quality assurance, etc., but the sales jobs are not on the list. Students doing MBA do not consider coming to Pharma Marketing; they think about going to consumer industry.

Let us see how Pharma jobs have evolved and why these have not become as popular.

Long time back, very few pharmacists qualified every year. Pharmacy was not hugely popular among masses. Those who did qualify found good opportunity and easy migration abroad. Many pharmacists migrated to US and Europe and settled there. In the second phase, hordes of pharmacists found jobs in Africa; Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Rwanda were popular destinations. The famous dictator of Uganda Idi Amin forced foreigners out, including Pakistani pharmacists. Genocide in Rwanda also forced relocation. Some came back, most opted to stay back somehow. In the third phase, many pharmacists went to Middle East and started working there; many are still there. The impact was that for many years, Pakistan market saw small number of pharmacists available for jobs.

Long time back, Multinational companies preferred to hire pharmacists for sales jobs. They also hired science graduates, preferably with biology background. Pharmacist joined initially, were trained well and paid well, but did not stay for long. Gradually, the employers were disillusioned and stopped hiring pharmacists altogether. Around that time, the doctors did not find jobs in hospitals and became available to work in Pharma companies. They worked in Sales and Marketing mostly. Things changed and government created more jobs for doctors, and the supply line dried up. The Pharma companies had by then experienced that the graduates remained their best bet. They were available, they worked more and demanded less, and they performed very well. The hiring focus changed to graduates only and still prevailing.

In another twist, less and less students opted for science graduation. Either they went for postgraduation, or they went to greener pastures like Business Studies, Journalism, Computer Sciences, Information Technology etc. Pharma companies had to tend with any graduation, arts, commerce, social sciences etc. They are still doing it by lowering the bar every now and then.

Pharma jobs in general remained out of public focus in general. Production as a whole was dimly recognized. Sales jobs did not get even that much. People thought these were commission-based jobs, which meant these were not career jobs. Medical reps were more popularly called ‘agents’ who ran around and visited doctors and pharmacies.

Due to non-recognition at social level, the youngsters from well-placed families stopped opting for Pharma. Meanwhile, Banking, Media and IT were blooming and absorbed a lot of talent. More and more young people from suburban areas and lower income groups then started dominating the Pharma sales jobs. Due to extreme economic need, these youth accepted less salaries and pressured work environment. This is what we are seeing today in every city. Most salespeople in Pharma companies are being hired from least developed suburban areas and forced to work in compromised conditions.

Due to these factors, Pharma jobs in general and Sales jobs in particular did, not get adequate respect and recognition from the society. Either there is complete ignorance in public, or there is a disdain for such jobs.

Fact of the matter however is, that Pharma jobs are quite lucrative, well-paying career jobs. Production, Quality Operations, R&D, Warehousing, Regulatory, Pharmacovigilance and Business Development, besides Marketing and Sales jobs. People have grown from Medical Rep to become Director. Acquiring a Pharma sales job is still on merit alone, no sifarish needed. Promotions are based on performance and growth is faster than many other jobs. Above all, pay packages, perks and benefits are better than similar jobs in other functions.

We conclude our discussion series on Pharma Industry with particular focus on Local Pharma. Pharma Industry has been facing huge challenges and the struggle continues. General public has the right to understand the industry dynamics and challenges.


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