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Market research also includes market feedback.

  1. Feedback on own marketing campaigns
  2. Feedback on market happenings
  3. Feedback on competitor activities

The effort to get feedback on all three counts though sales teams has been going on since a long time, however, the success have never been achieved.

The sales teams are the ones who implement campaigns and plans designed by marketing team. They are also supposed to provide feedback on how it was received by the customers, what response did they give, what impact it had on the business, and could it be improved further to enhance the impact. For this purpose, the MNCs used to have report formats which we were supposed to fill every month. In fact, the ‘monthly report’ was a snapshot of all work done during the month. We did keep an eye on the things happening around us so that we could put these in the report. Though the marketing was not aggressive like it is now, but things kept happening. There were campaigns for new studies, new information, seasonal indications, and other academic type things; Roche distributed their quarterly magazine ‘Hexagon’, Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis) distributed original copies of magazine ‘Medicine International’. The knowledge was in demand, and the sources were few. The internet had not arrived, and it was all paper and print. Books were demanded by doctors and were provided by MNCs.

Gifts were also distributed occasionally. MNCs received some gifts from their parent offices and others were made locally, but these were few and far between. Every gift was received and cherished gratefully.

Most importantly, the discussion between doctor and pharma salespersons was common. Much information came from there. The customer told us what the competitors were doing, and it was about things like clinical studies which we would not have known otherwise.

While the sales teams provided better feedback during that time, the marketing departments were neither autonomous nor active, like they are now. It is understood that most of the feedback generated did not come to any consequence.

Now, the situation has reversed. The marketing departments have expanded and enlarged, and more qualified people work there, but the sales teams feedback has dried up. There are several reasons for this.

The doctor-pharma relationship has become predominantly commercial, and the discussions on academics have stopped. The abundance of generic products has changed it into a buyers’ market where the buyer decides what to take. The generic companies did not have anything academic to offer and resorted to commercial offers. The main feedback coming in now is about who is offering what. This feedback is also important because it is the running theme now. The issue is that many times the information is exaggerated to impress upon the marketing that they need to do more. The marketing people are also inclined towards more showy things, with loud campaigns, and colorful programs. There are walks and family fiestas and picnics, and tours to northern areas, bonfires, and parties. Everyone enjoys, feels good, and energized, but when it comes to business, the relationship is murky.

Talk to anyone in Pharma sales and he would say that the business is now fully commercial; talk to marketing guys and they would echo the same sentiment. If this is so, and all decisions by buyers are done on the basis of commercial benefit, then why have an activity like family fiesta which costs a large amount but does not yield results? This is the missing part, and it is because no one is considering hard data.

The developed countries opted for CRM – Customer Relationship Management software long time ago. CRM generated big data about customer preferences and choices and analyzed along various dimensions to help the enterprise plan better and more specifically. I don’t know about large FMCG companies or stores if they are using it, but I know that pharma is not into it at all.

The aversion of pharma industry to data is neither new nor going away any time soon. And there is only one reason for it.

I keep repeating that we come from a feudal background where few people were landlords or Rajas or Rulers, and majority was commoners of no value. Feudal thinking runs in our blood, and we love to use power wherever we can. We also have great desire for power and utter discretion where we can do what we desire, and no one would question us. The more senior a person in hierarchy, greater is his power hunger. It is not just the owners; it is senior managers also. Data has the power to overtake our decision power. If we accept data, we shall have to take data-driven decisions, some of which may not be to our liking. We therefore prefer to take decisions arbitrarily and without the data backup. I have been part of too many meetings where most critical decisions were taken while looking at some incomplete, dubious data without questioning its authenticity, and despite voice(s) of dissent. It is no pleasure to report that most of these decisions were proven partially or fully wrong. The irony is we don’t learn, neither from evidence nor from mistakes.

Use of data is our critical weakness. To correct this weakness, we first need to exercise to collect proper data, learn to analyze it properly, and then have the heart to take data-based decisions.

In the next post, we shall talk about solutions and conclude.

To be Concluded……

Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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