Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Healthcare Media




Healthcare media as they are referred….
Journalists are appointed for specific beat like business, education, crime, political, etc. Each beat specific journo reports stories & news related to that specific beat. They network, specialize and understand the sector. Healthcare media or journo are the ones who report on news related to healthcare, health policies, new technologies in treatment, etc.

With the advent of competition between publications it became obligatory for media houses to assign journalists dedicated to report news on this sector, earlier city beat journalists reported on those news.

Let us now try to understand this beat.
Healthcare journalist usually reports news on Health, Health Policies, New Technology Developments, Doctors in public & private hospitals operating on unique patients, new infections, government vaccination programs, etc. Basically they report on Human interest stories, everything related to humans & health. It is important to note that most of the other reporters also do such type of reporting like the education beat, crime beat, special features, etc. But the difference is they report the same story with different angle.

Here is a case study:
FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India) - Adolescent Empowerment arm is conducting seminars for young girls on how to manage their health during growing years, precautions during periods, diet management, etc. These seminars are conducted in schools only for girls in the age group of 12 to 15 years.
Taking this brief into consideration, the story will be reported by a health beat correspondent, but simultaneously an education beat journalist can also report on this, coz school & education is involved. The same story can also be reported by NGO beat reporter as FOGSI is and NGO body and the seminars are also conducted for government schools. If this seminar is sponsored by some pharmaceutical company then the story will get CSR initiative angle for that pharma company, and a financial journalist can report this corporate story highlighting CSR initiatives. A feature journo can report an informative story of things to take care for teen girls during periods & maintaining diet.

The above case highlights how a story can be reported by different beat journalists. So the bottom line is a correct strategy & pitch to the right journalists. In the business of communication the correct strategy will bore fruits, just media relations cannot help.

So understand the objective of the strategy and pitch to the right journalist accordingly. Also the main aspect is to understand healthcare journalists and how they report, their style of reporting and the placement of the news in media.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Disease BRANDING !




Interesting to note, the healthcare industry works in reverse manner. Actually the main reason being, restrictions on advertising in this industry. While, it is also been argued that the Indian consumers hardly get influenced by Pharma Drug / Product advertisements, doctors promoting advts, etc. With the advent of mass media and information age, the consumer has become knowledgeable enough to decide. Now the consumer is the king coz they take their own decisions. In such scenario promoting products becomes very difficult, add to it the launch of more products in the same category creates a very competitive environment for the products/brands to survive.
So then what can be the right medium to promote / publicise Healthcare products?
These products are often managed by Product Managers more experienced in marketing and armed with MBAs. They think only on Rol, exceptionals think about MAR-COM (Marketing & Communication).

It is important to promote the disease category, brand the diseases and inform the consumers about diseases. Some of the important diseases which enjoy Brand status in the market are listed below:
  1. Breast Cancer
  2. AIDS
  3. Bird Flu
  4. Headache
  5. Sore eyes (Conjuntitis)
  6. Heart Attack
  7. Dog bite (Rabies)
  8. Diabetes Day
  9. Blood cancer (Leukemia)

Consumers are aware about these above diseases and its effects. They are empowered with knowledge to understand the symptoms, asking for help, diagnosis and treatment. Mass media gets the credit to promote among the patients/ consumers. Patients often debate with Doctors on possible treatments for these diseases.

The media informs consumers / patients and doctor answers queries, it is a two way process, which creates a lasting impact in the minds of consumers. Branding diseases also helps to create awareness resulting in more patients and diagnosis. Early diagnosis helps to provide early treatment, saving the patients lives.

Now, the time has come for ICMR to soften of restrictions which they had laid.
I won't be surprised if tomorrow patients start performing diagnosis on themselves and consult with the doctor online for help...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Publicity of CMEs




Continuous Medical Education, in short CME forms an important part in a doctor’s career. They begin their career attending CMEs which is essential to update their knowledge and end up themselves as speakers at CMEs. According to ICMR a doctor has to attend a particular no. of CMEs per year to upgrade themselves on latest developments in their area of specialization.

Informing media about CMEs and getting publicity for the same is very difficult or just next to impossible using the traditional methods of Public Relations. Doctors & clients often demand media publicity for such programs.

I agree pitching for stories and inviting media for it, is very difficult, but possibility cannot be ruled out. The PR consultant can take few steps to understand the CME:
  1. Meet the concerned doctor and understand everything related to the CME, its benefits for Doctors, Patients and Society.
  2. Get all the details from Client on this CME like schedule, speakers, topics of discussion, case study presentation, etc.
  3. Speak to other well-known and established doctors practicing in this area of specialization and understand the CMEs importance from their perspective.
  4. Scan and track online (internet) for news featuring these doctors quotes, to understand the area of specialisation of medicine.
  5. Check whether any news is available on that particular specialization of medicine and related to the CME.
  6. Source unique case studies from the concerned doctor, which will prove helpful to pitch to media.
  7. Now draft a note based on all the info available and sought approval from the client.
  8. Based on this available information prepare a strategy for media coverage.
  9. Pitch to media (preferably meet media personally) and discuss this story with them. E.g. pitch to two mainline and two vernacular publications for stories. It is quite easy to invite two mainline pubs for an interaction with the concerned doctor. For vernacular and other media press release can be disseminated.
  10. Invite at least three trade media publications to attend this event.
  11. Post the event get a small brief on all the topics discussed and presented. Also get the presentations. Pitch to all the trade media publications based on the info available.
  12. Also send this detailed information to all the doctors who were unable to attend this CME.

A Communication Consultants job is not only to get coverage but also inform all the stakeholders. The hospitals newsletter should contain information on such CMEs which could later be sent to Health correspondents of publications as reference material. Mailing such newsletters also highlights the healthcare provider’s initiative to upgrade knowledge and inform about new developments.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MEDIA and DOCTORS!

Or can we say doctors and media? Any which ways doctor's always Love giving their quotes for various stories which the media often covers. Doctors also love their publicity and they cherish that media knows them by their name. The most important thing which fascinates a doctor is a pic of his case study along with him and story on successful surgery.

The trend of hiring journalists / correspondents specially dedicated to health beat started around 1995s. These correspondents mostly reported human interest stories; they also covered unique case studies / surgeries. Most of these stories require doctors quotes so the story is factually correct.

But interestingly the more quotes start appearing in media on specific diseases / surgeries led to doctors publicity. Readers regarded such doctors as experts in their specialties and start spreading word-of-mouth publicity, thus helping the doctors to gain more patients.

The real boost came when doctors realize this and how it was connected to their business. The doctors also knew ICMRs restrictions for advertisements in Healthcare sector.
What actually started happening is doctors started hiring services of PR Agencies, a new boost in Healthcare scenario!
But when something unregulated starts in any business it leads to lot of chaos.

The important aspect to realize is only publicizing doctors, won't help, it has to be 360 degrees. From free diagnosis camps for patients, to seminars, to doctor patient relation manners & etiquettes training, information articles on diseases and speaking to media on various issues will help in the long run.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Disease BRANDING !




Interesting to note, the healthcare industry works in reverse manner, coz of restrictions on advertising in this industry. While it has also been argued that the Indian consumers hardly get influenced by Pharma Drug/ Product advertisements, doctors promoting advts, etc.

With the advent of mass media and information age, the consumer has become knowledgeable enough to decide. Now the consumer is the king coz they take their own decisions. In such scenario promoting products becomes very difficult, add to it the launch of more products in the same category creates a very competitive environment for the products/brands to survive.

So then what can be the right medium to promote/publicize Healthcare products?
These products are often managed by Product Managers more experienced in marketing and armed with MBAs. They think only on Rol, exceptional think about MAR-COM (Marketing & Communication).

It is important to promote the disease category. Brand the diseases and inform the masses/ consumers about the disease. Some of the important diseases who enjoy Brand status in the market are listed below:

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. AIDS
  3. Bird Flu
  4. Headache
  5. Sore eyes (Conjunctivitis)
  6. Heart Attack
  7. Dog bite (Rabies)
  8. Diabetes Day

Consumers are aware about these mentioned diseases. They are empowered with knowledge to fight against these diseases. Mass media gets the credit to promote among the patients/ consumers. Patients often debate with Doctors on possible treatments for these diseases.

The media informs consumers/ patients and doctor answers queries, it is a two way process, which creates a lasting impact in the minds of consumers. Branding diseases also helps to create awareness resulting in more patients and diagnosis. Early diagnosis helps to provide early treatment, saving the patients.
Now the time has come for ICMR to soften of restrictions which they had laid.

I won't be surprised if tomorrow patients start performing diagnosis on themselves and consult with a doctor online for help...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Importance of COMMUNICATION in Healthcare



Every industry has realised the importance of communication. The constitution itself proclaims Right for Information. This same stands true in Healthcare scenario. But their is a difference, because a small mistake in Healthcare Communication can create a huge crisis. Healthcare is related to Wellbeing, Life, Health, basically connected to us HUMANS. Hence entitles for utmost care in communication.

The Healthcare sector has realised this and to the birth of specialised communication consultants like Bioquest, Imprimis Life Therapy, Sorento Healthcare, Watermelon advertising, etc. It is rightly said "Need is the Mother of Invention", so it is important to understand this sector companies, their offerings and briefs. These specialised consultants have resources trained and experienced to understand the nitty gritties, issues, Government policies, Information on new innovations, discoveries, etc.

In Indian scenario Healthcare Communication is mostly managed by experienced resources, but it still lacks the understanding coz doctors themselves are not involved. The international trend involves doctors coz they bring with them the understanding on those Healthcare subjects/issues.

India lacks Healthcare professionals, so it is very difficult to involve them as resources in the business of Communication. Now, what can be the probable solution to this problem of resources?

According to my suggestion the Healthcare Communication Consultants can use experienced Medical representatives as advisers. They are lots of Medical Representatives working for different Pharmaceutical companies, Lab automation manufacturers, etc. Medical Representatives interact with doctors daily and equipped with information on specific diseases, they also have understanding on Healthcare issues and policies. Medical representatives are the marketing executives of the Pharma companies and also their Brand Ambassadors who often meet the Doctor’s (Clients).

It is also important to take help from KPOs working in Healthcare sector coz, they are the people who conduct surveys, prepare reports on diseases and drugs, which are then shared with the key doctor’s. This helps the doctor’s to get better understanding about the products/ drugs.
But, taking into account ICMRs (Indian Council of Medical Research) liberal policies in this era, lot of Healthcare companies are investing to develop communication strategy, to differentiate itself from the competition. This industry is also experiencing lot of lobbying through govt associations, media and policy makers, so the portfolio of the Communication consultants has also grown or increased. It is difficult to predict how big Healthcare Communication industry will grow. But the Indian Healthcare Industry is expected to grow @ 12% annually taking the total worth of this industry to US $25 billion (approximately Rs. 1, 00,313 crores) by 2010.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brand categories, rather than Brand products


For long, the Pharma Company’s have been promoting their products, which only influenced doctors, chemists and people connected to the industry. No matter how hard the companies tried they were hardly able to address their target audience. With the entry of more Pharma companies, National & International, and increase in competition the need to differentiate from the clutter of products has risen. The questions product managers are always hunting, how should a Pharma company communicate their target audience on products?

The Pharma companies need to target their audience directly. The patients/ consumers in this new age are a lot informed. They know what they need and how to get it. Now the Pharma Company’s communication should be directly to its consumers through information about the diseases, about symptoms, etc.

The new age marketing will be on diseases category development, mass awareness about disease symptoms, effects about a particular deficiency, online forum, support group meetings, publicize disease specific docs, disease information brochures, etc. The Pharma companies now need to communicate the masses and KOLs. Also in this information age specific day related to the disease needs to be publicized with the help of KOLs, media and events. Some of the days which can be publicised are

  1. World Heart Day
  2. Breast Cancer Awareness Day
  3. Hepatitis Awareness Day
  4. World Anti- Tobacco day

These days inform the masses about the diseases and symptoms. Resulting in patients asking the doctor for more information. The doctor answers the queries of patients and gives information brochures. The consumer then for further information visits the website, created for that specific purpose and loaded with all the relevant information. This is new age marketing which involves the doctors and patients.

This also helps to promote the brand further by the same patients who become the Brand Ambassadors of the information, by spreading word-of-mouth publicity. The reason behind this is most consumers once they acquire information, they become knowledgeable and talk about it to the people they meet about the disease.
Now the Pharma companies have to be better informed because the consumer is empowered with knowledge. The Pharma companies are trying to realize this, but still are undecided on the strategy. It's high time they realize this and change their strategy, be more informative and mass oriented.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NGOs help to increase awareness on Healthcare



Healthcare and NGOs always go hand in hand. A lot of times NGOs help to address healthcare issues. NGOs work to improve healthcare facilities and services, they have lot of freedom, motivated staff, so respond easily to the needs of the healthcare community.
Following are some of the issues NGOs work on or create awareness on:
  1. Malnutrition
  2. Deficiency of Iron
  3. Stress on students
  4. Noise pollution
  5. Air pollution
  6. Vaccination
  7. Drug abuse
  8. Sexual abuse
  9. Sucidie
  10. Cartract operations
  11. AIDS preventation

NGOs help to raise awareness on healthcare amongst patients and the common people. Their are also NGOs who promote good/healthy living manners amongst people. They work in the arena of Dental care, washing hands before eating food, etc.

So NGOs form very important part of healthcare awareness in turn growing the Healthcare industry. So it is very important for healthcare industry to promote and publicize such NGOs. Promoting NGOs will help create awareness among the target group, who in turn buy the product and increase business. NGOs act as the company's critic partner highlighting the weakness of the product. NGOs can become the CSR initiative arm of the company, thus creating goodwill about the company. It is easy to generate awareness about a disease category with the help of an NGO. NGOs can be used to attack competitors, coz when an NGO publicizes weakness/ill-effects about the competitor’s products in press they generate lot of mileage, thus impacting the business of competitor. NGOs can fight for a plea with the competitor company and still earn respect in terms of helping the society.

Healthcare is a very critical area and one mistake can lead to the downfall of a company. Coz Healthcare is related to the wellbeing of a human being and something destroying it will create negative influence.

How the company selects an NGO or should the company launch its own NGO?
Well, as per my experience the company in association with an existing NGO should launch a new NGO. The company will fund it and the NGO will take care on operations area. In the long run even if the existing NGO breaks the contract, the company can run/manage this new NGO on its own.

Companies can get detailed information on NGOs through http://www.indianngos.com/

Also can visit the following link for an more information: http://www.expresshealthcaremgmt.com/20030615/conversation.shtml

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How a doctor himself can promote his services

For a doctor to increase his business he will have to consult and treat more patients, without patients a doctor cannot survive his/her business. Also if you (doctor) get more patients you garner more experience resulting in more patients. For this the doctor needs to differentiate from the competition i.e. other doctors and create his/her own USP. There are variety of methods a doctor can maintain Public Relations/Patient Relations. I have listed some key strategies:
  1. No patient likes to wait and waste time at Hospital/Clinic. So the doctor needs to maintain an appointment diary and one day prior needs to call/message the patient about confirmation. This creates discipline for doctors and patients as well. I have myself witnessed patients confirming the appointments with doctor and the same vice-versa but the problem arises when the doctor travels to more than 5 locations and the doctor is stuck in traffic jams, leading to not checking the patients on time.
  2. A doctor needs to maintain all the records about the patient, so the patient need not carry his/her records. Also on the patients next visit the doctor can check/inquire on the health of the patient. This is for the patient’s convenience after all they are the Clients. There are a variety of free software’s available like Google Health which the doctor can use: https://www.google.com/health/
  3. Whenever pricking any patient with a needle/injection a doctor/nurse has to say sorry because you are hurting the patient. This leads to a very positive impact on the patients and the patient won’t ever forget in their life that a doctor said sorry before hurting.
  4. Speak to patients and listen to them, they are already frightened. Console the patients and ask them to be positive about the treatment. Most often more than medicines and treatments a positive attitude helps to get cured from the aliment.
  5. Call your patients after a week or two to check how they are feeling? Post-treatment hardly any patients will remember you, a call will make the patient feel important and they will refer you to everybody who is suffering from any aliment or disease. A patient satisfaction is very important to word-of-mouth publicity.
  6. Whenever a patient comes to you for consultation for the first time give them a disease prevention booklet. The booklet will contain information on different diseases related to your specialization, symptoms, healthy living suggestions, etc. The booklet will also contain information about you, clinic addresses, consultation timings, appointment contact no, and how to reach clinic map. A Pharma company can sponsor the booklet, and can give their courtesy at the end of the booklet.
  7. Attend CMEs and built contacts with other doctors, networking helps to build refferals.
  8. Read newspapers, incase you find any story on surgery, disease diagnosis or anything related to healthcare, write a reply mail to the journo on what you think about the story and if possible suggestions on how the journo could improve and get more information, don’t forget to signoff with your contact details. This helps to increase relation with journo’s and in future the journo might feature your quotes on a story related to this article.
  9. If you feel you have treated a unique patient or the surgery done was a very difficult one. Prepare a brief case study and mail to a journo, if the journo is really interested they will revert. On the other hand get in touch with a PR Professional for press coverage of the story. PR professionals will help to garner the best coverage in different publications.
  10. Get your self and your clinic listed in local area directory and online on Wikimapia, this helps when the patient is doing Google on doctors available in a particular area. http://wikimapia.org/
  11. Attend seminars and be a speaker of those seminars addressed at community levels in Rotary clubs, Church conventions, etc. Also be a part of free check-up camps this helps to generate patient’s leads.

Last but not the least, please do not try to scare patients and be honest in treatments, it always pays.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Evolution of Healthcare Communications and Public Relations




There was a time, when there were very less no of doctors available to treat patients. But with the growth in economy the number of doctors has increased and the patients numbers has also risen with the rise in new age diseases.
A new attitude among patients has been observed in last couple of years which the doctors never anticipated? The patients now are much more informed. Now, patients do their homework on the aliment they are suffering from, and information technology plays a crucial part in spreading information.

Patients now, are more prone to do a Google on their ailment they are suffering, the best doctor available, advisable treatment and medicines. With the information, patients have become knowledgeable; they now ask the doctor for more information on the ailments, diseases and debate on best possible treatments.

The media for quite sometime observed this trend and launched columns and wellness supplements in there publications. For that matter even TV Channels, Websites, Radio stations have dedicated special shows and sections for the public at large. Most of the issues are related to Health, Wellness, Fitness and diet. Through extensive coverage is given to Health based stories, New technologies in hospitals, successful case studies, Yoga, Wellness columns by eminent doctors, Q & A based columns, etc. These articles often quote expert doctors, and leads to awareness on the doctors expertise.

This phenomenon suddenly gave a boost to Healthcare PR. Healthcare PR professionals often publicize the doctors, treatment and diseases. Well this is for what they are known for. But they also do a lot of other things like
  1. Provide information on wellness
  2. Crisis management of medicines
  3. Information on new diseases and treatments
  4. Creating awareness on existing incorrect policies
  5. Website designing
  6. Doctor's brochure compiling
  7. Promotion of CMEs

There are lots of other aspects where a Healthcare PR professional plays an important part. Healthcare PR professionals have become an intrinsic part in spreading word-of-mouth awareness and pubicing the Doctors Consulting business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Word-Of-Mouth in Healthcare


The healthcare industry largely depends on word-of-mouth publicity. In fact doctors and hospital for decades have been dependent on word-of-mouth publicity and this has been the best mode of awareness for them. Actually the reason being, ICMR had laid stringent laws pertaining to advertising and publicity carried out by Hospitals, Doctors, Pharma companies, etc. Doctor businesses even today totally dependents on referrals by treated patients and other doctor's. Referral in marketing terms is classified as word-of-mouth publicity.
The fact is by the time doctor establishes their business/consulting they end up spending enough of money and time. This could be the reason we are not able to create a pool of expert/specialist doctors. Once the doctor becomes specialist they leave India for greener pastures abroad, so we again end up with very less specialists for a particular disease.

In US the doctors are allowed to advertise, there are rules laid by American Medical association but not that stringent. In US the doctors can promote their expertise through media; it is mostly informing the general public so they can decide. The doctors then can earn decent reputation and in turn don't have to dependent on referrals.
Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors, growing at more than 26%. More and more people are turning towards health and wellness. People are using different medium like internet, newspapers, television to keep them abreast about the latest developments. So why not allow doctors to give information and create awareness on wellness within the general public. What more is a better way to serve society?

Below is a brief on US laws on Advertising by Doctors

Doctors advised on advertisingThe General Medical Council (GMC) has revised its guidance to doctors about advertising their services. The information must be factual and verifiable and must be published in a way that conforms with the law and with the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority. It must not make claims about the quality of services nor include comparisons with the services provided by colleagues. "It must not, in any way, offer guarantees or cures, nor exploit patients' vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge."
The GMC says that in information about specialist services patients should be advised that they cannot usually be seen or treated by specialists without an appropriate referral, usually from their general practitioner. The same advice should apply to advertisements for services by organisations with which specialists are associated.
The council says that information "must not put pressure on people to use a service, for example, by arousing ill founded fear of future ill health. Similarly, you must not advertise your services by visiting or telephoning prospective patients, either in person or through a deputy."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brand Positioning


Brand positioning forms an intrinsic part of any product/service launch. It is the most important function of any brand to survive in this cluttered market of Brands. Positioning helps to define category in which the Brand will survive, grow and grab market share to earn RoI.
Often more than 10 brands of similar features compete for market share and that is the main reason why positioning is very important. The brand needs to segregate itself from other competing brands in terms of packaging, spotting the right target audience; features such as colour, taste, aroma does count the other factors being personal touch and user friendly. We can jot down more than 100 factors where the Brand needs to position, but this largely depends on Brand like whether it is a product or service, then whether it is consumable, etc.

The Brand to appeal a consumer, it should first appeal to their senses. The brand needs to create first impression or impact on consumer sight, then smell/aroma, the touch. The other two senses hearing and mouth will have less impact. Post approval from these three senses the mind and heart thinks about the brand. This whole process takes less then 2 seconds but a lot of money is at stake. The money involved for R & D, marketing, packaging, sales, human resources, etc
So this brings us to a very important point that, we have to influence the consumer at first sight, then touch, then smells and aroma. Now that we have reached this stage, the consumer is prompted to think and decide with the help of heart. Heart plays an important role as it takes most of the decisions. There are many examples, let me illustrate a few:

  1. Idea - An idea can change life - The priest wants to teach, needy and poor students but lacks resources less no of teachers, far of villages, less classrooms, etc. So uses Idea mobile network and starts classes for these students through speaker phone. The teacher teaching students through mobile phones a great idea to reach the needy students in villages. Everybody wants to help society what they need is a simple Idea, this also highlights that Idea can reach the remote villages where teachers cannot reach.
  2. Vodafone- While Vodafone says wherever you go will be there with you always. They positioned this with a pup following a small child the goes in forests, in bathroom, in school bus, etc the pup follows the child everywhere.
  3. Airtel – Airtel instills the emotional connect of a father and son. It starts with a young college lad visiting a small house in a distant village. An old lady opens the door and upon enquiring finds out that the lad is her grandson. Grandson meets grandfather who is angry with the lad’s father for leaving them alone in their old. The young lad uses his mobile to call his father, and hands his (young lads) mobile to his grandfather. Upon hearing apologies, the grandfather gets emotional and cries. Thus the young grandson helps to bridge the gap between grandfather and father.
  4. Reliance mobile – They openly claim that they are present in more than 100,000 villages through advertising.

If we compare each mobile service providers communication, they tell/inform the consumers that their network is present everywhere even in villages, but the positioning and communication is different. So positioning helps a Brand to separate itself from clutter of different Brands, this helps to establish trust in consumers mind and they began to own the brand.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is the new age of INSURANCE about creating CLONES?


Well, insurance sector is posed to be the largest sector with turn-over predicted to be more than any sector. After credit cards this industry will clock billions in sales. Earlier it was roti, kapada aur makan. Then the wants increased with money, so focus shifted to lifestyle. Further this led to lifestyle related diseases. To save themselves from these diseases people shifted to health and healthy living. With healthy living gaining importance this gennext humans dream to live longer from 70 years to 700 years. Scientists have always worked towards achieving the human dreams and converting the perception to reality. This actually led to more and more scientists working on projects to increase the life span of humans.
The media often spoke and published articles related to these new innovations, some of them I have tried listing below:

  1. Storing the body in liquid nitrogen just before death and then recovering the same body after 200 years, expecting that the technology will be developed by then to retrieve bodies stored in liquid nitrogen.

  2. Designing synthetic DNA which has the genes to increase the lifespan and fight all the existing diseases in the world. This innovation led to a lot of new theories and innovations in cell development.

  3. Stem cell research led to the discovery of the use of umbicol cord blood cells which can help in saving the person from life threatening diseases. Stem cells are found in umbicol cord at the time of delivery, this cord blood is taken in glass chambers and stored by cord blood banking companies.

Some scientists went to a further step and started research on creating clones... I mean cloning of a Human to create a look-a-like (Clone means look-a-like with the same qualities, thinking skills but without birth deformity). Earlier the organs were cloned and stored for future use. But then huge organ banks will be the need of the future to store those different organs. Also, the scientists were not able to predicate how long the organs will survive.

The next-gen scientists thought about this and researched discussed & argued... They reached to a conclusion that if a clone of human is created and kept in controlled surrounding, without contamination from outside environment; the clones’ body parts (organs) can be used by the clone owner when required. The research for creating clones received lot of funds from big corporates as CSR initiative, while this highlighted the corporates initiative towards human development, but they had their inner greed to live longer. The research started on rats, dogs, monkeys, etc to create the perfect CLONE or should I say INSURANCE…

But is this right, should we challenge the creator of universe and try to change the laws of nature? The world is already populated with people, with pollution and with everything to destroy mother earth. This new research on cloning will kill existence of living beings.
Imagine each living human having a clone staying somewhere out there in a lab far from city, these clones start thinking of getting out from lab and going out in the open world, I mean leaving the lab, leaving the controlled environment and going out in t. Will have humans of same type, more than that where are we going to the cit live life. These will double the existing population of the world leading to blast of population in the world...

Today this will sound really weird and unbelievable but this situation will hold true in the coming century, INSURANCE will all be about CLONING and increasing life-span. Below some links to website offering information on cloning

http://www.scq.ubc.ca/human-cloning-science-fiction-or-reality/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/377122.stm

http://library.thinkquest.org/C0122429/ethics/disadvantages.htm

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Image management in Healthcare industry

Healthcare industry for decades was dependent on word-of-mouth publicity. Even when the industry started operating as corporate entity they still were not able to advertise because of stringent rules laid by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
Also the Indian mindset, I mean the public at large don't really trust advertisements in healthcare sector, so this leaves the sector with very little prospects of publicity.

Whether doctors should advertise has been in debate for a very long time in ICMR meetings, but I think this discussion will continue, as the decision makers are of the old thought process and believe that if the Hospital/doctor is really good then the patients will spread the good word to target audience and that’s the main reason they are against advertising.

So the main question arises whether this should this stop the healthcare sector from hiring Advertising and Brand Consultants?

No

Rather the healthcare sector should hired Brand or PR Consultants who will help in providing advice and guide on managing the brand. It is very essential for a healthcare provider to define internal as well as external communications, to segregate the target audience, to inform about the services offered and the most important to device a crisis management strategy. These Consultants will also help to position the Healthcare provider in the minds of its target audience.

Most often the doctors who have completed Masters in Healthcare Administration take charge of the marketing department of these Healthcare companies, and they certainly cannot advice on Brands and how it relates to the company philosophy. Actually this is the main reason Healthcare companies need experienced Brand/Image Consultants.

Case Study: Hinduja Hospital, a trust managed hospital with a capacity of 351 beds including ICUs, ICCUs, latest technology to diagnose and treat patients, very highly qualified Medical and Para-medical staff to managed emergencies, etc. Most of its doctors often quote in media on various health related issues, media has a very positive attitude towards the hospital, so half battle is won when solving crisis situations.

The hospital never advertises because it is a charitable trust hospital helping poor patients. The best part is even media knows this about Hinduja Hospital, but what happens when an opinion survey is conducted. The findings very much deviate from the philosophy of the hospital, it shows that the hospital is for rich people and hardly any poor patients opt for treatment in Hinduja Hospital. Quite surprising! But that’s the truth about this hospital. Now the public perception needs to be changed so the brand is in sync with its philosophy, mission and perception.
In this case the hospital needs to hire an Image Consultancy which would try to change the perception over a period. The plan would be a mix of events, CMEs, internal communication programs, brochure and information document development, etc. The Image Consultancy with experience and market survey will help Hinduja Hospital to position itself as a world class Hospital for poor.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Now advertisers target CHILDREN?


From childhood brands have impacted our lives. As a child we were part of fan clubs, we followed our role models who were mostly the brand ambassadors of a particular product. Our buying habits were very much controlled by what these icons said or performed in advertising campaigns. Also the advertisers promote fan clubs and loyalty programs wherein children get a chance to meet their idols, this increases the brand recall and in turn forces the child to buy a particular product.

Often, the products like McDonalds meals, Lays, Maggi Noodles, etc accompany with freebies for children. Mostly children buy these products for the freebies. The children freebie advertisements appear on children TV channels informing how they can play with the free products. These freebies often have an emotional relation with the cartoon the child loves to watch. Below I have tried to list some examples of brands which had impact on children’s buying trends, have also compared those products with what they could have brought incase they hadn’t seen those advertisements.

  • Maggi noodles instead of normal hakka noodles
  • Lays instead of potato chips
  • Pokemon instead of any other cartoon characters
  • Coco Cola cold drink instead of lemon squash/coconut water
  • iPhone instead of any other phone
  • Gaming plaza instead of a game of hide-n-seek, cricket, etc.

Brands have created impacted on the minds of young children to such an extent that they now also tell their parents what to buy and what not to buy, which Brand is good and which is bad, how to use a particular product. The main reason for this can be attributed that children spend more time in front of television (6 hrs per day says a survey done in USA). Actually this is the main reason why most of the advertisers target their ads towards children, try to influence and become no1 brand in children’s minds.

But sometimes I wonder how many Indian Brands have been able to understand this opportunity and change the concept of their Brand? HARDLY ANY Brand Hits my mind when I think about it...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What a BRAND means for a common person?

For a common person or the people at the bottom of the pyramid a BRAND is an association, an emotion, an attitude and a sense of ownership. A common person associates his emotions with a Brand then relates his story with the Brand, this translates in the sense of ownership of the Brand, ultimately with a sense of ownership comes attitude.


Over the years even the common person has changed, his knowledge has evolved with the information available through TV, Radio, Internet and Newspapers. Also the outside world has changed quite a lot, even this made impacted on his knowledge. The common man is no longer common he might earn $ 50 (approx Rs. 5,000/-) per month but dreams to become a millionaire (Crorepati, thanks to Kaun Banaga Crorepati). The common man dreams to drive a 4 Wheeler (Nano, the Rs. 1 lakh car, new offering from Tata Motors). So dreams are being blown out of proportion by media. Banks are offering EMIs on anything and everything from buying mobile phones to buying houses, from blowing money on weddings to entry in elite clubs and all this drives the common man towards Brands.

The common man's aspirations towards Brands have led to Brand categorisation from super luxury and elite Brand to the most fashionable Brand. Marketers and Brand managers have differentiated Brands for each segment catering to different strata of society.


To take care of the common persons aspiration about Brands, stores like The Loot (Discount store, offering 25% to 80% discounts on international brands like Levis, Pepe, Banana Republic), Big Bazaar (Offering everyday discounts on grocery, utensils, electronics, etc: it provides common people shopping mall experience), Seconds outlet of Bombay Dying towels and bedsheets have been launched, etc. These stores to provide the COMMON PERSON experience on owning a BRAND and a sense of attitude about the BRAND.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No new innovations by Indian Pharma companies?

Indian Pharma companies have experienced a lot of R & D developments in recent few years. The innovations have placed these Indian Pharma companies amongst the top elite Pharma companies in the international scenario. This industry according to Ficci reports is growing @ 26% which is more faster rate than the retail sector.

The Pharma sectors traditionally have been investing funds in R&D and Clinical Research Trials. But in the recent few years a lot of investment is put aside for International Acquisitions, Research in new molecules and Patents. Though these companies have been competing with international counterparts to reach the top position in terms of net value of the company, innovations at the bottom of the pyramid haven’t seen any light of the day. I mean the no improvement in the training of the MRs, the sales representatives and the Brand Managers. The sales reps still carry the same old visual aids and the research papers to pitch about the company product to the doctors. Actually to think about it, I feel the Medical Representatives are the most neglected lot in the Pharma companies, coz nobody feels they are driving the company’s sales.

By the statement What at the bottom of the pyramid? I mean to say the people who directly impact the growth of the company; the other people are indirectly connected to the growth of the company.

The Marketing & Sales departments haven’t seen any innovations in last 20 yrs. The MRs (Medical Representatives) still visit 10 docs and 5 retailers as per the set target, show them the same brochures and visual aids, the same pitch and lastly the research reports. The only new development that was seen, late in the year 1998 was KOL based PR stories in publications, but can we consider it an innovation?

On an average when a new product is assigned to a Brand/Product manager he is given a budget to market the product which is peanuts. In that budget the marketing manager has to

Conduct product training for all the MRs,
Brochure development providing a brief on the product,
Conduct Research on the product stating how superior the product is from its competitors,
Sponsor CMEs of KOLs which helps in spreading the word of mouth publicity on the product and
Prepare visual aids to be given out to the doctors when the MR visits the doctors.

The Brand Managers decisions are mostly based on RoI, leaving a very little scope for innovation. He has a target to achieve, and advertising is out of question because prescription drugs cannot advertise as per the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical research), so uses the age old techniques to push the product details to the doctors.

Now once this is done, the Sales Managers job is to drive the sales of the products so he sets targets for the MRs to meet doctors. The Sales manager thought process is simple meet doctors and more doctors, meet them often, also meet retailers and more retailers, this will drive the sales of the products. Actually the Sales Manager knows the doctors will listen to the MRs only once and the next time will skip the meetings, but he knows of only one thing that will drive the sales, he doesn’t try to innovate something new which will help his team to achieve the sales target.
Doctors are fed-up of the same old story of the drugs and medicines, watching the same old visual aids, pitches from MRs, etc; this often forces them to skip the meetings with MRs, which are then bound to be quite boring.
But the BIG question is, whether any Pharma companies are doing anything to improve this situation? If the Pharma companies are not able to innovate something new to help in marketing their products, sales of the drugs might be affected in the long run.

What the Pharma companies really need is some great innovation at the ground level where sales of the products are been driven, word of mouth publicity another big avenue yet to be tapped and recommendations of the drugs. The Pharma companies should hire some ad agency to ideate or pitch to NID to think of some innovation which will be the greatest innovation for the MRs.
The story appeared in Financial express was a review of a book named:
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Select-segments-to-dominate/350276/ The Marketing Mavens by Noel Capon: The article talks about Pfizers innovations at the Sales level, this is what the book had to say…
Pfizer rigorously schools its field salespeople to ask questions and feed information back to the firm. Target expects all employees who travel—whether on business or pleasure—to write reports on trends in other parts of the world. This kind of information gathering can give your business an edge. It can pinpoint needs that customers don’t yet recognise—needs that by definition won’t show up in traditional data gathering. You should be striving to meet and exceed customer expectations not only by solving their current problems, but by anticipating future ones, and then proactively devising solutions in existing and emerging market segments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Innovations in BRANDS


When a child is small his habits, hobbies, needs are a lot similar to other children. He likes to play the same games like gully cricket, hide-n-seek, etc. They love Kellogg's cornflakes, McDonald meals, Pokemon, etc. But as they grow-up their knowledge increases with studies, books, movies and of course television. Knowledge leads to good decision making skills. So they start changing, their needs change, likes change. Now they also understand and decide what they want from life, from career, from social groups, etc. This leads to change in behaviour patterns of grown-up kids, their wants and hobbies takes a big turn. They also have more choices now with the opening of Indian economy and international products & brands available in India right into their nearest store. They are not dumb anymore to blindly follow what they are taught/shown, coz they have their own mindsets.

In the same manner Brands also have life, they are born, they reach the height of their image and slowly they perish, coz the brand managers fail to innovate. Brand managers who are considered the parents of the brands fail to understand this important aspect of the Brand i.e. to Innovate. Each new Brand/product is launched with a lot of budget on advertising, publicity, events, etc. But after some years of break even and profits the brand manager starts neglecting those same same Brands which everybody cherished.
Also since the Brands are targeted to a specific audience, if the audience changes or grows, the Brand managers again start targeting the same age group, so they start from the scratch the campaign for new consumers or customers. Again the same concept of advertising, same target audience and the things over again. If the Brand managers innovate then the target audience will increase, the marketing plans will change with a new challenge for the Brands to survive.

Take the example of Horlicks, earlier the Brand campaign was targeted for children and mothers as whole food for children. Then the team at Horlicks started changing the packaging of the brand with different flavours, so a new target audience I mean more consumers as every consumer has a different taste. Over the years Horlicks kept on changing the taste/packaging/campaign for the changing needs of the consumer. This was part of the Horlicks innovation team, which suited their product to each consumer requirements. Over a period of 15 years Horlicks campaign with many changes also began targeting working women and mother's as they also need energy to work. According to Horlicks the now the women are more career oriented, working mothers, they need energy to work, to meet their ends. Their are very less brands in the market who have changed the way consumers have changed their habits, Brands like Cadbury is one such brand which comes to mind when we think about continuous innovation in BRAND.

It's high time the brand managers think about long term benefits and offer long term customer service, rather than achieving short term targets/goals. Every Brand needs to innovate coz the consumers are changing, they are getting more options, more choices, more information. The consumer is more informed as ever about what is good for him/her, they understand what the meaning of reading the labels, so targeting these consumers a more innovative campaign need to be planned.

But, what I have seen is the Brand managers often goes in for a complete re branding of the brand. For a Brand manager this generates enough hype for its target audience with new hoardings, new advertisements, and press conferences, which is not the right solution.
Celebrities/sex is used, when creativity dies.

Companies need to planned for long term goals, conduct market research, innovate, invest in R & D, etc.

The competition is not with rival companies or products but with TIME and INFORMATION coz both these aspects are changing with the speed of thought.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Now Bollywood teaches MANAGEMENT!

Innovations have infected the 21st century.. from Automobiles, Services, Retail, etc. Every industry has been innovating itself investing a lot of moola into R & D to create new innovations in the company. This helps to attract more consumers towards the company's products and services. Same is happening with the education industry from IB schools to ICSE board schools operating in Tier 1 and Tier 11 cities. So a lot of intelligent crowd is joining for higher education with a lot of intellect. Education also need to be overhauled, so it becomes more interesting for the students to learn, and they are more eager to learn more aspects about things taught.
MBA and other management courses have also seen a lot of change during the last few years. Earlier the management trainees were taught text book case studies, but now the students have to search for case studies which suits the theories. The prof's also teach different management principles based on movies like Chakde India, Corporate, etc. Often Bollywood movies have been made only for entertainment, hardly it happens that the script case teach you. Chakde India is one such script which teaches a lot of management lessons. If we imagine Shah Rukh Khan like a manager of an organization we find the practical example of team building, motivation, leadership and winning attitude.
The movie teaches a lot of lessons some of the lessons highlighted below:
  • Turning impossible to possible: Winning of the women hockey team in world cup was next to impossible. With each member having her own ego.
  • Individual success is linked to team success: When working in a team the success of the team is more important than individual success. When the team wins, automatically the individual wins.
  • Challenge is an opportunity: Leaders should think of challenges as opportunity, every chance brings with it an opportunity to grow, to prove, to succeed. Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) took upon him the challenge of coaching the women's hockey team for the world cup. The team was not able to play in the qualifying rounds of the world cup, but ultimately won the world cup.
  • Leaders have to be decision makers: Kabir Khan taking the decision to coach the team, the decision to decide who plays when is a tough decision to make.
  • Dream big and define goal: Kabir Khan dreamt big of winning the world cup, he only thought about the CUP.... AND THE CUP.. He not only dreamt about the cup but created a strategy..a winning strategy, which involved every team member. He showed the goal to every team member and explained the plan. When the members were ready, the plan ready and the challenge ready... they went, fought, and WON.

The more you watch the movie the more management theories you will find and how they relate to our management. The movie inspired many management institutes to think about infusing movies with teaching, resulting to more understanding in students about the theories. In the past no such movie enjoyed intellect audiences.

But Satta Pe Satta was another movie which could have taught management lessons to a lot of management students.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Uncle Sam is upto what now???


Global Food crisis, then Global Greenhouse gases crisis (trouble), then Global Oil crisis... now what more crisis is Uncle Sam up to? The latest reports which regretfully date back to 2004, inform how US emissions have risen by 15.8 per cent from 1990 to 2004. The US have always tried to rule the world with latest technologies, which then in turn consume more and more fossil fuels. New Scientist have written scores of article on how the climate is changing and we are experiencing more warmth. Melting of Glaciers have began...resulting in the rise in sea level. This has resulted in increase in diseases, storms, flooding, clod nights, hot days. The global temperature has increased by 1.7 degrees c. US and other developed countries are the main culprits in damaging the environment. US for a number of years denied singing the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds of economic problems. What were the problems ? nobody knows but the US administration thought this will impact the US companies (by damaging the environment).

Now post signing this Kyoto Protocol the Bush administration has been pushing the research for bio-fuel.. so tons and tons of Corn has been imported and licenses have been granted (Actually Corn is used to produce Ethanol the main ingredient of bio-fuel). Bio fuels have forced global food prices up by 75%, so this import has lead to food crisis in under-developed nations.

So food is used to pump energy in cars by starving the humans.. isn't uncle Sam great by disturbing the ecosystem??

Riots have been going on in Sudan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and every other under-developed nations for food. We have lost on Roti of Roti, Kapada aur Makan. The US, UK and Europeans nation governments have have already passed a law that with every re-fueling of petrol and diesel 20% bio-diesel should be added. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.renewableenergy

I think we should for a change have Paris Hilton as the president. This might solve the issues, coz every administration of developed countries have been sucking the world of all its resources. I have really lost count of words... but I trully feel bad about the whole situation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BEST celebrates 61 years

Today BEST the backbone of public transport in Mumbai celebrates 61 years. Mumbai saw its first bus on 15th July 1926. Their are more than 3380 buses in mumbai plying on various routes. BEST also introduced king ling buses, AC buses on its various routes to make communicating for Mumbaikars comfortable.

As a part of celebration of BEST completing 61 years the Chairman of BEST Mr. Pravin Chheda travelled from Worli to BEST office in Colaba by 83 no. bus. He also organised various events to make create awareness on travelling by Bus will help to protect the environment of Mumbai. I feel this is an excellent way to inform Mumbaikars to start using Bus/public transport and save fuel. Already a lot of people have stopped using cars and have started travelling on Bus....

Mr. Pravin Chheda we hope by spreading such messages if at least 10 Mumbaikars stop using their personal vehicle it will be a great achievement..

Can visit their website : http://www.bestundertaking.com/index.asp

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is Indian abortion law outdated??

Every publication, every TV news channel and every media carried the coverage of the Indian High courts verdict on Niketa and Haresh Mehta's abortion plea, to abort the foetus in the 25th week. The high court denied the plea.. but is the media making a hoola of the whole issue adding masala and taking interview's of the couple....
The radio in the morning hours went further to an extent asking the listeners on their views... and whether the couple was right in aborting their child?? but will the govt change/review the law.
Well the law was passed way back in 1971... (Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, pregnancy cannot be terminated after the 20th week unless there is a health risk to the mother) and it is still not amended ... can the health ministry review the law.. well our media savvy Union Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss quotes to publications stating "Broader discussion on abortion laws to be held" so the couple is at loss coz by the time the is facing acute problems in his/her life the law will be changed.
A lot of gynaecologist's argue that if a lady decides to abort her child she will abort no matter what the circumstances are.. so I really wonder if we force Niketa to continue with the child she might go to some illegal abortion clinics or dump the child post deliver???

who will take care of this situation? If the couple is not able to afford the treatments, is the govt ready fund the treatments?

I think media should also highlight this situation, wherein some pharma company's can sponsor.. and as far as the MTP act goes.. the next govt will decide coz this govt is already behing saving their chursi..... so by the time discussions will start it will take atleast 3 years???

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some questions always floating in my mind... ????

Being a PR proffesional and always thinking about brands, lunches, crisis management, communication strategy.. their are some questions I always searched answers for????
Though I never had any formal education in the business of communication and marketing (m a Marine Engineer) I always had inclination for brands and brand management...
  1. Can we compare the communication strategy of APPLE and GOOGLE???
  2. How can new media avenues help in brand development and differenciate from the cluttered advertising?
  3. Does rebranding really solve the purpose?? like L & T cement was rebranded as ULTRATECH cement, then UTI Bank to Axis Bank!!
  4. Why Indians still love Thump sup more than Coke/Pepsi?? Afterall Coke and Pepsi are youth and international brands!!
  5. Importance of internal communication for a company?

I am searching for answers for these above questions, searching on intenet, google, blogs, books... n every possible place. I think I shoul post these questions to Martin Lindstrom or Harish Bijoor (branding gurus).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brands...Brands...Brands...

What makes people come back to brands?

What impact does brands have on consumers minds?

Why a consumer is loyal to a particular brand?

Why a customer promotes (Word-Of-Mouth) brands?

How negative news impacts a brand?

Every marketing professional has different answers to these questions, but the bottom line is a good brand is good business. But then the main question is what is a BRAND?


A brand is a collection of images and ideas representing an economic producer; more specifically, it refers to the concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand


Brands are a means of differentiating a company’s products and services from those of its competitors.

http://tutor2u.net/business/marketing/brands_introduction.asp


A brand by definition is a product/service which carries its values, the customers who own/use the product/service cherish and remain loyal to it, and they also prefer to shell extra bucks for the product/service.


Below is a list of brands, that shows the world’s top 10 brands in 2002 (as measured by value):
{Rank Brand Value ($ billions)}

1 Coca-Cola ($69.6) 2 Microsoft ($64.1) 3 IBM ($51.2) 4 GE ($41.3) 5 Intel ($30.9) 6 Nokia ($30.0) 7 Disney ($29.3) 8 McDonalds ($26.4) 9 Marlboro ($24.2) 10 Mercedes ($21.0) Source: Interbrand; JP Morgan Chase, 2002

Every businessman wants his brand to become a leader in the market and the customers should define the category by his brand. Eg. In India hardly anybody will ask you to photocopy the document, everybody uses the word Xerox for photocopying; similarly everybody will refer bottled water as Bisleri. The brand itself defines the segment of products. Creating a new brand in the market clutter is a big task by itself, it involves Advertising, Public Relations, Events, etc. It also needs customer loyalty programs, relationship building programs, consumer educating seminars, etc.

The people who create brands are called brand managers. Brand managers are also considered the parents of the brand and they plan and cultivate the brand in the minds of the stakeholders, consumers and masses. The band managers have to decide activities which will cultivate the values of the brand in the minds of the stakeholders. The band managers have to decide of the course to be taken to create the particular brand like:

· Advertisements

· Public Relations

· Events

· Road shows

· Customer loyalty programs

· Consumer education seminars

· Internal staff communication

· Brand information creation and dissemination to target stakeholders

· In film product/service placements

The above mention is a brief of some of the ideas the brand manager can use to create a impact of the brand.

Brands have longed being attributed to the growth of the business in terms of sales, staff recruitment, consumer loyalty, etc.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Healthcare Marketing and Communications

The Healthcare industry is one of the professions where advertisements are a strictly not allowed or strictly regulated and one cannot have any campaign that has the appearance of soliciting business. Also the Indian Council of Medical Research doesn’t allow the Healthcare professionals or the sector to advertise, the way other sectors are advertising in media. Healthcare marketing or advertising is a complex function as Indians don't like hospitals market themselves; the word marketing is still taboo for many doctors, physicians and hospitals. This is the main reason why Healthcare industry hires the services of a Communication Consultancy©.

The question is why should hospitals/doctors worry about promoting their service/practice? After all, if they are good then the patients will automatically go to them? To top it all if they are the only provider of a particular expertise in that region, then they don’t need to worry about marketing. Traditionally, the only acceptable marketing allowed for hospitals/doctors was “word of mouth”. Satisfied patients are the best word-of-mouth marketing tool a physician or hospitals can have because they tell others about the positive experiences they have had with the physician or hospitals.

But today, hospital/doctors compete for patients and if you want to see your practice grow and flourish, you need to market yourself. Also today hospitals and doctors can use other avenues to market themselves which are ethical. The purpose of marketing here is to inform potential patients and referral sources know who you are, what you do, and when and where you do it.
Early in 1980s the Healthcare industry started involving in India, most of the healthcare providers then were social trusts or CSR initiatives by big corporates like Wadia’s, Godrej, etc. Since these providers were not operating in the healthcare scenario for commercial gains they never promoted the services, the other possible reason being less number of healthcare providers so more demand. But after 1990s the healthcare scenario went in for a drastic change, licenses were granted for private healthcare providers and healthcare entrepreneurs who entered sector with world class treatment, unique services, sophisticated machines and state-of-art technology. Since the private hospital makes investments in setting up the infrastructure and offering its services; selling the services of a hospital needs an appropriate system for which spending is also indispensable.
So the perception of the word 'marketing' is has changed a lot in the present context. It is no longer about selling a product or a service. Today, marketing directs more towards fulfilling the needs of the user rather than selling a product. It is directed towards creating more faith in the organisation, creating awareness about services, quality, cost and philosophy of the organisation.
Marketing department, where the brand is created, carved, fashioned and communicated, sets the tone of the hospital. So manpower, size and budget for the marketing department have to be increased in order to be beneficial for hospital and patients. Hospitals should spend four to five per cent of their revenue on marketing.
The role of marketing department is not restricted to creating awareness for external customers only. Their job is to disseminate information about services internally to its existing customers and also be able to initiate a feedback mechanism for the management about perception of the level of services being provided as well any gap within the services which the operational team uses to be on continuous improvement and self assessment path.
Apart from helping to create a brand image for the healthcare institution, the department acts as an interface between the doctor and the public, like a liaison department in any product or service sector. The success of the marketing department depends on its association with various other departments. The marketing department acts like the front end that cannot perform its duties without the backing of the quality of back end operations.
Tertiary care hospitals need to put in continuous efforts to tap the area from where patients are not turning up, like a particular disease profile which is not attracting enough patients. Basically, the dept needs to create strategy for marketing those depts. or sectors to get those patients. The marketing strategy will involve events/seminars/symposiums/conferences…all these exercises requires a good budgets.
The marketing dept of hospitals plays many roles, like they facilitate corporate tie-ups for both inpatient and outpatient, health check-up tie-ups and credit client servicing, which would involve maintaining the existing tie-ups and renewing contracts, maintaining communication channels. They organise conferences, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, etc which would include all event management activities both within the hospital premises and at venues other than the hospital.
They engage in brand enhancement through publication, brochures, patient information material, corporate film, website, exhibitions, camps, etc. They also do Public Relations, VIP & visitor hospital tour, conduct patient satisfaction evaluation, market research for new facilities / services enhances market reach through franchising, expansion of ventures, medical tourism loyalty programmes and outreach programmes through support group programmes.

Hospital communications is about communicating “care” through your staff, facility and collateral.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dabbawalla of Mumbai- The Tradition and Pride of Mumbai

















The Genesis of Dabbawalla system can be traced back to the growth of Bombay’s.. I mean Mumbai’s textile industry in the nineteenth century, a boom that brought skilled workers and traders into the city. Most of the housing societies were beyond walking distance of the mills. This posed a problem during lunchtime coz hotel food was not known at that time.
In the mid-1880s a Parsi banker began to employ an errand illiterate boy? To collect lunch from his home in the Grant Road area and deliver it to his office in the Ballard District. Owing to the absence of catering facilities within the nearby factories and offices the errand boy quickly picked up additional orders to deliver the tiffin boxes, and looked to his friends and family members from Pune? To help him build his business of delivering dabbas…
The errand illiterate boy …Late Mahadeo Havaji Bachche a migrant from Pune is considered the pioneer of Dabbawalla service in Mumbai way back in 1880. He started the lunch delivery service with about 100 men most of them drawn from Pune and, linked by a strong sense of kinship, they proudly express their Maharashtrian identity through their simple white cotton attire and Nehru caps. Initially the delivery cost the client Rs.2 a month.

The Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust
The dabbawalla service was originated in 1880. Later, in 1930, Late Mahadeo Havaji Bachche informally unionize the dabbawallas and later a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Carriers Association. The present President of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust is Raghunath Medge and Gangaram Talekar is secretary of the trust.
The delivery chain..Mumbai is India's most densely populated city with a huge flow of traffic and the train travelers staying far of locations, it poses a problem during lunch time. As most of the working people prefer homemade food, which is very healthy and also comes at less cost. Instead many office workers have a homemade meal delivered it to them, and then having the lunch boxes collected and re-sent the next day. This is usually done for a monthly fee. The meal is cooked in the morning and sent in lunch boxes carried by dabbawalas, who have a complex association and hierarchy across the city.
The dabbawala usually collects dabbas from homes on bicycle. The dabbas have some sort of distingushing mark on them, such as a color or symbol. The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort (and sometimes bundle) the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination. The markings include the rail station to unload the boxes and the building address where the box has to be delivered.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes, after lunch, are again collected and sent back to the respective houses.
More than 175,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. A total of 400,000 transactions every single day - with scarcely a mistake. According to a recent survey, the system has registered a Six Sigma performance at 99.999999 rating. That put them on the list of Six Sigma rated companies, along with multinationals like Motorola and GE.
On an average, every tiffin box changes hands four times and travels 60-70 kilometers in its journey to reach its eventual destination. Each box is differentiated and sorted along the route on the basis of markings on the lid, which give an indication of the source as well as the destination address.
The dabawallaws are not employees but co-owners of the enterprise. Each dabbawala is also required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the form of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white trademark Gandhi topi (cap). The return on capital is ensured by monthly division of the earnings of each unit. Everyone who works within this system is treated as an equal and gets paid about two to four thousand rupees per month.

Commandments followed by Dabbawalla’s
  1. Each group of dabbawalla’s delivering dabbas, is a group of 2 to 3 extra members who take the responsibility to deliver the dabbas incase of any untoward happenings.

  2. Consuming alcohol while on duty attracts a fine of Rs 1,000.

  3. Unwarranted absenteeism is not tolerated and is treated with a similar fine.

  4. Every dabbawalla gets a weekly off, usually on Sunday.

  5. The Gandhi cap serves as a potent symbol of identification in the crowded railway stations. Not wearing the cap attracts a fine of Rs 25.

  6. There are no specific selection criteria like age, sex or religion; however. The credentials of the candidates are thoroughly verified and a new employee is taken into the fold for six-month probation. After that period, the employment is regularised with a salary of Rs 5,000 a month.

  7. It is interesting to note there is no retirement age, and any person can work till he is fit enough to carry on the tasks required of him.

How the dabba is delivered

  • The first dabbawalla picks up the tiffin from home and takes it to the nearest railway station.
  • The second dabbawalla sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage.
  • The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations.
    The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and drops them of at the offices.
  • The process is reversed in the evenings.

Features on Mumbai Dabbawalla’s

  • BBC has produced a documentary on Dabbawalas, which was part of a series on unique businesses of the world.

  • In 2002, Jonathan Harley, a reporter, did a story on the Dabbawalas with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

  • In 2003, Paul S. Goodman and Denise Rousseau, faculty at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration of Carnegie Mellon University, made full-length documentary called 'The Dabbawallas'.

  • Two Dutch filmmakers, Jascha De Wilde and Chris Relleke, in 1998 made a documentary called 'Dabbawallahs, Mumbai's unique lunch service'.

  • Director Manohar Sarvankar shot a full-length Marathi feature film effectively portraying the life of Dabbawallas 'Mumbaicha Dabbewala'. The fictional story penned by Pratap Gangawane in which real life incidents of the dabbawallas are weaved in.

The Dabbawallas have been featured in the Guinness book of Records and also in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Though the Mumbai Dabbawallas are simple, semi-illiterated they have big fans. They are the likes of Prince Charles to Richard Branson to the big management institutions. The dabbawallas have been invited to speak on their management mantras to top business schools like IIMs, Symbiosis institutes, WTC, for the last six years.