Tuesday, July 21, 2009

IIT – JEE Coaching institutes – History of the BRAND

In the recent years IIT-JEE coaching institutes has gained a lot of importance. 99% of students appearing for this competitive exam are coached at such institutes. There are more and more coaching institutes entering this arena coz of two important things high fees and quality education. IIT – JEE coaching is a more earning proposition than any other type of training. The fees charged by the top three institutes in India are in the range of Rs.1,10,000 to Rs.1,70,000 for the two year course. But a decade back nobody heard about rigorous training to prepare for these competitive exams.

Way back in the year 1990s a person called Vinod Kumar Bansal, grandson of a sweet seller in Jhansi, came to Kota to work as a mechanical engineer for JK Synthetics Ltd., a polyester plant that shut down in the late 1990s. Mr. Bansal started the coaching empire after he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1974. In 1983, he met G.D. Agarwal, who ran a Mumbai–based IIT coaching institute. Mr. Bansal says he realized his students could also end up in the elite institutes. He began taking on students who wanted to ace the IIT exam. The trained students from his institute started landing courses in the top IIT institutes. Word of mouth spread fast and he got more students. This went on and he started creating records with maximum students passing the exams and many of his students getting in the top 100.

More than three lakh students take the test each year; around 5,500 are successful. Of the 3,000 students who took Bansal’s classes last year, 955 gained admission in an IIT. To enter Bansal’s classroom, Class 10 students must graduate with more than 75% marks in physics, chemistry and mathematics. Also the aspiring students must also sit for entrance exam devised by Bansal Classes.

Bansal’s coaching classes have spawned an imitative movement in Kota, a small town with a population of 1.5 million people, about 250 km form Jaipur. The industry now trains an estimated 50,000 youths each year in standardized medical and engineering exams. The most obvious economic impact has been the growth of the coaching industry itself, an estimated 130 coaching institutes now operates out of Kota. It is estimated that 40% of the IIT aspirants come from Kota every year and this trend is increasing.

Some of IIT coaching institutes also started exploring new cities citing the Kota connection. Most of IIT coaching institutes heavily advertise their Kota connection and this helps to get maximum admissions. The numbers of seats in IIT colleges has remained the same or have increased to some extent, but the numbers of students applying for these competitive exams have increased superseding. The total worth of the IIT coaching industry is more than Rs 10000 crore. Some of the institutes to advertise heavily:

So don't be surprised to see the tagline in the advertisements of IIT-JEE coaching institutes "an institute by Kota experts".

Monday, July 20, 2009

Importance of online information in healthcare

It is a growing need to have authentic information on healthcare available online for reference. As the educated population in India is increasing at a rapid rate, the usage on World Wide Web is also increasing by leaps and bounds. Especially the patients in the urban areas tend to surf online for doctors and treatments recommendation. The online space is also not regulated so a lot of un-useful and incorrect information is available.

In the Indian scenario following are the websites:
1. Medindia
2. eDoctor
3. Totalhealthcareinformation
4. Webhealthcentre

Of the mentioned websites Medindia is the biggest and the No. 1 in Asia having more than a lakh visitors every month. The medical websites offer information on current health news, news on research reports, diet information. These websites also offer BMI calculators, doctor reports database, online consultations, etc. With everything available online the consumer hardly has to visit doctors for follow-ups.

Also the healthcare industry has seen the growth in alternative medicine therapy and this has led to most consultants to create a web space of there own. The Homeopathic Consultants are the most tech savvy practitioners having most websites dedicated on Homeopathy. Most of the homeopathic doctors have online chat, payments, consultation incorporated in the website creating it as a ONE STOP SOLUTION.

Some of the websites on homeopathy are as follows:
1 e-homoeopathy
2 homeoambrosia
3 homeopathictreatment4u
4 homoeopathyforall
5 lifepositive
6 iheal

With the rise of social media the doctors have now become more tech savvy by having blogs, facebook and twitter accounts. A doctor in Chennai recently reported the whole OT procedure on twitter thus unveiling the new age of communications.

The healthcare industry has grown tremendously and this has led to the growth of the online content. The only and major issue with d websites is more than 90% of these websites don't have authentic information or managed by non medical professionals.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pharma companies need to open to MEDIA

As pharmacos get globalised and communication gets real-time, there is a need to communicate right information at the earliest and in a manner that would enhance the corporate brand image. But are pharmacos getting more media savvy? Nandini Patwardhan finds out.

Ask any media person about the pharma industry and one can hear monologues on how pharmaceutical companies are not parting with the necessary information. And this is not dependent on the size and type (domestic or MNC, big or small) of the player. Most Indian pharmaceutical companies do not have a well-established department for handling media queries and for them, interaction with the media is largely restricted to publishing annual results, or press releases on M&As, product launches and USFDA approvals. And those, who have well-established departments, are bound by archaic media-interaction policies and time delays.

However as Indian companies are transforming themselves for the global age, they are taking a fresh look at media management to create a sound and formidable corporate image.
"The last few years have seen pharmaceutical players, both Indian and global, to have initiated a process of keeping the channels of communications open with the media and are more open to share information regarding developments and plans," explains Aman Gupta, CEO of the Mumbai-based Imprimis Life PR, a public relations firm having a host of clients in the pharma and healthcare sectors. The same view is corroborated by others from the industry. http://www.imprimispr.com/
"The Indian pharma industry has grown rapidly and is today recognised for its capabilities throughout the world. Considering this fact, most of the pharma companies in India have realised the need to have a dedicated process and policy, relating to media interactions and hence, have constituted exclusive departments that are well equipped to interact with the media," explains Ch. Ram, Head, Corporate Communications and Investor Relations at Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals.

However, there are still certain rules and regulations that govern media interactions of pharma companies, given the very nature of work carried out. With multiple concern areas, like patents, product recalls, trademark infringements and marketing tie-ups, few pharma companies might be open to media and avoid media at some stage, opines NR Munjal, Managing Director of IndSwift laboratories. Additionally, companies shy away from the media due to the fear of being misquoted.
"At times corporate clients may decide not to go ahead with the query or interview because of certain reasons—fear of the journalist misinterpreting, a weak storyline, too soon to share the information, he may not have the information, company policy, regulations or too tight a deadline," explains Gupta.

Role of mass media
In today's day and age, pharma companies cannot simply ignore the importance of interacting with the mass media. With bad publicity coming their way through examples of Vioxx, recalling of various drugs and counterfeiting, it has become essential for pharma majors to create a robust corporate image. And the mass media can assist them in this direction. "Instead of five-six odd media interactions, during publishing of results, if the pharmacos continually interact with all their stakeholders through mass media, it will go a long way in creating a corporate image," explains a top official from a renowned magazine.
Consistent communication with consumers through mass media will not only increase the recall for the corporate brand, but will also help the company ride over any controversies. Media goes a long way in educating the consumers about a particular company and its performance (financial), its products, management team and so on. This helps in building a transparent and a sound corporate image as well as in creating recall in the minds of consumers. Hence it makes sense for any corporate to have a 2-way communication channel with the media. It will be an added bonus, if they make an effort to ensure that the media fully understands the business and its various therapeutic areas of a pharma company. This will help reduce the problems of misrepresentation of information. Such 2-way communication also helps in building a trustworthy image (in minds of the customers) and safeguards against dissemination of wrong information.

By being media savvy, a company stands only to gain. "For starters, a company can benefit through an enhanced corporate image in the minds of doctors and patients, increased confidence in investors and other agencies dealing with the company, availability and retention of skilled and competent manpower and lastly, increased possibility for international tie-ups like in-licensing or out-licensing and a boost to marketing efforts," says Munjal.

IT vs Pharma
Proprietary knowledge and intellectual property is a common feature of the IT industry too. So what makes the IT industry more media responsive than pharma? Experts from the pharma industry defend themselves by saying that the nature of the pharma industry is different from that of the IT industry. "Most service providers in the IT industry employ large number of people and undertake client-contracted work. Therefore, they tend to be more open and visible in terms of operations," asserts Ram. The pharmaceutical industry, on the other hand, is characterised by R&D and manufacturing, which reflects facets of proprietary knowledge that at times set certain limits, when it comes to sharing information. "Not withstanding this, I believe that the Indian Pharma industry has come a long way in terms of communicating its growth strategies and plans with its stakeholders in a transparent manner," he adds.

It is but obvious that companies, irrespective of the industry they are in, share information to the media within the lines of a policy framework adapted by the company. This protocol is drawn on back of the interests of the concerned company and its stakeholders. "There are numerous IT companies who are media shy. Yes, I agree that there are various rules and regulations binding a pharma industry and most importantly it is a research driven sector. Therefore a pharma company cannot openly talk about its various products and its benefits like an IT or an FMCG major," reveals Gupta.

All for a favourable image

A sound corporate image cannot just be created in isolation. It has to be intrinsic to a company's operations. Pharma companies stand to benefit on many grounds by investing in creating an image for the company as a whole. For starters, its products get instant recognition. It helps in generating recall amongst doctors and patients, as well as the general public. "A strong image also delivers many benefits from attracting and retaining human talent, perception of the company's products and services in the mind of the customer and of course also reflects in the capital markets," explains Ram.

While many opine that ensuring corporate governance is the only way of creating sound corporate image in the minds of the shareholder and the consumer, others feel that organising press conferences for announcing results, new product launches and marketing tie-ups at regular intervals, making all useful information available at the company's website and circulating press releases for all the key developments in the company is yet another way of achieving the objective. Whatever tactics a company adopts need to be based on the information needs of all the stakeholders. "The strategies adopted, vis-à-vis each identified strategic stakeholder group will vary, depending on the intensity of the company's standing with each group. However, the overall strategy will have certain common elements on product profile, performance, competencies and corporate responsibility," clarifies Ram. And this is not all. In addition to understanding, a corporate also needs to anticipate the information needs of the different stakeholder groups and deliver it in real-time. One can also look at many other ways, like facility visits, friendly HR initiatives, environment friendly policies and quality initiatives. It is of utmost importance to understand the needs of the various target groups and structure the strategy accordingly.

"A good corporate image is built brick by brick. They are built by policies that are communicated to and accepted by employees, by the quality of customer service and employee behaviour. Reputations are enhanced by how willing and prepared a company is to communicate honestly, sharing good news and bad. Public relations and communications tools can be used effectively to support messages that enhance an organisation's reputation," elucidates Gupta.

A separate department
Companies today, have established corporate communications department or hire services of reputed public relations (PR) firm to help them interact with the media and maintain their image in the minds of the stakeholder. "The corporate communications department does play an important role in complying with the corporate governance requirements, but it has a much more specific role in the overall brand management of the company. Obviously, good governance leads to a good image," opines Ram. "A Corporate Communications department acts as a link between the company and the outside world which includes the media and its investing community," states Munjal. Thus, this department plays a significant role in bringing to the forth, the true image of the company.

Activities of a PR firm, in the pharma context, are not just restricted to distributing press releases. "An agency's role is about reputation and perception management and brand building. It's about creating and implementing public relations programmes that make a meaningful, positive impact on each client's reputation, brand and bottom line," explains Gupta.

However, today, more often than not, both these outfits are criticised for delaying everything and for being inefficient. "That is a wrong perception. PR is definitely not, nor has it been a roadblock. Every process, which is followed, is governed by various protocols and company policy," emphasises Gupta. Usually, when a query comes in, the agency evaluates the query keeping in mind the code of behaviour and the interests of its client. It is forwarded to the concerned spokesperson or corporate communications head of the company. Then, depending on the time, availability and the deadline specified by the journalist, the dialogue is initiated—be it an interview or answers to a query.

Thus, as pharma companies grow bigger and invest crores in corporate branding, the time has come now, to leverage the power of media towards creating a strong corporate image.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Health budget up by nearly Rs.4,000 crore

India's health budget has gone up by nearly Rs.4,000 crore to Rs.21,113.33 crore ($4.35 billion) with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday giving special emphasis to the rural healthcare. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that aims to provide quality healthcare to villagers Monday saw its budget allocation increase by Rs.2,057 crore. Describing the NRHM as an "essential instrument for achieving goal of health for all", Mukherjee in his budget speech proposed "an increase of Rs.2,057 crore over and above Rs.12,070 crore provided in the interim budget" he had presented before the general elections earlier this year. The flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the NRHM was launched in 2005. The aim was to improve availability and access to quality healthcare for people living in remote areas. The main focus is on 18 states that have weak public health infrastructure - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Orissa, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Hoping to strengthen the tertiary sector, the government is setting up six All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like institutions in the country and upgrading 13 existing medical colleges. While the upgradation is likely to be completed in the current year, the six institutions are likely to be operationalised by 2010-11, says the plan outlay of the union budget. For this project, Rs.1,447.92 crore has been earmarked. Aimed at correcting the regional imbalance in the availability of affordable and reliable healthcare services, the project envisages setting up AIIMS prototypes in Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Rishikesh (Uttarakhand). The union budget has also allocated Rs.10 crore for the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD). The pilot phase is being launched in 25 districts in the next two years and aims to prevent avoidable hearing loss and ensure early identification, diagnosis and treatment of ear problems responsible for hearing loss and deafness. The budget also allotted Rs.100 crore for kickstarting medical, non-medical and nursing courses in institutions under the health ministry for accommodating 27 percent reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBC). In its bid to develop, promote and make the Indian systems of medicines more scientific, the department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) under the health ministry was allocated Rs.734 crore. The finance minister in his 2009-10 budget also increased by 40 percent the allocation for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the health insurance plan that was launched last year. "More than 46 lakh BPL (below poverty line) families in 18 states and UTs (union territories) have been issued biometric smart cards" for the scheme, the finance minister said in his speech. He said this scheme "empowers poor families by giving them freedom of choice for using healthcare services from an extensive list of hospitals including private hospitals". "Government proposes to bring all BPL families under this scheme. An amount of Rs.350 crore, marking 40 percent increase over the previous allocation, is being provided in 2009-10 budget estimates," Mukherjee added.