meerut: Rx Meerut: A bottom-up journey to the pharma leader board

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Ramesh C Juneja, 68, and Rajeev Juneja, 58, cofounded Mankind Pharma, the fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in the domestic market, in 1991. Since then, they have disrupted the Indian pharmaceutical market like few others did in the past few decades.

The Junejas’ success was led by a razor-sharp focus on consumers at the bottom of the pyramid, especially from underserved regions, selling medicines at affordable prices, and an aggressive marketing and sales pitch.

The Junejas hail from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. The elder Juneja was a marketing representative for a pharma company and his younger sibling worked at a chemist’s shop. Their on-field experience and background helped them pay attention to the unique needs and aspirations of consumers in rural and small-town India.

Despite the huge gaps in the Indian healthcare market, it still wasn’t easy for new entrants. Mankind didn’t have its own manufacturing facilities and was relying on contract makers. Its medical reps were initially held in disdain by larger counterparts – many regarded them as just another fly-by-night operator.

The Junejas kept their heads down and worked on implementing the pricing and marketing strategy. To gain volume, Mankind went after general practitioners over specialists. Its drugs were priced much less than the competition. Ad campaigns focused on consumer-led subjects such as sexual health and acidity. As it expanded, the company roped in Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as a brand ambassador, as well as other regional film stars, to make Mankind a household brand. Simultaneously, it created a well-oiled marketing and sales engine. Mankind hires most of its reps from small towns and gives them liberal commissions on sales, showing them a career growth path. This keeps the field force motivated with low attrition rates. Mankind has 15,000 marketing and sales reps.

The company has for the last five years been ranked number one in the number of prescriptions. Manforce condoms, oral contraceptives Prega News and Unwanted 72, Gas-o-Fast (antacid), AcneStar (skin brand) and multivitamin HealthOK News are among the top-selling consumer health brands in India.

In May, Mankind had a successful IPO, listing at a 20% premium. The stock has since risen nearly 30%. Mankind had revenue of ₹8,749 crore and profit of ₹1,310 crore in FY23. Domestic revenue accounted for 97% of the total.

As part of its next growth phase, Mankind is focusing on chronic therapies and metro cities, which means realigning the sales strategy to focus on specialists.

The company is also looking at premiumisation of products for improved margins. It currently makes about 75% of the products that it sells and is spending more on research and development. It’s establishing a centre with 350 scientists to develop new formulations, giving it better control over quality as well as the ability to respond quickly to market demand.

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