Driven by the production and sale of generic drugs, pharma is one of India’s top industries and expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% per annum between 2015 and 2020, reaching a total value of US$55 billion in the next two years.
Accounting for 20% of global exports in terms of volume, India is in fact the world’s largest provider of generic drugs and has the second largest number of US FDA-approved manufacturing plants outside the US. This is partly fuelled by the low production costs compared to wealthier nations.
India’s prosperous pharma industry is attractive to brands looking to grow in the region. But without understanding the distinct characteristics of India’s consumers, and what these are based on, brands will find it hard to succeed.
How vocal are Indian consumers on social media?
In terms of online population size, India is the largest market following China. But of the country’s total population of 1.3 billion, only 35% are active internet users. Of these, approximately 95% are mobile internet users. The low level of penetration is mostly due to a huge disparity in income levels, Purchase Power Parity (PPP), literacy rate, inclination towards simple living and an aversion to technological advancements among the older generations.
In comparison, the technological progress in developed countries means they enjoy a considerably more widespread access to the internet. In the UK, for example, 89% of consumers are frequent internet users. Among 16-34 year olds that figure is 99%. Because of their familiarity with tech and the online world, consumers in developed nations are more willing to share health concerns and interact with peers and medical experts online. Meanwhile, Indian consumers are more comfortable talking to their healthcare provider face-to-face. Additionally, because patients in India must carefully consider the price of the medication since they are paying out pocket, they play a considerable role in choosing the course of the treatment.
It’s also important to understand that many Indians put their trust in the ancient medicinal system Ayurveda. Widely used to treat physical ailments, it’s also believed to improve mental and spiritual growth. So, when it comes to treating diseases and poor health, consumers in India largely prefer the natural remedies used by their ancestors. It’s worth adding that some consumers fall prey to superstitious beliefs in their search for a cure.
The How, Where, What and Why of Lifestyle Disease Conversations Online
In India, the number of people suffering from lifestyle diseases has been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years, with 72 million cases of diabetes recorded in 2017 alone. In terms of cardiovascular health, there is an estimated 40 million heart disease patients in the country.
Looking at the social media conversations around lifestyle diseases in the last year, we were able to see that information sharing was the most popular theme, representing 95% of the conversations. These conversations typically focused on spreading awareness and informing of causes/risk factors, symptoms, prevention, treatments and maintenance.
- More than 90% of the conversations took place on Twitter, a popular platform among social media users in India.
- Based on publicly available posts, conversations in which people shared their experiences and opinions were rare across all platforms.
- Accounting for more than 60% of the information posts, experts and organisations dedicated to a certain cause were the groups most likely to share information. These posts were typically aimed at making people aware of how to prevent, spot or treat conditions.
- In general, HCPs’ share of conversation was low with only 1 in 20 mentions posted by this group.
- Representing 2% of the total conversations, patients were the least vocal stakeholders.
Why brands should be reaching out to Indian consumers through online channels
- India’s young and urban population is rapidly growing. The access to the internet is becoming more widespread, particularly among the younger generations, as mobile service providers are bringing out affordable data plans.
- The pharma market in India is expected to grow to US$ 55 billion by 2020. The sheer size of the market opens for many new opportunities.
- The high prevalence of lifestyle diseases calls for better healthcare products. Unlike in many developed countries, the health product market in India is far from saturated.
- Patients in India play an active role in choosing the course of treatment.
How brands should plan their entry to the Indian market
Before reaching out to India’s consumers, brands must bear in mind the behavior of the stakeholders online, and how these differ from those in the developed world, namely the US and the UK. For example, trying to reach patients online by targeting HCPs is unlikely to yield the desired result as HCPs have a low share of voice. Below are some helpful pointers for brands looking to enter the Indian pharma market.
- Become the Go-To: As a first step, establish your brand as an expert in the subject matter.
- Emotional Connection: The best way to strike a chord with Indian consumers is to familiarise yourself with the local culture. Content should be created in line with any traditions or beliefs as this will help forge an emotional connection between your brand and consumers of all generations.
- Personal Approach: Directly reach out to patients with information about their disease and how your product can help.
- Youth Appeal: Because 74% of India’s internet users are aged 35 or under, the look and feel of your brand’s content must resonate with a young audience.
- Offline Matters: CSR activities must also consider the many Indians that aren’t regular internet users. To help catch the eye of both the online and offline populations, your brand should focus on raising awareness of the disease category your brand specialise in and how the brand/product can help in a way that would benefit society.
With an MBA in Marketing, Abhinab Bhanja has rich experience in social media analytics in domains including life sciences. CPG, BFSI and technology. As Head of Insights (APAC) and Pharma (Global), he manages some of the company’s key accounts, supporting clients’ research and analytics endeavours and enabling them to make better decisions across the business, from R&D to comms strategies. Prior to joining Convosphere, Abhinab worked with the world’s top consulting and analytics firms, including Genpact, ZS Associates and Fractal.