Is it too late for Indian Pharma?

We don’t catch up with our friends in a coffee shop. We whatsapp them. We don’t stand on a walkway waiting for the next cab to arrive. We book an Uber. We don’t shop in at a mall. We get it from amazon. We have been engulfed by the digital wave. It has captured every aspect of our life.  Beyond the realms of individual life, industries are being defined by their adoption of technology. The Ubers, Amazons, the Air-bnbs of the world have truly disrupted industries and have made lives of the people infinitely better.

Similarly doctors, in their busy lifestyle stay focused on networks specifically for the healthcare industry. Doximity and Sermo have captured the imagination of the doctors of the western world. Doximity has almost 60% of the US doctor base where as Sermo has already spread its wings to 25 countries. But you must wonder how these vertical networks are capturing the imagination of physician in a world defined by Facebook and Instagram status updates?

Here’s the anomaly. And the perhaps the biggest reason why despite the world embracing digital media, the healthcare industry has largely stayed away from it. Regulations. Everybody is afraid of the law (well, almost), and that has made doctors refrain from the nuances of social media. The interactions were mostly limited to local conferences and WhatsApp group chats. With the advent of new social media platforms that allow only verified doctors to sign up, a new space for networking online has opened up for HCPs.

These vertical networks have a few coherent advantages. Apart from peer to peer collaborative learning and imbibing camaraderie among the doctors, this has given the doctors an avenue to vent their feelings within the community itself.

The emergence of Emerging Market

Emerging markets often fall prey to late technology adoption and slow infrastructure development. Internet connectivity or the lack of it is a major sore spot for new tech to trickle down the various demographics. Hence innovation needs to be the driving force in building or selling something valuable in this market.

Let’s put it bluntly. Healthcare in India is in dire straits. With a doctor patient ratio of 1:1700, the system needs a major upheaval. With China being the closest to the Indian market, we must take a leaf out of their book. China already has a social network for doctors that has a whopping 3.2 million HCPs. Think of the amount of wisdom in those interactions and how it can be leveraged for the greater good – better disease management, public awareness and patient outcomes. Even pharma and medtech companies can harness this data to improve marketing and sales efficiencies. Well the opportunities are in plenty. So where does that leave India?

A recent survey among Indian doctors suggests that more than 45% of the doctors prefer digital resources to print resources to make informed clinical decisions. More than 60% of Indian doctors have also expressed interest in physician-only networks. Furthermore, according to the Digital Savvy HCP Survey done by Indegene, 52% of doctors in India preferred online detailing once a month. Indegene’s survey also points out that 60% of doctors in India also preferred to attend a webinar once a month. With an estimated 7 lakh registered doctors in India, and internet penetration growing by a whopping 30% yearly, there is a new demand for online social networks for doctors.

Well there is some good news. A new brigade of healthcare enthusiasts and founders are trying to solve the healthcare conundrum. Curofy is currently the most popular platform among doctors in India with more than 1,75,000 verified doctors. 50% of Curofy’s registered users are active on a monthly basis. Doctors connect with peers and continuously post and discuss cases on Curofy daily. The network is growing rapidly and has the most number of engaged doctors in India. In a country where, doctors are overburdened with patients, Curofy is finally answering to the need for an online space for doctors to interact, learn and stay up-to-date on relevant information.

Indian Pharma, are you listening?

Logic dictates that you sell your product where your customers are. Doctors, the focal point of the healthcare industry are slowly but surely embracing the digital wave. Digital makes the inaccessible accessible. The possibilities are immense. Right from brand perception to customer engagement, digital platforms can give the pharma marketers ample opportunity to market products more effectively and at a fraction of a cost

We already know that it is more challenging than ever to get face time with doctors today. With the changing demographic, it is easier for pharmaceutical companies to provide relevant online content and information to be accessed by doctors at their preferred time. Think about easily pharma and medtech can communicate and engage with doctors on a platform that currently has the attention of doctors. It is an easy way to reach industry thought leaders and influencers within certain specialties.

Not too late for Pharma

Indian pharmaceutical companies have not yet jumped onto the digital bandwagon. While, some consider this new wave of disruption as an opportunity, some consider this a threat to traditional forms of marketing. Other markets that are further down on the pharmaceutical digital marketing spectrum (like US, UK, Japan and even China) offer great insights into the benefits that platforms like Curofy offer.

Disruption is an eventuality, for better or worse. Pharma firms cannot dazzle by taking timid action towards digital disruption. In a world with digitally savvy consumers, halfhearted attempts at innovative marketing strategies will only doom the company further. It’s time to commit and take the digital innovation plunge. So, the question remains – Are you ready to adapt or be left behind? The answer will define your place in this industry. A decision of a step forward or a step back.

Remember, in the time you spent reading this article, at least 6 other pharma brand managers across India already implemented their digital strategies. How far behind do you want to be?

Stay tuned for next article to know how you can integrate digital in your next year’s business plan.

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