While the covid-19 situation has put forward many challenges currently, it has also created great opportunities. We spoke to industry leaders and put forward their views on how they are dealing with these challenging situations with the help of digital marketing.

Chief Executive Officer, SMT Pvt. Ltd (Sahajanand Medical Technologies)
Mr. Ganesh P Sabat is the CEO of SMT Pvt. Ltd. and has served in that position since April 1, 2013. Prior to this appointment, he held other positions with SMT, since joining the group in Feb 2010, including Chief Financial Officer with duty regarding funds and Account department. Mr. Sabat currently is also President of the Indian association of Medical Stents Manufacturers. He has over 15 years long stretch of involvement in corporate strategy and finance. He has cross-cultural as well as global exposure in medical devices, life sciences, chemical and financial services industry. He has earned his MBA from the Washington University in Saint Louis, USA and is also a Company Secretary from Institute of Company Secretaries of India.

What have been your marketing challenges during the lockdown?
Lockdown Affected our industry at a great deal because we are providing medical devices. The cardiologist must be in the hospital to operate on the patient. Selective surgeries are not taken up at this moment. That’s why the industry has shrunk down during Covid 19. Market is dramatically reduced also because Hospital capacity has to be used by corona cases. Most of the hospitals including Govt hospitals are taking only emergency cases.

Positive side is Doctors and Cardiologists have ample time to spend and listen to you as they physically cannot go.  This is something you can look at as an opportunity to promote yourself to the cardiologist.

How do you see digital marketing helping you overcome these challenges?
Challenge is that you cannot go and meet them physically, That’s why we are gone into digital marketing. The way our industry works, we cannot directly promote our products as it is a highly regulated market. We have taken this as an opportunity to communicate with our clinicians to build their knowledge base, upgrade their knowledge e.g. how to perform a case during covid 19? What are the precautions you need to take?  What are the tests you need to do?  How they need to change the workflow from the time patients come in to the time they get discharged. 

We have also helped and communicated with hospitals across the world where we operate. in India, Germany and Italy and studied what they are doing to take care of their patients, their medical staff during covid 19, what are the best practices, what are the SOPs they are following. 

We have created a lot of discussion forums for our branding activities. Preparing Medical Staff and Medical education training programs. It is a brand promotion, as a brand what we stand for we stand with customers, As a Brand we care for the society. We help them when it is needed. That is the most critical message that we like to carry to our stakeholders.  That’s what SMT stands for. That we focus on those aspects.

We are doing a lot of webinars as awareness activities as digital as the Sales team are working from home. 

Do you think patients will now prefer telemedicine or video consultation over a visit to the doctor? Do you think this ‘digital consultation’ could be the next biggest step in healthcare change? (Think of rural areas)
Yes.  After Covid 19 the world will take its own sweet time to come back to normal. When we will meet anyone we would know if he has any disease that is the fear in everyone’s mind. In hospitals OPDs are stopped. Any patient coming in they don’t know if the patient has Covid 19. Even the patients are scared to go to hospital as medical staff is exposed to Covid. As patients, doctors, staff are scared. OPD affected patients, clinicians and staff.

Online consultation has already started in India, people are paying for online consultation fees and buying medications online.  At these difficult times, visiting a family physician is also difficult therefore online consultation is growing and telemedicine must be happening. For our industry primary diagnosis might happen, echo, ecg, angiography tests will not be possible. 

Do you think that the doctors have to educate the patient about different types of stents in the market and can it be done during the digital consultation? Do you produce such marketing material for doctors?
Our product is highly technical, even though clinicians will show it to the patient, patients will not understand. It is the decision of the clinician which stent needs to be used as they are the best judge. There are many complexities and they have been educated and experienced. They can give options to the patients but the patient will always go to the doctor and say you the best judge and Dr should decide. 

Product brochure and videos are regulated. Very Technical. You can talk to only the physicians and only educate them about the product. They create a lot of educational videos for clinicians. 

Are there any marketing collaterals made for patients for patient education and information.

Yes, The product brochures some of the material we highlight but very limited, very specific and very technical , whatever we mention about the product is highly regulated. 

We have made videos to educate patients about heart attack, angioplasty, how to take care if you had angioplasty, how to take care of yourself for a quality life. 

We create videos to create branding activities with patients 

The pharma industry has long relied on in-person sales rep (Medical Representatives) visits to the doctors to promote their medicines. Has there been an increase in the number of doctors avoiding interactions with the sales-rep?
Our team has not visited since last month. No meetings. Whatsapp calls, video meetings are happening. 

We do Webinars. We used to have a lot of conferences where medical education to our clinicians, hospitals. Those conferences are closed so everything is moved to webinars. 

The response is Fantastic with clinicians. 

Do you think pharmaceutical companies will use social media and other digital channels to engage the doctors? Are you using it already ? 
No. We are using For Employees, some medical journals engagement.  We don’t engage doctors, physicians using social media. We can not do it. We cannot influence them using this media. It’s no to us. Its regulated. 

Considering the spike in digital video consumption on Hotstar, Netflix, other OTT platforms and YouTube, do you forecast the pharma industry increasing the use of video content & video campaigns?
No, we can not promote ourself their. Our product comes under prescription therefore we are in patient education. 

What business opportunities, nationally & internationally, has the Covid-19 opened up for the Indian Pharmaceutical industry? 
No additional market for now, momentarily everything has  slowed down, it will come back. 

What percentage of their marketing budget do you see pharma companies shifting to digital?
Do you think it will increase due to this situation? 

For us, it is more of Webinars. I think 5 to 10% of the marketing budget will go into creating webinars.

Please share some of your insights & learning from the lockdown and advice to the audience from your industry or overall. 
First message is: It’s a challenging time but I always want to see the positive side of it. In terms of positive aspects , We have produced face-shields,  Ventilators, Masks , CPEs. It surprised all. I believe India as a whole has untapped potential, SMT as a company understood its untapped potential and how to unravel it.  That is the biggest positive for us. 

Secondly, Country has to be self reliant on various critical products, without it, in such a situation, the country will suffer.  The Make in India program promoted by Govt. of India  is highly relevant and India has proved how it can fight it out with companies that can produce  Ventilators, Mask , CPE etc.  Without it, it would have been very difficult. 

And third important point we should take care of social hygiene, social distancing very seriously as It is a populous country. It is the critical factor which was  overlooked in India for many years but due to Covid, it has come in the limelight. 

Posted By: 

Chandan Bagwe

Chandan Bagwe, is the Founder and Managing Director of C Com Digital, founded the company two decades ago in 1998. This can be attributed to consistent and immaculate services in online development and marketing along with recruitment of an experienced and specialized team under his stewardship. Chandan has established the company as the leading techno digital marketing agency in India essentially focusing on the digital publicity of brands by integrating Content Curation & Creation, influencer marketing, digital public relations and distribution of varied content. The company has worked with leading brands such as  Times Now, Edelweiss, Tata Interactive Systems, Tata ClassEdge, Asian Heart Institute, Anunta Technology Management Services Pvt. Ltd, Blue Cross Laboratories Pvt. Ltd, We School, Outlook Publishing, Southern Health Foods Pvt. Ltd (Manna), Ram Ratna Group, and Globus to name a few.