What They Don’t Teach You At Business School

Rapid change in every sphere has left the curriculum lagging and inadequate.

The one word to define the age we live in could well be ‘unpredictable’. Technology is changing almost as fast as it took to type that; politics at every level seems to be full of surprises (and not all of them pleasant, though that’s a story for another day); economies around the globe are in a state of flux; the very environment is changing as we live in it.

Through all this, we expect some things to stay constant: the daily delivery of newspapers, milk, bread, and other essentials; the shop around the corner stocking our favourite brands of chewing gum or cigarettes; telephone bills to come in regularly; and our favourite serials to play on television. Now think of the companies behind these products. Yes, many of them are high-tech manufacturing units, manned by the brightest and best in the field. But their top managers say it is only a matter of time before their organisations will be torn apart either by new technologies, new business models, innovative marketing tools, or even fancier products.

Yes, but if a company has strong management, it can weather all this, I say confidently. Most of the CEOs I say this to look at me pityingly and send me off to the top management schools where they seem to think I’ll learn the truth. “The current curriculum is defunct and needs significant changes to stay relevant in the present environment,” says Pramath Raj Sinha, founding dean of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, one of the premier management schools today. He goes on to explain that B-schools are woefully unprepared to churn out managers who can deal with the new unpredictable world.

“The current curriculum is defunct and needs significant changes to stay relevant in the Present environment.” — Pramath Raj Sinha, founding dean of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

“The current curriculum is defunct and needs significant changes to stay relevant in the Present environment.” — Pramath Raj Sinha, founding dean of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

“How many B-schools in India today teach the impact or the transformational role of blockchain technology on small and medium-size enterprises, the new growth engines of India Inc.?’’ asks Tushaar Shah, senior fellow at the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute and former director of the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) in Gujarat, an institution dedicated to the cause of rural poverty.
As I speak to more and more people in academia and corporate India, I realise that I’m looking at one of the biggest problems India Inc. has to face: educating future generations of managers who can easily deal with change and who look at Black Swan events not as catastrophes but as business problems to be resolved.

“The ability to deal with rapid change will be vital. While some education institutions bring this into the classroom, it may or may not happen automatically in other places. So there needs to be a conscious effort to develop this ability in students and business managers,” says Anjali Bansal, investor and board member of companies such as Tata Power, GSK, Voltas, and Bata.

I am at a conference in Mumbai organised by Silicon Valley think tank Singularity University in association with Bengaluru-based INK, which organises inspirational talks. Speakers include Bill Briggs, U.S. and global chief technology officer (CTO), Deloitte Consulting; Brock Pierce, managing partner of venture capital firm Blockchain Capital; George Kembel, co-founder of Stanford University’s iconic design school; Larry Keeley, president and co-founder of innovation consultant Doblin Group; and Matthieu Riou, CTO and founder of blockchain infrastructure company BlockCypher. One of the primary aims of this conference is to understand how individuals and organisations can deal with the disruptions caused by emerging technologies.

I meet Joe Paradiso, director, responsive group, MIT Media Lab, and ask him where he thinks education is headed and what it needs to do to arm students to tackle an uncertain world. “The most important thing about education is flexibility and being adaptive in this ever-changing world,” says Paradiso. “Education is not going to be formal anymore—you have to learn to roll with it and stay ahead; it is about working with groups and looking at things that will change the world. You cannot have fixed curricula either—it needs to change yearly.”

“Business schools in India today rarely teach about different forms of disruptions and their impact, new business models, public policy, regulatory environment, or how to successfully run social enterprises,” says ISB’s Sinha, who has a sound knowledge of the corporate sector as well, having spent close to two decades at McKinsey. The biggest challenge today for the auto industry, for example, is meeting ever-evolving emission norms. “And if you are not teaching students these things, how can they run the companies of tomorrow?” asks Sinha.

But that’s the academic view, I tell myself. Someone who is doing the hiring may think differently. Contrarian thinking, adapting to diverse viewpoints, learning to live with ambiguity and unstructured data, collaborating with others, and an ability to think out of the box are some of the “must-haves’’ in this age of creative disruption. That’s something that B-schools don’t seem to be producing, says Ronesh Puri, managing director of Executive Access, a talent search firm. “Students who graduate from the top B-schools continue to have a chip on their shoulder, believe that they know everything, while the outside world has completely changed. Self-awareness or knowing one’s limitations is absolutely critical for being a successful leader today,” he says.

Industry, clearly, is on the same page. “Unless you start disrupting your talent mix, you can’t address your disruptive agenda,” says Prabir Jha, president and global chief people officer, Cipla. Jha has been driving this exact conversation with his top team within the group. He believes that talent sourcing has to move away from conventional ways to bring in a more eclectic, more contrarian, and more cross-disciplinary set of skills. “In addition to traditional skill sets, executives need to have good creative skills and high emotional intelligence. These are also the hardest to find,” says Satyavati Berera, chief operating officer, PwC India.

“What is the point of teaching at length subjects like accounting and data, which can easily be automated, while ignoring more current issues such as diversity, gender, and political environment.”— Amir Ullah Khan, faculty for Indian School of Business, NALSAR University of Law, and Maulana Azad National University.

“What is the point of teaching at length subjects like accounting and data, which can easily be automated, while ignoring more current issues such as diversity, gender, and political environment.”— Amir Ullah Khan, faculty for Indian School of Business, NALSAR University of Law, and Maulana Azad National University.

Listening to Sinha, Jha, and Berera, I wonder about the future of organisations. If the new breed of managers is so ill-equipped to deal with this new world, how will companies survive? I turn to the New Economy to see if it holds any hope. And indeed it does. In Bengaluru, 30-year-old Akshay Kothari, heads LinkedIn India. A dyed-in-the-wool techie, Kothari could have spent all his time writing code. But a stint at Stanford University’s D-school changed the way he looked at technology forever, he says. It became more about the user than about the idea, and that changed the way he thought and behaved. The techie then became an entrepreneur, and the entrepreneur soon became a manager.

The way ahead for business schools to stay relevant in today’s dynamic and uncertain world is to have many management courses, and not just a single two-year postgraduate degree in management. “Only when you have a variety of programmes like mid-career executive programmes or a course for returning women, can you bring the necessary diversity of thinking in management education in the faculty,” says Ranjan Banerjee, dean at Mumbai-based SPJIMR (S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research). “We have to move from being just a business management school to a school of management.” In other words, use management tools to do far more than providing entry-level managers.

At the Singularity conference, I meet Kembel, the Stanford D-school co-founder, and ask him what he thinks of traditional management. It’s no longer the case that a small group of top managers set the direction for a company to follow. “Today, at best, the CEO can give a rough-cut context of a plan or a goal and let the teams work on it, set the direction, identify the needs, and figure out how to achieve the goal,” says Kembel.

More important, Kembel says that the traditional division of roles is fast disappearing. Problem-solving, and understanding public-policy issues and their impact, global environment, changing consumer tastes, etc. can no longer be the business of an individual or the leadership team, but of the organisation as a whole. “Such a change will not only require a shift in the way companies are run, but also how they evolve in the future,” says Kembel. It is, therefore, imperative that organisations enable their people, and not just leadership, to manage change better, and be more resilient and agile to handle such situations, adds Berera.

And, of course, this means a drastic change in the standard curriculum of a B-school. Theories and concepts that were once considered core disciplines are increasingly becoming irrelevant. “What is the point of teaching at length subjects like accounting and data, which can easily be automated, while ignoring more current issues such as diversity, gender, and political environment?” says Amir Ullah Khan, who teaches at ISB and NALSAR University of Law, as well as at Maulana Azad National University.

“What is missing in the curricula is a deep understanding of the frequent global crises—the East Asian crisis, Eurozone, the Chinese slowdown and the impact of geopolitics of Syria, the South China Sea, Tibet, and NAFTA—on business,” adds Khan, who is also a senior policy advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is regularly consulted by the central and state governments on matters of economy and policy.

Bansal adds that B-schools need to move way beyond just subject expertise. They need to “teach ethics,” she says. “Not just about fraud or wrongful activity, but ethical implications of business decisions. For example, in a less private, data-connected world, how do you decide where to draw the line when it comes to accessing, utilising, and selling that data?”

“Problem-solving, and understanding public-policy issues, global environment, consumer tastes, etc. can no longer be the business of an individual or the leadership team, but of the whole organisation.” — George Kembel, founder of Stanford’s D-school.

“Problem-solving, and understanding public-policy issues, global environment, consumer tastes, etc. can no longer be the business of an individual or the leadership team, but of the whole organisation.” — George Kembel, founder of Stanford’s D-school.

Why are today’s B-schools so far behind the curve? The reason is simple. There are just not enough textbooks or published papers or ground-breaking research for faculty members to fall back upon. “The new mediums of study are newspapers, Google, and YouTube, because most of the students who join us are tech savvy. And we are using more and more software tools to teach our students,” says Vijay Mahajan, who holds the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas and was also a dean at ISB between 2002 and 2004.

Today, teaching financial and marketing analytics using structured and unstructured data, such as visual and textual data gleaned from Facebook and LinkedIn, has become an integral part of the curricula to bring students up to speed with the ever-changing world.

“So while fundamental courses in finance, marketing, and organisational behaviour will continue to be taught, management schools will need to explore flexible courses and tie up with colleges with different specialisations so that they are in sync with what’s happening around the world,” says Mahajan.

Neil Jacobstein, Singularity University.

Neil Jacobstein, Singularity University.

Khan believes that one of the differentiators between B-schools will be the number of original papers submitted by these schools. It will be a rarity to find finance professors in any of the B-schools who can teach with a certain degree of authority on how to exactly value startups still steeped in losses or how crowdfunding could impact lending strategies or how international finance is panning out after the financial crisis of 2007-08.

Puri of Executive Access believes that finding the right faculty or top thought leaders to teach in these B-schools will always remain a challenge unless the teachers are adequately compensated, which is not happening today. But, more important, it is time for business schools to move from just theoretical discussions in the class to more experiential learning—teaching students to use their knowledge for enhancing the efficiency and efficacy of an organisation—because knowledge per se is available at the click of a button today.

The problem stems from the fact that while traditional Ph.D.-trained faculty members are slow to change or embrace new technologies and concepts, it is equally difficult to find highly qualified teachers in these new areas. “And even when you do, the existing teachers do not want to give up their classes because they do not want to rush through their courses,” says Sinha, who is a founding member of Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, an 18-month course designed to “prepare women with potential to achieve fulfilling careers”.

Vijay Mahajan, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas.

Vijay Mahajan, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas.

Banerjee of SPJIMR believes it is time for business schools to set up their own research labs and develop in-house talent for teaching these new technologies. Today, he is dependent on the retired top honchos of the corporate world, although he is categorical that “the institute can only teach them the application of this technology to business while the technology itself will have to be taught in the technical institutes”.

So what does the future of business schools look like? “It will be about unbundling of education, about allowing students to take any courses and from anywhere in the world, allowing them to mix-and-match courses and institution. But that can only happen once three things are taken care of: accreditation, placement, and peer learning,” says Banerjee.

Then there are some fundamental flaws in the system itself—the biggest one being the complete or near-complete absence of liberal arts students in these management institutes. “How can you teach concepts like design thinking in a class where almost 90% of the students come from an engineering background?” asks Puri of Executive Access. “There is no scope for diverse thinking or contrarian opinions when most of them have similar ideas.”

“We have less diversity in class, so there is a lack of contrarian ideas... But we have refrained from having a quota for liberal arts students. The solution lies in collaborating with industry practitioners.” —Sourav Mukherji, dean (programmes), IIM-Bangalore.

“We have less diversity in class, so there is a lack of contrarian ideas… But we have refrained from having a quota for liberal arts students. The solution lies in collaborating with industry practitioners.” —Sourav Mukherji, dean (programmes), IIM-Bangalore.

Sourav Mukherji, dean (programmes) at IIM-Bangalore, admits there is lack of diversity, but adds that the institute has refrained from having a quota for liberal arts students. “We have courses in design thinking, product design, etc. to make up for the lack of diversity. The solution lies in collaborating with industry practitioners,” he says. The bottom line, as he sees, it is to maintain flexibility in courses to keep them as current and relevant as possible.

True design thinking, says Kembel, is about “evolvability, not repeatability”; it’s not just about products, processes, or business models but virtually everything in life. It means unlocking the creativity of everyone in the organisation so that people from different disciplines provide inputs for the final product.

So, how are top business schools preparing students and teachers today for the challenges of tomorrow? Banerjee says his institute tries to create a culture of openness to learning and “learnability’’—a life-long learning process—to ensure that its students “are grounded in reality, socially conscious, have the right value system and are innovative”. It’s something that Stanford’s D-school does to good effect, encouraging techies and liberal arts students alike to have a bias towards action and also understand the importance of empathy.

The other dimension of this problem, says Banerjee, is to have “application-oriented research and consulting”—doing research that actually tackles the needs and challenges of the corporate sector at the present juncture—which again means a far deeper partnership between academia and the corporate world. “Throw in projects of the corporate world and make them a part of the curricula and you will remain relevant,” says Banerjee.
Also, management schools are only now beginning to use the digital medium effectively, ensuring that a single teacher can virtually teach 1,000 students, taking a leaf out of the experience of online education providers such as Coursera or Khan Academy. The silver lining, says Bansal, is that some schools are beginning to focus on developing the ability to learn rather than just forcing the syllabus down the throats of students.

Of course, it’s not just the schools that are changing today. Companies are also being forced to deal with all sorts of disruptions, chiefly in technology. “If today’s business leaders want to keep up with the pace of advancements, they will need to use artificial intelligence as ‘associates’ to process information and accomplish work in totally new ways. But, more important, corporate leaders are not really discussing the potential job losses emanating from these new technologies,” says Neil Jacobstein, chair, artificial intelligence and robotics, Singularity University.

PWC India has increasingly been recruiting talent from diverse backgrounds, including designers, data scientists, communications experts, and technologists, to bring about transformational change and enhance value for our clients. “We are revisiting our policies to make them more aligned with the expectations of our people,” says Berera.

Cipla’s Prabir Jha, who has been a thought leader in the human resources domain, believes that most companies still struggle to change their traditional mindset of looking for cookie-cutter skills. “In a lot of companies, leadership teams are products of their own experience,” he says. “They continue to look at their future by looking at their past. The fact is that if you don’t disrupt classical talent thinking, you’ll not be able to manage realities.”

Which is why, says PWC’s Berera, a candidate’s experience and ability to deal with “VUCA”—volatility, uncertainty, change, and ambiguity—along with role-model leadership behaviour, is a sought-after attribute for leadership roles. After all, in this age of hyper-connectedness, any unforeseen economic, political, social or other event can create havoc for businesses and organisations, if not managed properly, says Berera.

“Throw in projects of the corporate world and make them a part of the curricula and you will remain relevant.” —Ranjan Banerjee, dean, SPJIMR.

“Throw in projects of the corporate world and make them a part of the curricula and you will remain relevant.” —Ranjan Banerjee, dean, SPJIMR.

Along with functional expertise, Jha says that some of the softer skills that have become critical to deal with the constantly changing world are: comfort with ambiguity; learning agility—the ability to unlearn and learn quickly and from anyone; taking a collaborative approach; and a willingness to fail, persevere, and build again.

Sanjeev Kumar, senior vice president, HR at Lalitpur Power Generation, the energy division of Bajaj Hindusthan Sugar, believes that the Indian corporate sector continues to be risk-averse and slow to respond to the changing times, and is always waiting for others to take the plunge first. That is especially true of promoter-driven companies, but he maintains that the trend is changing, especially in high-tech sectors.

“I do not look just at technical competence while recruiting managers today but at leadership qualities like the ability to tolerate dissent, respecting and working with teams, experimenting with ideas and accepting the fact that many of them may ultimately fail,’’ says Kumar of his recruiting mantra.
The last word comes from MIT’s Paradiso, when I ask what he does to prepare his students for an uncertain future. “I tell my students to do what you want, take the red pill as in the movie Matrix, go for the wild adventure, take the path that is a little different and more challenging, because it could well be the safest thing to do in such an uncertain world. They will be at least better prepared for the uncertainties of life.”

Additional reporting by Mansi Kapur.

A first in Morocco: CIPLA MAROC opens an inhaler manufacturing plant in the Rabat region for an investment of 60 MDH

Inaugurated by MM. Anas Doukali and MM. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the plant will produce 1.5 million metered-dose inhalers annually

Rabat, Morocco, October 13, 2018: Cipla Maroc, subsidiary of the leading global pharmaceutical company Cipla Ltd, today announced the official opening of its manufacturing plant for metered-dose inhalers in Ain Aouda in the Rabat region.

A total of 60 million dirhams have been invested in this project. This is the first time that an industrial unit of this kind has opened in the Country.

The ceremony took place in the presence of Mr. Anas Doukkali, Minister of Health, Dr. Y.K. Hamied – Non Executive Chairman of Cipla, Mr Niravkumar B Sutariya, Second Secretary, Embassy of India in Morocco, Mr. Christos Kartalis – Executive Vice President- Emerging Markets and Europe of Cipla, Mr. Ali Sedrati – General Manager of Pharmaceutical Institute & Mr. Ayman Cheikh Lahlou – General Manager of Cooper Pharma, as well as representatives of local authorities and the national pharmaceutical industry.

Spread over a total area of 4,000 square meters, the Cipla Maroc plant offers an annual production capacity of 1.5 million HFA metered-dose inhalers. Around fifteen references will be manufactured on the site, and eleven will be distributed for the first time in Morocco.

The Cipla Maroc industrial unit is built as per the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as European and American regulatory authorities. The facility received regulatory approval from the General Secretary of Govt on 18th of June 2018.

“We are proud of this addition to our manufacturing footprint, a first for the region. With this, we not only strengthen our manufacturing, but also ties between Morocco and Cipla. This factory will leverage Cipla’s well known expertise and experience in the respiratory inhalation segment to help patients in Morocco and the neighbouring regions in keeping with our purpose of Caring for life.”

Christos Kartalis – Executive Vice President- Emerging Markets and Europe of Cipla Said

“Cipla, Phi and Cooper have made a smart distinctive investment in Morocco in the inhaler technology that is a first for the country and region. This would allow to reduce significantly our imports of this technology and it would improve our value added product’s offer for the exports markets”

Mr. Ali Sedrati – General Manager of Pharmaceutical Institute & Mr. Ayman Cheikh Lahlou – General Manager of Cooper Pharma added:

About Cipla Maroc:

Founded in 2015, Cipla Maroc is a joint-venture between the Cipla Ltd, headquartered in Mumbai (India), and its Moroccan partners Pharmaceutical Institute and Cooper Pharma It focuses on the production and marketing of pharmaceutical products of the highest quality.

About Pharmaceutical Institute

Establised in 1988, The Pharmaceutical Institute (PHI) is a national laboratory with Multinational standards. It manufactures its own range of generic medicines especially for chronic diseases and cancers in a concern for universal access with the best quality price/ratio.

About Cooper Pharma

Cooper Pharma has been established in Morocco sin 1933. Its products portfolio cover most of the key therapeutic classes through branded generics, in-licensed innovative products and OTC. The geographical reach covers Morocco, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, GCC countries and Eastern Europe through a network of 8 manufacturing plants operated on its own or through JVs. Cooper Pharma has been approved in 2008 by the European authorities, in 2011 by the Saudi FDA and by several other health authorities”.

About Cipla Ltd:

Established in 1935, Cipla is a global pharmaceutical company focused on agile and sustainable growth, complex generics, and deepening portfolio in our home markets of India, South Africa, North America, and key regulated and emerging markets. Our strengths in the respiratory, anti-retroviral, urology, cardiology and CNS segments are well-known. Our 44 manufacturing sites around the world produce 50+ dosage forms and 1,500+ products using cutting-edge technology platforms to cater to our 80+ markets. Cipla is ranked 3rd largest in pharma in India (IQVIA MAT Mar’18), 4th largest in the pharma private market in South Africa (IQVIA MAT Jun’18), and is among the most dispensed generic players in the US. For over eight decades, making a difference to patients has inspired every aspect of Cipla’s work. Our paradigm-changing offer of a triple anti-retroviral therapy in HIV/AIDS at less than a dollar a day in Africa in 2001 is widely acknowledged as having contributed to bringing inclusiveness, accessibility and affordability to the centre of the movement. A responsible corporate citizen, Cipla’s humanitarian approach to healthcare in pursuit of its purpose of ‘Caring for Life’ and deep-rooted community links wherever it is present make it a partner of choice to global health bodies, peers and all stakeholders.

Press Release:

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Child malaria deaths dramatically cut by suppository drug, shows Zambia study

Internally administered medicine allows crucial window of time for children in remote areas to reach healthcare facilities

A suppository form of a malaria-fighting drug could provide a lifeline to children in rural areas, drastically cutting the number of deaths caused by the disease.

A study in rural Zambia found that suppository drugs administered by community health workers provided a crucial window for children with severe malaria, allowing them to reach a health facility.

Each year, 445,000 people die from malaria, with more than 90% of deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Children under five are among those most vulnerable to the disease.

“If they don’t have immediate access to a facility, these are extremely vulnerable children,” said Pierre Hugo, director for Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), one of the research partners in the pilot project. “Their parasite count is through the roof, their red blood cells are almost totally destroyed. They’re literally on the brink of life or death.”

The research is published in advance of the World Health Organization’s annual malaria report, which is expected to call for greater investment in fighting the disease. Last year, the WHO warned that, for the first time in a decade, malaria cases were no longer falling.

The 12-month Zambia study was carried out in Serenje district, an area with high rates of malaria among young children. Communities in the district have limited access to medical care, and the nearest health facility can be 20km away.

During the pilot, child deaths related to severe malaria were cut dramatically, from 8% to 0.25%. There were three recorded deaths during the study period – 94 fewer than would previously have been expected in the timeframe, according to MMV.

All children suspected of having severe malaria were given rectal artesunate suppositories, a pre-referral antimalarial medicine. The suppository drug is effective because, unlike oral medication, it can be administered even if a child is unconscious or vomiting.

Children who received the suppository were then transferred to a health facility through the project’s emergency transport system, which was equipped with additional bicycle ambulances through the NGO Transaid. More than 1,000 cases of suspected severe malaria were referred by community health workers.

Once at the health facility, children were given injectable artesunate malaria medication, followed by a three-day oral antimalarial treatment course.

The WHO has recommended the use of artesunate suppositories in suspected cases of severe malaria for over 10 years, but until recently there was no quality-approved drug on the market.

“It’s not a product that’s widely used, its not a high commodity product, so for manufacturers it’s not an attractive treatment,” said Hugo.

MMV has worked with two pharmaceuticals, Strides Shasun and Cipla, to secure WHO pre-qualification for suppository malaria products.

It is hoped the same model could be adopted in other rural settings where there is a high prevalence of malaria and limited access to healthcare workers.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian

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Morocco Enhances Pharmaceutical Sector with New Production Facility

Morocco inaugurated on Saturday a new metered dose inhalers’ (MDI) production facility in Ain Aouda, near Rabat.
– Rabat

The factory that represents a 60 MDH investment, is the first of its kind to open in Morocco, according to state-owned media outlet Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).

Cipla Morocco, subsidiary of the Indian pharmaceutical group, Cipla Ltd, is responsible of the production facility and plans to produce 15 different MDIs among which eleven will be commercialised for the first time in Morocco.


The 4,000 square meter facility is set to produce over 1.5 million MDIs annually.

The investment is the result of cooperation between Cipla Ltd and Moroccan pharmaceutical firms Pharmaceutical Institute, and Cooper Pharma which pushed for the offshoring of MDIs manufacturing.

Morocco is striving to further develop the pharmaceutical industry, which grew quite significantly over the last years. According to Anas Doukkali in a speech at the inauguration of the production facility, Morocco covers over 70% of the national health system’s needs, and exports 10% of global national production to Sub-Saharan African, European, Scandinavian, and Gulf states.

The country already counts 50 production facilities and is currently striving to attract more investments in the sector.   

This article originally appeared in Morocco World News

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Cipla, Putting Social Stigma to Rest

Abid Hussain Barlaskar , afaqs!, New Delhi

In the brand’s latest ad, Priyanka Chopra’s revelation of being an asthmatic is set to dilute the bad buzz around asthma and inhalers.

Pharmaceutical company Cipla, in its latest commercial for campaign #BerokZindagi aims at dispelling stigmas around asthma and normalising the use of inhalers in everyday life. However, roping in an in-vogue star like Priyanka Chopra and getting her to open up about her personal battles against the respiratory disorder since childhood, adds a shiny red cherry on the pie.

The inhaler is a drug delivery apparatus which is used to treat respiratory disorders like asthma. As Cipla claims, inhalers happen to be more potent than oral administration as the procedure requires smaller doses of medication delivered directly to the lungs.

Cipla's latest ad film for campaign #BerokZindagi featuring Priyanka Chopra

Cipla’s latest ad film for campaign #BerokZindagi featuring Priyanka Chopra

The latest commercial is part of the campaign launched by Cipla last year. The team at Cipla maintains that the #BerokZindagi campaign was a pilot project aimed at establishing inhalers as the most effective and safe choice to combat the respiratory illness. The campaign’s purpose was to educate the larger asthmatic audience on how to manage and control the disease. The latest ad is aimed at social stigmas – one of the key factors for limited disclosure of being asthmatic and avoiding inhaler use in public.

Cipla’s ad films from campaign #BerokZindagi from 2017

Cipla released two ads last year for #BerokZindagi, on similar lines.

And in Priyanka’s case, she learnt she was asthmatic when she was five. It was her mother, a doctor, who encouraged her to use inhalers. However, it was her relatives who were apprehensive that it would make her reliant on the medication.

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So why the ad? Aren’t inhalers prescription medicines and better demonstrated by a doctor? And, the ad speaks for all brands of inhalers in general which actually rely on the doctor for sales. How does this B2C communication benefit Cipla as a brand?

afaqs! spoke to Nikhil Chopra, executive vice president and head, India Business, Cipla, to find out more about the brand’s communication.

Nikhil Chopra

Chopra explains

There is a lack of awareness on inhalation therapy in India. It’s surrounded by social stigma. 47 per cent of patients fear the social stigma more than the disease itself. They are afraid of getting labelled, further leading to avoidance by society, peers and family. Our research also revealed prevailing myths and misconceptions that inhalers are addictive, have strong medication and are not suitable for children,

“Inhalation refers to a category of medicines and not a particular molecule or a brand. It encompasses a large number of molecules, their combinations and a large number of inhalation devices. The choice of the molecule and the inhaler is the physician’s prerogative. The campaign thus aims to normalise the use of inhalers as a category and increase patient awareness so as to better enable doctors to drive the optimum health outcomes for their patients,” he adds.

“The primary aim of our mass education drive is to promote awareness among patients to consult doctors for the most effective treatment of asthma, which is inhalation therapy. The campaign is our effort to go beyond drugs and devices and shape the respiratory health ecosystem. This thought stems from Cipla’s purpose of ‘caring for life’ and focuses on ‘patient-centricity’ that drives our innovation philosophy,” Chopra adds.

Juneston Mathana

Speaking about the brand’s brief, Juneston Mathana, creative director, Grey Group – India, who worked on the campaign, says,

“The brand’s sharply defined objective was to increase the usage of inhalers by removing the stigma associated with the disease and eliminating the myths surrounding the therapy. One of the biggest myths was related to the addiction of inhalers. With Priyanka (Chopra) on board, the communication needed to reflect her unstoppable attitude in life and use her personality to bust the ‘addiction’ myth surrounding inhalation therapy.”

With regard to the challenges of this medical communication, Mathana explains, “We had to show inhalers as the solution for asthmatics to lead a better lifestyle rather than focus on their condition. And it helped that Priyanka has been an asthmatic since childhood. Since this is a prescription-based product, not only did we have to highlight that inhalers are better and safe but encourage asthmatics to ask their doctors about their benefits.”

Expert speak:

Praful Akali, founder and MD, Medulla Communications, an agency that specialises in healthcare communication, maintains that this communication takes a real person like Priyanka, who demonstrates #BerokZindagi and gives away her secret to break myths and false perceptions.

Praful Akali

Akali says.

“I hope the brand puts media monies behind it and utilises the campaign to its full potential. It also has potential for some great PR, social and user-generated campaigns as an offshoot of the ad,”

His opinion regarding the brand’s B2C communication for a B2B category is, “Gone are the days when pharma was seen as a B2B category – it’s now clear that consumers, doctors and pharmacists, (also dieticians, gym instructors, caregivers etc. sometimes) each play a role in the decision-making process for pharma or healthcare brands. So, pharma companies are reaching out to a mix of these stakeholders to drive brand decisions”.

Akali adds his take on how Cipla would reap the benefits from the ad film, “While doctors prescribe inhalers, the challenge in the category, for Cipla, is not generating doctor prescriptions but getting patients to comply with those prescriptions. Patients believe that inhalers are addictive and users have very poor health or are weak. By using Priyanka’s story to break these misperceptions the campaign should get patients to comply with inhaler prescriptions where Cipla is by far, the market leader, thus directly benefiting Cipla’s business.”

Pravin Sutar, executive creative director, Dentsu Webchutney is of the opinion that the ad has managed to trigger the right conversation about the problem and showcases the solution in its full glory. He believes that using Priyanka Chopra and her family background as a part of the storyline is interesting, but as a creative approach, it was playing it safe.

With regard to the B2C style of communication, he says,

Pravin Sutar

“That’s a smart move, targeting the TG in this category who are surely looking for a simpler solution; contemplating between the tablets and inhalers. Brands like Cipla, an established leader, stepping in and giving their TG an assurance about a solution, will be a big relief for them. After watching this ad, anyone suffering from asthma will be aware of the message and will ask for the inhaler.”

When it comes to benefiting Cipla Sutar states, “Clearly Cipla is trying to make the awareness super-strong in this category. By having a generic dialogue rather than being specific, Cipla has managed to trigger the awareness in this category. It might help them in changing the behaviour of their TG who is stuck in that hazy dilemma. They are clearly trying to own the category. Cipla, as brand, will stick in their TG’s mind as a first option.”

Anadi Sah, lead innovation – creative and tech, Isobar, finds the film impressive and compelling. He believes that roping in a celebrity who narrates her own experience is a remarkable strategic decision that would surely benefit the brand as well as the entire category.

Anadi Sah

Sah says.

“Any category whether B2B or B2C, at the end of the day, is driven by humans who are sensitive to emotions and receptive to external stimulus. It has been a while since the Tech and IT sectors have broken this B2B vs B2C divide and shifted to a humanised approach of storytelling that has benefited them. This film initiates the approach in the Pharma and Healthcare category,”

“Being a leading pharma brand, I feel it is a thoughtful move to address a category challenge. This move benefits brands in multiple aspects. The film clearly builds awareness and recall for the brand as well as a cure for an ailment that’s always ignored or avoided. Further, I am confident that this will also generate a demand for Cipla, once there is a change in the audience’s perception through the film,” he adds.

This article originally appeared in afaqs.com

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