Is rural India a new promised land for drugmakers? Several multinational pharma companies are targeting the subcontinent's countryside for expansion, local media reports. It's part of pharma's new focus on emerging markets but with a twist.
Apparently, only a couple Big Pharmas–GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories–have cracked the list of top 10 drugmakers in India, due to the country's strong domestic pharma industry. But the rural market remains largely untapped, so firms including Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Novartis are using a variety of methods to reach country-mouse customers.
Novartis is targeting villages in seven states with consistently-priced products available in a variety of package sizes. The model supplies medicines to more than 16,000 pharmacies. "Our stockists in district towns supply to village pharmacies," Novartis India managing director Ranjit Shahani told DNA. "We also create awareness on health issues using audiovisual interface through health advisors in villages."
Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk sends mobile clinics through villages in Goa to screen patients for diabetes. And Eli Lilly has been working with the Self-Employed Women's Association in Ahmedabad to educate people on tuberculosis and encourage them to seek treatment.
The stakes? Rural customers will account for some 20 percent of the Indian pharma market by 2015–it's 17 percent now–and the overall market is expected to grow to $20 billion from $8.1 billion over the same time period.