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‘Win’ning its way!

Focussing on in-licensing, Win-Medicare has adopted a strategy that differentiates it from the crowd. Nandini Patwardhan and Arshiya Khan find the long and short of it.

Win-Medicare was started in 1982 as a Joint Venture (JV) between Umesh K Modi and Sterling Winthrop, which had business interests in OTC as well as ethical segments. However, in 1988 Sterling Winthrop was acquired by Eastman Kodak as the lifesciences division of the company. But having no focussed interest in India, Eastman Kodak sold the ethical business to Sanofi, while SmithKline Beecham acquired the OTC business. Win-Medicare, on the other hand, was permitted in their JV agreement with Sterling Winthrop, to launch local products, which may not have been in their portfolio. They also had the liberty of tying up with other companies.

Thus tie-ups became a step on the ladder towards their growth. In the year 1989 Win-Medicare tied up with Mundipharma of Switzerland for launching their Betadine range in India. This business opportunity proved to be a turning point that the company was seeking for a long time. This joint venture was then commercialised as Modi-Mundipharma in 1993. Mundipharma’s products requiring multiple dosages, came off-patent. While Modi-Mundipharma focused on manufacturing, Win-Medicare looked at the marketing and distribution aspect. But this was not the end. In 1996, the company took yet another shot at JVs and Modi-Mundipharma, Modi and Revlon USA launched the joint venture Modi-Revlon, thereby making an entry in the colour cosmetic business.

Winning strategy

“We have the India expertise, market knowledge, distribution set-up, customer coverage, trained field force of over 500 representatives and they have the brand expertise”

– Surjit S Aurora Vice-President, Marketing and Sales,

Win-Medicare

Though Win-Medicare does not have many brands under its roof, the company has adopted a strategy that enables it to leverage their marketing edge in the country. The company’s main focus lies on in-licensing agreements, which clocks in almost 74 percent of the revenues. The remaining 24 percent comes from the domestic products.

In line with this strategy, the company has tied-up with various MNCs across a range of segments to gain international marketing and distribution rights for unrepresented global markets. Another reason for tying with the MNCs is because many top-class products can be made available to the Indian consumer through such alliances, thereby giving him an unlimited choice. “World class successful products can be made available in India,” opines Surjit S Aurora, Vice-President, Marketing and Sales. “Several international single product companies want to operate in India. We have the India expertise, market knowledge, distribution set-up, customer coverage, trained field force of over 500 representatives and they have the brand expertise,” he adds.

The company has tied up with the German Merz Pharma for marketing in India, their products falling in the hepato-therapeutics and dermatology category and Bionorica for phytopharmaceuticals. They have forged alliances with two Switzerland-based companies, IBSA, in infertility products and gonadotrophins and with Tillotts Pharma in gastroenterology segment. This is not all for the company. Win-Medicare also has alliances with HRA Pharma of France for marketing their products and with Denmark’s Leo Pharma, for psoriasis products. While Europe comes across as the main focus, Win-Medicare is tapping the US market too, through an alliance with NBTY, USA for OTC products.

The reason for implementing the in-licensing strategy was their aversion to get into the generics space and launch ‘me too’ products. They believed that generics were not a much profitable area for them with on-going cut-throat competition. “We decided long time ago to confine ourselves to those areas where we could clearly differentiate ourselves and that point in time since patents were not there, there was no market in India which you could call your own,” reasons Aurora.

On the other hand there were European companies who wanted to enter the Indian market but they did not have the expertise or the product range to make an entry in the country. So in the late eighties and early nineties, Win-Medicare initiated the move to approach them. Mundipharma was the first such relationship that they developed. This was in line with the same idea through which they launched the modified drug delivery systems in the country.

The breaker

Alliances, like relationships are not easy to maintain, especially when there is a third angle to it. And Win-Medicare has an interesting story to tell of Betadine antibiotic ointment that many of us are not aware of. “We encountered the first challenge when Betadine was moved from Wockhardt to us,” says Aurora. Besides this there were several other challenges in terms of the franchise moving successfully to us and the numerous legal cases that were thrown at us from Wockhardt,” he adds.

The Mundipharma and Wockhardt collaboration for marketing Betadine was to expire in September 1989. But Wockhardt freezed the production of Betadine, six months prior to the time which was set. Wockhardt was promoting its own brand Wockhardine saying that the former one doesn’t exist any more. Six months later when Betadine was reintroduced there was a lot of confusion in the market. “Besides all this, Wockhardt had good muscle and a good relationship with the retailers. They were also offering discounts to block the retailer shelves with their products,” adds Aurora. This move by Wockhardt was delaying the production of Betadine and so a firm decision at that point of time had become the need of the hour. “The cold war with Betadine had to be resolved at the earliest which could not have been possible with legal battles which take centuries or even more to come up to a conclusion. So waiting for the result from the court was just not worth it,” complains Aurora. Hence the both the companies decided to solve the dispute with mutual decision that Wockhardine would be sold at a price premium of 15 percent lower than Betadine.

“The most remarkable aspect of the war that went on for months is that Betadine still remains a market leader selling in over 90 countries for over five decades,” beams Aurora. This came as a major victory for the company. Since then, Win-Medicare has been able to overcome all the hurdles by focussing on brand differentiation, understanding customer needs and focussing on them by providing intensive training for field force and intensive schemes for performance. May it be the focus of differentiated products rather than a ‘me too’ product, generics or the tiff with Wockhardt over Betadine; the company has overcome everything.

The in-house strength of the company includes products like Diclomol, Myospaz, Myospaz Forte, Urgendol which are analgesics, Udihep for liver disorders, Osmowin for Laxation, Logican for Candidiasis, Carbomox for respiratory infections and Citibid for infections. This portfolio contributes to 24 percent of the company’s business. Betadine from Mundipharma is 56 percent, HepaMerz and Contractubex from Merz Pharma is 18

Brand

Therapeutic Area

Rank in the segment

Betadine Antisepsis First
Hepamerz, Udihep, Osmovin Hepatology Third
Corion, Gonotroph F, Pregnorm, Gonoblok Gynaecology Fourth

Source: IMS ORG

What’s different?

The most remarkable aspect of the war that went on for months is that Betadine still remains a market leader selling in over 90 countries for over five decades

What has made the company a success with products like Betadine in its basket is that it did not focus on Betadine as an umbrella brand but treated each formulation as an individual brand and promoted it separately. “We have become the number one player in the antiseptic and antibiotic ointment market. In the solution market we are way ahead of Savlon, the market leader,” says Aurora. The secret of this success is their marketing mantra of not going through trade channels but targeting the customers directly by focussing on building the brand at the doctor level. “The company believed that once the prescription was there the substitution would be minimised. Hence the company focussed purely on the customer angle, rather than working at the retail level,” justifies Aurora. “We know that a fair bit of substitution as much as 25 to 30 percent does exist. But the same is supported by the fact that market for the same has expanded from six crore in 1989 to about a 130 crore today,” he adds. The company’s strength is in marketing rather than selling and operating, it has adopted a premium pricing strategy rather than price discounts, which has got it a long way. With this mantra, the company’s Betadine ointment takes 22 percent market share leaving behind Soframycin with a 19 percent. So also Betadine solution picks up around 69 percent and Betadine gargle 24 percent outselling Listerine.

Win-Medicare has grown at a rate of over 11 percent over the last ten years, overcoming the challenges that were thrown at it. It has been a long and a steady journey since 1982. But all through the same, the company has grown bigger and wiser.

nandini.p@expressindia.com
arshiya.khan@expressindia.com