Around The Country In 20 Days – Internship At Abbott – Samarth Keralia, JBIMS

It all started at that time of the year when all the companies come to campus and tell us about their leadership programs. There was in particular which stood out, ‘Abbott’. It was not the usual dream companies people would have when they come to a B-School.

Given my personal experiences, I was a little aware of what the organization did, but it was only after the company presentation that I got to know what they were all about. I knew that day that this is where I can learn and grow, this is the place for someone like me, this is the place where I want to be.

What started out as a banter amongst 2 good friends who’d see the ‘Abbott’ building with the well-lit Big Blue Abbott logo everyday between Kurla and Sion, telling it that we were coming actually turned into reality when fast forward a few months, we were chosen to intern there. That is when I truly understood the power of Visualising.

Abbott has 3 major divisions and I was chosen to work with the largest one and with the team which created the flagship brands like Brufen and Digene. Yes! Digene is from Abbott. My project involved testing the market potential of some of the new products they were looking forward to introduce. And so, by the end of my tenure at Abbott, I had done not one, but 4 projects in totality.

The 1st step I follow when it comes to such assignments is ‘Expectations Mapping’. It is very important to know what each stakeholder expects out of the assignment; only then can a proper plan be made and the targets can be achieved. The fact that I had a talk with my project guides prior to my internships was very helpful in understanding the type of pre-read I had to do before deep diving into my summer internship project. And the best thing was that since the beginning of my internship, one thing was made clear to me by my guide, “We want this done, you tell us how you want to get it done”. That sense of responsibility was in fact liberating and carry out the rest of my project my way.

‘To formulate and effective strategy, one needs to know the product or service in and out.’ Since I don’t have a medical background, I knew I needed help. And my entire team was very supportive and on call whenever I needed something cleared out. I dedicated the 1st week of my internship to understanding the medical side of all the products I would be working on by reading ample number of research papers, having sessions with the In-house medical team and after I was confident that I knew enough to conduct an effective Market Research, I moved on to understanding the marketing side of the pharmaceutical industry. Combining these two I formulated multiple discussion guides for multiple specialities.

To make sure we get relevant insights from the healthcare professionals, next we defined the sample space and also the geographies I will be covering. To make sure we can cover as much as ground as possible, we made a charter of 20 days making sure it was flexible and we could improvise as per our project status. The initial plan was to conduct 160 Doctor interviews over the span of 20 days across 10 metro & Non-metro cities. To compile everything at the end was going to be a herculean task and also counter-productive, so every week I made sure I compiled and analysed the data from the market research. This in turn helped me mark my progress from time to time and also make improvements wherever possible. In fact, this analysis told us that I need to cover more bases and hence we increased the scope of the market research. By the end of 20 days, I had conducted over 205 doctor interviews across metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Chennai, and also non-metros like Coimbatore, Madurai, Nagpur, Patna. And the list goes on. Since, the customer in the healthcare space may not be out final consumer, it was very important to understand the prescription pattern and the motivators of the doctors while choosing their treatment modus operandi. One thing was abundantly clear, that the mindset of the doctors and the way they go about patient care is different everywhere. For example, you will find experiential doctors in North India, whereas the doctors from Southern-India are highly conventional and academic, the doctors from Mumbai are a mix of them both, who tend to each case based on what will work and what will not. The lifestyle of the people in Northern Kolkata is very different from the people of Southern Kolkata. How even today, before going for a C-Section, a mother has to get her Mother-In-Law’s approval even in cities like Ahmedabad, Patna and many parts of the country. But the best insights which I got were from our sales personnel with whom I rode pillion for the better part of my internship and learnt the ground realities of the Indian pharmaceutical market. What works, what doesn’t work, how to make something work. And the amount of work they put in was tremendous. All these learnings helped me understand the consumer behaviour of not only my immediate customer, but also my final consumer and hence helped me formulate my final recommendations.

I believe that is something to learn from everything. Sometimes, you learn something new and the rest, you reinforce what you already know. I learnt many things about marketing, strategy. How it is all about building relationships with doctors and being scientific relevant. How it is all about top of the mind recall, how important are the visual aids in conveying what the sales personnel needs to in the minimal time they get. I have met doctors who’ll sit you down and talk to you for 5 minutes and understand what you have to offer, I have also met doctors who’ll meet 50 Medical Representatives in 1 hour on a particular day and how the MRs would line up sometimes for over an hour just to get those 30 seconds with the doctor.

Some of the key takeaways I have had are: ‘The moment we start treating India as a country of countries, all the strategies become more effective.’ Micro-marketing is the single most important strategy in the pharmaceutical industry and the biggest takeaway I got was from Dr. Iqbal Singh of Amritsar – ‘To sell a medicine, you need to do 3 things – make sure it is effective, it is cost effective and it is marketed well. If people don’t know what you have to offer, no matter how good your medicine is, it is a wasted opportunity.’

During my internship, I have grown both personally and professionally. I have been lucky to get an opportunity to work alongside some very good people, learn from their experiences and one thing is for sure, the man who walked through the doors of the Abbott office on the 3rd of April was totally different from the man who walked out on the 1st of June and it would not have been possible without my team at Abbott. The lessons I have learnt and the relationships I have built will indeed last a lifetime.