This startup is helping pharma cos go digital to promote drugs, including Remdesivir

Launched in March Doceree says it is already working with seven of the top 10 big pharmaceutical companies to rollout their brand promotion campaigns.

November 30, 2020 / 09:00 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

A large Indian drug maker which had launched anti-viral drug Remdesivir for COVID-19 treatment, is in a dilemma over how to pitch the brand to doctors.

The company is competing with five other brands. Fielding sales representatives on ground to meet the doctors and hospitals was quite risky during COVID.

That's when it reached out to Delhi-based digital marketing technology startup, Doceree, to roll out the launch campaign digitally.

It isn’t this company alone. Another leading Indian pharmaceutical company has decided to stop deploying sales representatives to promote an old legacy brand, and go completely digital.


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They relied on Doceree to promote the brand. The brand reinforcement campaign they launched on the Doceree platform was a success, as the sales of the brand grew, compared to last year.

Launched in March, Doceree says it is already working with seven top 10 big pharmaceutical companies to roll out their brand promotion campaigns.

Doceree says that the cost for a campaign on its platform was just a fraction of what companies would have originally spent.

COVID accelerates digital marketing

The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the adoption of digital marketing by pharmaceutical brands as the traditional approach of reaching out to doctors via sales representatives don’t work due to safety reasons.

“Companies want continuous engagement with doctors. They don't want to lose touch with them. Also, pharma companies found that the brand doesn’t have any relationship with doctors, and it is the sales reps who have that," said Harshit Jain, Founder & CEO, Doceree.

Jain, a doctor-cum-marketing-specialist, founded Doceree along with Daleep Manhas, who was  Country Head at McCann Health India.

But there are challenges. While the traditional approach of advertising through sales representatives is highly targeted, it isn't the same with digital campaigns. Digital campaigns have limitations in assessing whether the ad reached the intended doctors and there is no visibility on the campaign progress.

“Pharma marketers went to independent platforms like Lybrate or DocPlexus to run some form of campaign. They are still very platform- centric. They don't know which doctors they are targeting," Jain said.

“We are aggregating all professional platforms all over the internet, so that brands can now target specific doctors instead of platforms," he added.

How does it work?

Doceree uses a proprietary identity resolution technology called ESPYIAN,

which helps create a database of verified and authentic medical and healthcare professionals.

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To get that information, the company partners with over 100 professional platforms such as journals, telemedicine platforms, large specialty doctors networks and media outlets for advertisements.

Some of the names include Medscape, Radiopaedia, ResearchGate, DocPlexus, DoctorForMe, MediNexus, GoDoctr, MediMetry, Cureus and Medical Joyworks.

“For instance, we partner with a platform like (knowledge-sharing platform) DocPlexus. DocPlexus collects the data from physicians. The information is shared in an encrypted form, as per data compliance regulations. Only when the person is identified as a physician, we display pharma brands. In return, DocPlexus makes some money for every ad displayed," Jain said.

Jain said there isn't big competition in this space, as even the likes of Google don't allow advertising of pharmaceutical drugs, leaving a gap for them to leverage.

“Google is present across all categories, except pharmaceutical drugs, because this category requires customisation. All other categories behave in a similar manner. This category has a lot of regulations and customisation," Jain said.

"We understand pharma is a regulated category, and the regulation suggests that any communication for a prescription drug should only be visible to verified healthcare practitioners," he added.

Business model

Doceree charges pharma companies through subscription fees. The packages cost anywhere between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 11 lakh annually.

Jain says Doceree provides full transparency.

“If companies have spent Rs 5,000, how many doctors did they reach out, how many times, how many clicks they got in real time? The marketers have a real-time dashboard. They can see what's happening and can take action. If some campaign is not doing well, they can abort the campaign, tweak their campaign and make it alive again," Jain said.

Doceree charges on the basis of cost-per-thousand-impressions or simply the price a marketer would pay to receive 1,000 campaign impressions or cost-per-click.

Skyrocketing growth

As of last month, Doceree has 72 brands, and 300 campaigns on its platform.

Jain said Doceree has been growing month-on-month by 100 percent, and hired 25 people in the last three months to support its growth momentum. Doceree is seeing 30 million impressions per month.

Jain says there is still a huge room for growth.

“About 25 percent total revenues of the brand are invested in marketing. Out of that, only 3-5 percent is invested in digital. A consumer brand spends about 50 percent of their advertising budget on digital," he said.

Jain added that the company is planning to raise about $10 million in Series-A round. The startup, in March, had raised seed capital of $1.25 million.

“We are in active conversation with large fund houses,” he said. The funds will be utilised to launch Doceree services in Japan. The company is currently present in India and the US.

Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Oct 21, 2020 05:09 pm

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