Pharma Healthcare marketing strategies that can work for your startup


The pharmaceutical healthcare sector has been making big strides in the marketing space because of the level of competition in this industry. Due to its unique positioning between offerings and scale, the pharma startup space has established its authority within the circles of venture capital investments and startup marketing.

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Pharma exports are set to hit double digit growth figures in FY2017, thereby creating some interesting marketing challenges in the space. By 2020, India is likely to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and sixth largest market globally in absolute size.

In my experience as a marketing strategist, orthogonal industries have provided great insights into the consumers' minds and the over-arching brand psychology behind core offerings. Its provided for some great fodder for the marketing mind, and I’ve always urged my colleagues to do the same.

Focus on the brand

Unlike the IT or auto-industry, a large majority of the brands in the pharma space have focused specifically on brand building activities. Right from the website, to the app's UI-UX, corporate communications and highlights, pharma brands have captivated the consumer's attention required to gain their trust, fortitude and monies. The requirement of an easy, healthy and user-friendly platform enables branding at scale (where your message reaches out to the vast population). Pharma startups like Ekincare and Medibox, have made significant efforts in ensuring that their brand matches with industry giants.

Stakeholder engagement

The pharma healthcare industry has struck a fine balance where they heed to the authority of the doctors and healthcare management experts and still focus on a consumer-driven model. Very few industries in India, as large as the pharma industry, have this multi-tiered chain of logistical marketing, wherein regulatory bodies, governmental institutions (CDSCO, FDA, etc.) as well as industry bodies (such as Pharmexcil and others) can claim dominion over such engaging marketing techniques.

For example, the typical Indian healthcare advertising focuses heavily on community engagement as well as promoting its overall message and leadership – case in example Apollo Hospital.


With the growth and scale of the internet, pharma marketing is ripe with unexplored areas of transparency and innovation. There are government initiated E-portals to track drug sales and delivery models. PR spin and digital branding can’t really fix a crisis and business-as-usual just doesn’t cut it when it’s time to become more transparent. That’s when the startup space starts lighting up and new entrants have a lot more to say and are more transparent about numbers, statistics, background, operations, etc. This key insight enables other startup marketing professionals to re-look their own industries and analyze where money is left on the table and capture that market faster to displace the incumbents.

Customer Engagement

The typical patient journey, as illustrated in the infographic below, denotes the industry's shift from traditional marketing methods used a decade or so ago. You had the same message going to different segments of customers. Moving on to the digital sphere, there are now more avenues for engagement with patients as well as availability of more information. Thereby, empowering the patient with insights that drive adherence to medication, treatments at the right time, as well as word of mouth activation from key access to information.


Although being a tried and tested formula, endorsements are a different mechanism in the healthcare space. The traditional route of product testimonials aren’t as effective in the pharma space as you would imagine Alia Bhatt using the latest Gionee phone in her daily life would. Revital and Salman Khan had a great partnership for a long time, however new rules in the pharma marketing space have more stringent rules in 2017.

This is where unique models of promotions and promoter relationships have merged. Yuvraj Singh backed startup Healthians has raised significant funding for its home-delivery home testing startup. It has also utilized Yuvraj’s persona to create trust in the brand rather than a straightforward endorsement. This enables Healthians to grow beyond its typical capabilities with a simple tie-up or an event based promotion. The influencer has become a key stakeholder in the brand instead of just being another channel of promotion.


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