Medical Representative (MR) is the Best Way To Enter The Pharma Marketing Profession – Suresh Paithankar, Head of International Business

Suresh Paithankar (Head of Africa Market, Zim Laboratories) - Medical Representative

Insights

  1. In the Medical Representative profession, the experience in the market you’re handling is far more important than your years of experience. In other words, if you are familiar with that market’s rules, regulations and guidelines, then you will get the good designation and more salary; regardless of your working experience.
  2. One of the major positives of this job is that you get to travel around a lot and interact with prominent businessmen from different countries. As a result, you gain exposure and that improves you as a person.
  3. One of the major challenges in this field is that if you are not bold enough and proactive, then you will not grow. This is a job that requires you to take initiative and at times even calculated risks.
  4. Due to the growing awareness of personal healthcare and the extremely health-conscious society we live in today, there will never be a slump in the pharmaceutical marketing industry. Hence, it is a very good profession.

Profile Details

Name – Suresh Paithankar

Profession – Head of Africa Market, Zim Laboratories

Age – 47 years

Gender – Male

City – Nagpur

Industry – Marketing

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/suresh-paithankar-2138064/

Where have you been born and raised?

I was born and raised in a small village called Kopargaon, Maharashtra. My mother is a homemaker and my father a retired bank manager. I have 2 younger brothers. One of them is a bank manager and the other one is the Head of R&D at Intra Pharmaceuticals.

Did anyone influence you in choosing this career?

I chose this career path of my own desire. After finishing MSc. in Organic Chemistry, I started out in the packaging department. But, I wanted to go into marketing. So, I started out as an MR (Medical Representative) and then slowly made my way into International Marketing.

Please give us a summary of your career from a chemistry student to Market head in a pharma company.

I did my MSc. in Organic Chemistry from Pune University and MBA in International Business from SMU.

Initially, I was a packaging supervisor in an MNC. Since I was keen on doing marketing, I became a Medical Representative in Indchemie Health Speciality, Mumbai.

Within 2 years, I got promoted to Area Sales Manager and was responsible for the entire Mumbai region.

Following that, I got an opportunity to work as country manager of Kenya and Tanzania for an International company. I worked there for several years. Thereafter, I joined Renown Pharmaceutical. With modest beginnings, I grew from a manager to General Manager. Then I was managing entire South-east Asia as well as the Africa region.

Then, I joined Zim Laboratories in August 2017 and I take care of the African market for the company.

Which institutes are best for the education of marketing in the Pharma sector?

Firstly, I think Marketing & Sales is one field wherein you do not require any specific degree. Secondly, I’m not aware of any educational institutes that specially cater to marketing. My academic background was very different from the profession that I’m pursuing.

What are the typical entry-level marketing jobs in Pharma sector?

According to me, Medical Representative is the best way to get your foot in the door in the field of marketing. As a fresher, you will get a certain region, after that as an area manager you might have to handle 4–5 Medical Representatives, who work under you.

Following which, there are higher levels like the zonal and national sales manager etc.

What is the range of salary one can expect when starting out as Medical Representative?

In both international and domestic markets, only those below 3 years’ experience are considered novices.

After which, more years of experience won’t automatically fetch you a higher income; only your performance will.

For someone working as a Medical Representative, with 5 years of experience, they’d get around 50,000 INR per month i.e. around 6 Lakhs INR per annum.

If someone has 5 years of experience in International Market they can get a package of minimum 10–12 lakhs INR per annum. This figure is for India. If you work overseas as a Country Manager, you can easily get 30–40 lakhs INR per annum.

Please describe your work.

My work includes looking for and opening new countries, which might be potential clients. In countries, where business has already been initiated, I try to further promote the products. For example, if they’ve already selected 5 products and dossiers then I will propose another 5 products so that there will be 10 products inside the ministry.

Then I will get registrations for the first five and then the next five and so on. Once I get the required certification, only then can the business start.

I also supervise all the on-going orders we receive from various countries, see which stage they are in. Accordingly determine what steps I should take to facilitate the order if there are any problems with the products, at my level or the consumer’s level.

For example, the customer may want to change the packaging or the color of the tablets etc. This may be causing delays, which is not good for business. So, I get things done faster.

I also take care of the payment terms and conditions, observe which date the order will be dispatched and reach the customer. Following which, I determine what promotional input I have to send in that county for that order to liquidate fast and get a repeat order.

What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to consider Medical Representative as a career?

  1. Personally, I think the biggest positive of a marketing job is that you’re not confined to a desk and therefore, get to travel the world. This is not only a dream come true for someone who loves to travel but also being out in the field means you get so much exposure. This helps in personal development.
  2. In international marketing, since you have to deal with prominent businessmen from different countries on a daily basis, it hones your business sense.
  3. With regards to money and growth, they are directly dependent on your performance and not on years of experience or seniority, as in other professions.
  4. The salary is also very good, and you will be able to afford a good lifestyle.

What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering Medical Representative in the international market as a career?

  1. You have to know the business well because mere theoretical knowledge of International terminology will not get you far. Also, you have to make sure that you know your product well so that you can pitch to customers perfectly.
  2. You also have to be really bold, take initiative as International Market is very different from the domestic market. Metaphorically speaking, you have to create your own rules and find ways which will help you get the job done.
  3. Your business and communication skills should be perfect. You need to be friendly with your clients, despite your differences.
  4. You have to always be updated, and with all the new products coming out in the market, it’s a tiresome task.

What are the relevant skills that are currently commanding a premium for marketing professionals in pharma?

Healthcare Awareness would be one. Nowadays everyone is very conscious about their health. As awareness spreads it helps us launch new products or create the demand for new products. Communication and business skills are also a must.

What kind of person would be happy as a marketing professional in pharma?

Someone who is bold, energetic, is well versed with business and preferably someone who loves to travel will absolutely love this job.

Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?

No, I wouldn’t have pursued anything else.

What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?

I advise students to study in a deep, comprehensive way. Knowledge in any subject is never a waste. For example, if you’re in marketing selling medicine you have to know everything there is to know about marketing as well as your product.

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