Industry executives and headhunters told ET that salesforce is needed as they launch more products targeting chronic therapeutic segments such as diabetes, heart failure, central nervous system and respiratory. In addition, they said, companies are focusing on going beyond metro and tier-1 cities and engaging as many prescribers and chemists as possible.
India’s largest drugmaker Sun Pharmaceuticals expanded its sales force by 1,000 per year in 2021 and 2022. The domestic formulation business contributed about one-third to the company’s ₹38,655 crore revenue in 2021-22. Sun Pharma has 8.6% market share, as per AWACS MAT September 2022 report.
The company’s CEO for India business, Kirti Ganorkar, told ET that the field force expansion is to “declutter portfolio”, give more attention to promotion of new products, increase coverage of more territories and go deeper into the markets.
Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is another large drugmaker that has increased its field force substantially, to 7,500 in 2021-22 from 4,800 in 2017-18. It is adding more people as it builds and maintains big brands, launches products and scouts for acquisition opportunities.
“As we grow, we may look to add people on a need-basis in a highly targeted manner to strengthen our geographical coverage, speciality coverage or increase portfolio reach,” said Dr Reddy’s spokesperson. “We are currently in the top 10 in India. We aspire to break into the top five in India.”
Cipla, which is the fourth largest drugmaker in India as per market research firm AWACS, said its sales expansion is aimed at strengthening reach in tier 2-6 towns.
“We are witnessing deepening of healthcare in the tier 2-6 towns in the country and in line with it we are increasing our access to healthcare professionals, patients and channel partners through our sales reps on ground to further strengthen our reach.” said a Cipla spokesperson.
Sunil Goel, managing director at talent advisory firm GlobalHunt India, said the demand for medical representatives ranges from 30-40% as companies launch new products and seek new territories.
“Out of sight is out of mind in highly competitive industries like pharma where the same molecule is sold under different brands by different companies, medical representatives are hired to constantly make the doctors aware of their products and availability with the chemists,” said Goel.
Even as companies ramp up hiring of sales representatives, retaining them remains a challenge.
Mankind Pharma, the third largest drug maker in India, said in its draft red herring prospectus that attrition of field staff ranges between 20% and 33%. The high attrition is relatively high for young medical representatives who are aged less than 30 years.
Goel of GlobalHunt India said high attrition in pharma sales is due to poaching from not just within the sector but also from other industries such as telecom, fast-moving consumer goods and retail.