Himanshu Solanki - It Is of Utmost Importance That Partners Should Be Sensitive Towards “Self-Reference Criterions” and Build Their Communication on Common Grounds (Product Manager - Johnson & Johnson Surgical Vision India)

Himanshu Solanki

Like any relationship, a new partnership should be given sufficient time to flourish, and partners should make honest attempts to know the cultures of each other well. It is of utmost importance that partners should be sensitive towards “Self-Reference Criterions” and build their communication on common grounds.

1. Tell us about your upbringing, background & journey.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I lived across different cities during my grown-up years which made me quite adaptive and receptive to different views and cultures. Each city has given me some traits which have played a significant role in my journey so far.

I spent my formative years in Delhi (till 7th Standard) which imbibed in me the characteristics of grit and competitiveness. From Delhi, we moved to Jaipur (7th to 10th Standard and graduation) and I was amazed by the architecture of that city. Jaipur taught me how to accept modernization without compromising my inherent culture.

At the very young age of 15 years, I left home and started living in PG at Kota to prepare for competitive exams. Although I didn’t make it into any of the great engineering colleges (as a matter of fact I didn’t do Engineering) but 2 years that I spent living on my own have taught me a lot about life. It taught me that being independent is a responsibility and being responsible means doing the right things when nobody is watching you.

I did a bachelor's in pharmacy from Apex Institute of Management and Science. And since I didn’t want to waste my 4 years of pharmacy knowledge, I decided to pursue MBA in pharmaceutical marketing from Narsee Monjii Institute of Management Science Mumbai.

So far in my professional career of branding and marketing, I have worked for 3 companies which have helped me to gain and understand different skills required to excel in this field.

Started my career as Management Trainee (Marketing) at Medley pharmaceutical. Like any other domestic pharmaceutical company, I learned the importance of agility in the marketplace and the importance of incremental innovation. Not every innovation or product needs to be really differentiated, as a marketer you should be skillful enough to pick a meaningful differentiation (which could be as simple as a new color or catchy brand name) and connect it to your audience at the right place and time. 

Just look around and see how many of the new introductions are really an earth-shattering innovation. At Medley, I got the opportunity to handle brands that were one of the prime contributors of sales to the division as well as launched a new product in a highly competitive segment.

After 1.5 years and a couple of successful launches, I joined Servier pharmaceutical India where I work close to 4.5 years. My stint at Servier has a great impact on my career because it is here that I learned the art of marketing a research product. 

In healthcare marketing often product manager gets blinded by the unique features and abundant clinical data of their brand. At Servier, marketing is a synergy between patient-centric communication and rich clinical data. At Servier, I was really mentored well by my manager Mr. Raja Reddy and I learned a lot about healthcare marketing from him.

My last 5 years with Johnson & Johnson are the most satisfying part of my journey so far where everything is governed and guided through CREDO. Branding and Marketing at Johnson & Johnson are all about focusing on the patient journey and not just our brands.  

In healthcare, it is of utmost importance that we understand the patient journey, its environment, and support network and moves beyond just brand. At Johnson & Johnson, I launched a therapy that was the first time in Asia and unique procedural treatment of the dry eye. Launching an innovative solution, partnering with the medical fraternity on the protocol of new therapy, and spreading awareness among patients was a very enriching and interesting experience so far.

2. How did you choose this field & what led you to rise to the highest echelons?

Because of the very enterprising nature of pharmaceutical science, I decided to pursue my career in pharmaceuticals. I was always fascinated (still I am) by the crucial role the pharmaceutical and medical device industry plays in the entire healthcare ecosystem. As a matter of fact, I am proud today of the way the pharmaceutical industry along with the medical fraternity has helped mankind during this pandemic phase. 

After finishing my graduation in pharmacy, I decided to MBA in Pharmaceutical Management from NMIMS. I always believe that it is better to know everything about something rather than something about everything, therefore, pursuing MBA in Pharmaceutical Management was the right choice (10 years down the line, I still believe that I made the right choice).

As far as my professional journey is considered, I think the best is yet to come. But so far, I am thankful that I got the opportunity to work with different segments of the pharmaceutical as well as the medical device industry. Apart from the fact that I have a passion and strong affection for healthcare marketing, the following things have helped me to be successful at my work

Stay hungry, Stay Foolish – Although the basics learned in management school still hold true, pharmaceutical marketing has really evolved very rapidly in the last 5 years, so it is very important for a marketer to keep upgrading oneself. The hunger to learn more skills keep you agile and active which is the very fuel of being a marketer. 

In the decade-old career, I have worked across the therapies like cardiovascular, diabetology, Neurology, Psychiatry and now with Ophthalmology. One of the keys to success is to quickly learn about the key aspect of each segment and adapt to situations. Look how swiftly the digital has overtaken as a key marketing activity and before we can understand it completely, the world is moving towards the application of virtual and augmented reality in marketing. So, it is very important that we should have an attitude and aptitude to learn new things.

Strong business acumen – It is always advantageous to know the KPIs of the business you are operating in. Sometimes a marketer takes a myopic view and keeps more focus on communication strategies rather than business overall. It is equally important to understand the regulatory, supply chain, sales structure, and finance. A strong brand manager should be a single-point solution provider to anything related to his brand. One should thoroughly understand and own every aspect of his brand’s P&L and this can only happen if you have strong business acumen.

Being humble - It is very important to understand that all glories are fleeting. We, marketers, are facilitators of sales and therefore humility is important. Many brand and marketing managers roam around with a tag that we are important which I believe is very self-limiting. 

A good marketer should be very approachable as they are required to work in a cross-functional environment and engage with people of different skills and attitudes. When you are humble, you get instantaneous connect with people which is a very important skill. Let me reveal a secret each salesperson has a favorite brand manager in the office and if you are a favorite of the majority of them, you will have a smooth ride.

How has branding changed over the years?

With the advent of social media channels, branding has evolved to be more interactive and precise in terms of its target audience. As a marketer, I have observed the following changes in our promotional plans

  • Branding is what you do before and after the sale, it’s a journey where the sale is just a pit stop

    Nowadays, marketing focus on mapping the entire journey of a patient right from the time they experience a symptom till they get cured of an ailment. This approach has increased the touchpoints of brands with prospects many folds with the objective of helping patients in making an informed decision about treatment. In any marketing plan, you will find significant investment in addressing the low awareness of the disease through various conventional and digital touchpoints.

    That’s not all, there is increased focus, more than ever before in forming a brand-sponsored community of patients which act as a support group. Currently, branding is not only focused on gaining the attention of prospects to a product but also forming a community of users who have a positive experience with the product. 

  • Ever-increasing pie of digital content: Digital has become synonymous with the branding and not just a part of it. Even conservating sector like healthcare is embracing digital like never before with disease and product-specific websites being the important part of the promotional plan. Digital has equipped brand managers with real-time information about their brand’s perception and make necessary changes whenever required. Pandemic has shown the real impact of having a strong digital branding and strategy.

  • The social consciousness of your brand: Movement like Metoo and black lives Matter has taught marketers an important lesson of not to be caught on the wrong side of social issues. Various surveys have confirmed that consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues. Because of which there is increased sensitivity in branding towards social issues.

3. How should one approach a new partnership for success?

Like any relationship, a new partnership should be given sufficient time to flourish, and partners should make honest attempts to know the cultures of each other well. It is of utmost importance that partners should be sensitive towards “Self-Reference Criterions” and build their communication on common grounds.

As per the survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, the top three reasons for the success of any partnership are 

  • Ailment on parent and partnership objectives
  • Effective internal communication and trust
  • Constructive governance leadership and processes 

The alignment of goals and KPIs should be elaborated well with clearly defined responsibility.  

Culture plays an important role in the success of the partnership, so there should be series of activities between team members of collaborating firms to make them conscious of each other vision and culture.

4. What are your future plans?

Well, I don’t think too far ahead and believe in living each day as it comes. But I am always open to anything challenging and interesting and will keep looking for it. One of the most desired items on the list is to do a doctorate in management study and teach management students over the weekend. Guiding young and aspiring minds is always in the plan. The industry requires good mentors to keep attracting and retaining young talents.

5. Which is your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is “The are of thinking clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. This book is a masterpiece as it helps in identifying the common cognitive error in our day-to-day decision-making. The errors described in this book are a systemic error which we make while analyzing any piece of information leading to wrong judgment. This work from Rolf Dobelli identifies 100 such biases and provides ways to overcome them so that we can interpret any information logically without falling prey to any bias.

Himanshu Solanki

Himanshu Solanki | Product Manager (Refractive and TearScience portfolio), Johnson & Johnson Surgical Vision India

Interviewed By: Nishad Kinhikar

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