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Young Achievers – Dr. Neha Venkatesh, Global Brand Manager, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories

In conversation with Dr. Neha Venkatesh, Global Brand Manager, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories

Please tell us a little about your professional & academic background along with a small brief about your role in your current organization?

I am a trained physician; and upon graduation in medicine, while all of my classmates started preparing to take either the post-graduate medical entrance exams, GRE or the USMLE, I knew I wanted to do something totally different and unconventional. I started out as a science editor purely out of my love for the English language and my background in medicine, and meanwhile, I also started to explore other potential career paths.

Soon enough, I found my calling in the pharmaceutical industry and while I took up an assignment in medical affairs with IPCA Laboratories, Mumbai, I also wanted to consciously work towards building skills and expertise for a career in healthcare marketing. That is how NMIMS happened, and that, I believe, was one of the defining events of my career.

During my MBA, I interned with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and bagged a pre-placement offer with them. In my first marketing assignment, I managed Dr. Reddy’s biggest brand, Omez, then valued at close to USD 25 Million.

After slightly more than a year at Dr. Reddy’s, I moved to Biocon, Bangalore, as a part of their Oncotherapeutics business. At Biocon, I got the opportunity to launch multiple differentiated products, run and participate in multiple cross-functional, division- and company-level initiatives, and manage my own team. After around two and a half years in Biocon, I was approached for a global marketing opportunity with Dr. Reddy’s Biologics, and decided to come back.

In my current capacity as global brand manager (Biologics), I manage the strategic marketing initiatives for a portfolio of 4 indigenously developed, commercialized bio-similars in varied therapy areas across all countries that we are present in, and also work on the pre-launch and go-to-market strategies for our pipeline products.

What is your favorite advertising campaign in the present scenario?

There are many that come to my mind, for different reasons. I thought the entire Tata Tea “Jaago Re” campaign carried a simple, straight-forward, socially relevant message, and was very well executed and impactful. It was one of the first campaigns to have actually invoked responsible participation from the youth in national issues. A few others, which addressed important social issues in a simple, tasteful and powerful manner, in my opinion, were the “Tanishq Second Marriage” ad and the “ICICI Prudential Bandey Achche Hain” ad.

I also like the “Idea No Ullu Banaoing” campaign; it mirrors the common man’s internet usage habits beautifully, while the “Maruti Suzuki Kitna Deti Hai” campaign brilliantly portrayed the single biggest Indian obsession with regard to vehicles – Mileage.

I thought the first “Google Reunion” ad was an outright winner, and I couldn’t wait to watch the next; however, I was sorely disappointed by the second in the series, and eventually, I think it fizzled out.

The two other recent ads that I really enjoyed were the “Cadbury Gems No Umar for Lalach” and the “Center Fresh Kaisi Jeebh Laplapayee” simply because of the quirkiness of the characters!

How and by what channels do you create an emotional attachment with customers to build brand loyalty?

I am a strong believer in building customer /user experience with the product in order to establish an emotional connect and brand loyalty. Sampling (offering trial / starter packs) and creating interface opportunities or strategies (such as product trial & return policies) where the customer can “live the experience” (such as trying out clothes, jewelry, and make-up) can be very impactful, if executed appropriately.

However, marketing professionals must guard against using this as a blanket approach; that would not only lead to huge wastage of resources but also reflect the inability of the marketer to appropriately segment his customer groups. A highly focused sampling approach on the right target audience can, I think, work wonders.

Do you think having a “Brand Character” is an important component of a successful brand strategy? Who is your favorite brand character?

While I believe that a “Brand Character” (or rather a mascot) can be an effective and efficient way of facilitating brand recall / recognition and can also contribute to creating brand loyalty, I don’t think it is an integral part of every brand strategy. In fact, I think in some ways, it may even dilute the seriousness of your message. A brand mascot is definitely a tool at the disposal of marketers; however, it must be used only when it fits into and adds to the overall brand value proposition and complements the other components of the brand marketing mix.

Most iconic mascots (Amul girl, Zoozoos, Fido Dido, etc.) have a comical, satirical or cartoon-like feel to them. However, one of the most differentiated, serious, iconic and powerful mascots ever created, in my opinion, was Balbir Pasha (Lowe Lintas HIV-AIDS campaign), and he didn’t even have a face! Although not as successful, this campaign did manage to encourage more people to talk openly about sex and the very real problem of HIV-AIDS, which continues to grapple India.

Balbir Pasha ad campaign

I thought the campaign very subtly conveyed how every single one of us was at risk of this disease, and complemented the NACO activities (creating awareness and promoting condom usage amongst target groups such as truck-drivers, sex-workers and the youth) very well.

What measures do you take to ensure a better brand positioning vis-à-vis your competitors? Cite an example.

In my experience, I have noticed that marketers often slip into the trap of “marketing myopia.” In particular, in pharmaceutical marketing, most of us tend to dissect the molecule and market its attributes rather than look at the disease / therapy area and how the product can be positioned as a solution in the wider disease management context. My approach is to always map a patient journey and perform a meticulous competitive landscaping of the larger disease management paradigm to determine the most optimal brand positioning and value proposition.

I also think that despite the so-called perennial marketing budget constraints, marketers do not make relevant and necessary trade-offs. As a result, I often come across marketing plans that look impressive and comprehensive, but are cluttered with far too many initiatives that may not necessarily tie with the brand message or offering. One of the rules that I was fortunate to have learnt very early on in my career was to always include a “What I will NOT do” section as an integral part of every brand plan. This approach not only enhances my clarity in the segmentation, targeting and positioning, but also enables me to optimize my marketing spends and building brand top-lines and improving brand profitability.

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