“The timing could not have got any better. Pharma sector being a laggard, digital adoption was delayed for a very long time now. So Covid helped in accelerating it.”
For healthcare marketing platform Doceree and its founder Harshit Jain, the pandemic has become a gamechanger. From being just another healthtech player to capitalising on the real need of the market and creating a collaborative ecosystem for pharma and medical device companies.
The New Delhi-headquartered and New York-based startup is looking to disrupt the traditional pharma sales and marketing models which involve person-to-person interaction and physical meetings to showcase products, pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. While this seems to have taken a back seat, the need for new products, new drug treatments and therapies is higher than ever, particularly in areas which overlap with Covid-19 treatment.
Founded by Harshit Jain and Daleep Manhas in 2018, Doceree simplifies marketing for pharma and medical devices companies by using the programmatic approach that works for content marketing and other social media targetting. With its programmatic physician engagement platform, it enables pharmaceutical brands and healthcare professionals to target the right healthcare provider or professional through digital selling or online marketplaces.
While in India, such solutions are yet to take ground, Doceree finds itself in a league of its own thanks to the healthcare focus. While other startups and mega ad companies offer programmatic marketing for general products and services, the healthcare-centric model of Doceree is unique in this regard. “Even in the US, we do not have direct competition, there are people speaking a similar language. In fact, a few of the competitors are approaching us for partnerships because of the value we bring to the healthcare brands,” shared Jain.
Jain added that the key differentiation for Doceree comes from its identity-resolution proprietary technology platform called ESPYIAN, which helps create a database of verified and authentic medical and healthcare professionals. This database is further segmented and helps the messaging reach the healthcare providers with the right specialisations or areas of expertise. While ordinary consumers might be targetted by all kinds of medical devices ads on social media and other media platforms, Doceree is looking at highly-targetted ads that are concentrated through the ESPYIAN database.
“This helps us remain compliant with advertising regulations, which is a need of the hour for pharmaceutical brands, and probably this might be one of the reasons why pharma had been lagging behind,” the founder said.
Doceree also partners with healthcare-focused platforms and media outlets to help increase the reach of its business partners. It also works with large specialist agency networks, where doctors are known to engage and enter into discussions such as DoctorForMe, DocPlexus, MediNexus, GoDoctr, MediMetry, haymarket, Cureus, Medical Joyworks and others.
Citing the example of general medical journal platform Cureus, Doceree is able to differentiate tens and thousands of doctors visiting the sites based on their specialisation and targets the right audience, thereby optimising marketing spend for pharma companies. “This works really well for brands because they are able to optimise their investments even from a digital platform POV,” added Jain.
In terms of pricing, the company offers three options for healthcare providers, which includes three months trial, number of products/brands, CRM integration and campaign creation etc. The packages cost anywhere between INR 5 Lakh to INR 11 Lakh, annually.
Jain told Inc42 that every time a doctor or a physician meets a pharma rep, the cost of each visit is anywhere between INR 400 and INR 1000, while cost per impression with Doceree comes to around INR 1 to INR 4 — which is perhaps on the higher side for digital CPI costs but acceptable given the healthcare niche.
This is significantly reduced, compared to the amount of money, pharma companies spend on advertising and marketing, globally. For instance, last year saw a 3% year over year increase in direct-to-consumer (DTC) budget to an unprecedented $6.4 Bn. The lion’s share of pharma advertising money still goes to targeting doctors and healthcare providers in physical meetings and in conferences. But DTC advertising was said to witness an increase with overall growth of ad budgets, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming times, inching towards $30 Bn.
Riding The Healthtech Wave
While digital has become a buzzword across sectors, healthcare in particular has received a major revamp. In the pharmaceutical sector, Doceree claims that less than 5% of the market has gravitated towards digital engagement solutions.
Doceree claimed to have a reach of about $1 Mn physicians on its platform in the US. In India, however, it has about 3 Lakh doctors and said that it is growing everyday. “There are roughly about 4.5 Lakh doctors practising in the country, and we want to be able to reach at least 50% of the entire addressable market by the end of this year.”
It has partnered with some of the leading pharmaceutical companies in India and over 30 doctors-only digital platforms to extend its reach and target base. Its clients include Cipla, SUN Pharma, GSK, BioPharm among others. “More than 50 brands/products out of these seven companies are actively advertising to physicians in the digital space through our platform, and this number is growing massively,” said Jain.
Email-Based Programmatic Solution For Healthcare Professionals
Growing 50% MoM, Doceree is backed by serial entrepreneur and angel investor Rahul Gupta; pharma veteran Salil Kallianpur, former EVP at GSK; Markus Saba, director UNC Center for the Business of Health; and Girdhar Balwani, an independent director Cadila Pharmaceuticals among others.
If this growth continues, by next year, the company aims to achieve positive unit economics. In terms of product roadmap, Jain said that they will be launching a programmatic email solution in India sometime next week. “This will be the first of its kind in the country,” added Jain, without delving deeper into the product, but hinted that this programmatic email solution is similar to its already existing tech solution.
“Currently, we are focusing on the US and India market, but soon we will be expanding our operations to newer markets, including Japan and Asia Pacific region among others,” added Jain, stating that they are in the middle of raising Series A round for future expansion plans.
Also, with NDHM in the equation, Doceree believes that more the data, more intelligent the platform becomes, which will inevitably make healthcare marketing much more transparent, efficient and effective. “Ultimately, the goal of this programme is to reduce the cost of healthcare, and we align perfectly, where we are also looking at opportunities to collaborate with the government, thereby making this initiative a success.”