In July 2009 Elder Pharmaceuticals announced a rural expansion plan while setting up Elvista division. Elder then had 2,500 medical representatives (MRs) in 100 Indian towns. With Elvista’s efforts, the network may grow to 3,000+ MRs across 1,575 towns.
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Till then, Elder relied on manual processes. “The manual process,” recalls Jitendra Mishra, GM – IT, Elder, “was time consuming. When expansion was made the priority, it became clear that we couldn’t rely on manual processes any further. Speedy operations became the need of the hour,” Mishra says. Thus, a sales force management project was conceived in August 2009.
Evaluation & cost
The pre-requisites of the proposed sales force management application were speed, online access, cost advantage, transparency, accountability, visibility, and forecasting.
Of various brands evaluated, Microsoft and Anant Info reached the final phase. Microsoft scored high on most parameters barring the cloud platform model and cost advantage. But Anant Info, which won the contract, scored high on all and was found to have deep understanding of pharma processes.
It took a month to deploy sales force management tool on cloud platform. This included user acceptance test, customization, and access creation for MRs. Cloud platform ensured that the deployment required no hardware upgrades.
The capex for the sales force management application on cloud platform was Rs 4 lakh; the opex has been Rs 30 lakh, annually.
Why cloud platform?
Elder saw elimination of infrastructure purchase, maintenance, and network availability issues, in addition to speedy deployment as the benefits of publiccloud platform.
It was a challenge to ensure a buy-in by the MRs, but “the top management made certain that all MRs participated in the training programs about sales force management tool on cloud platform,” informs Mishra.
The other concern was cloud security. Elder hired MIEL eSecurity that carried out security audit of sales force management tool on cloud platform and deployed a 3-level security including security gateway for 2-level authentication, WatchGuard’s port filtering tool, and password timeout for end-point security.
Scope of sales force management tool
The business functions covered by the sales force management tool on cloud platform are daily call reports, doctor and chemist reports, gifts and samples management, stockist and inventory, forecasting, performance reviews, salary statements, tour planning, expense claims, leave approvals, petty cash reimbursements, and collaboration.
Since the sales force management tool is on cloud platform, the MRs can report from offices, homes, cyber cafes, or by using smartphones.
This function is shared by Elder and Anant Info. If a business query is logged into the sales force management tool on cloud platform, an SMS / email is sent to the concerned Elder officer. A technical query is reported to Anant’s help desk in Goa.
The shift to a cloud platform-based sales force management solution brought several benefits to Elder.
- The sales force management tool on cloud platform is estimated to be saving Rs 48 lakh annually due to the elimination of costs earlier incurred for couriers, postage, stationery, and STD calls.
- There also are savings on local costs. E.g., the sales force management tool has built-in standard fares for public transport; this ensures that MRs can’t put in bloated claims.
- It saves time. E.g., while earlier a call report took eight to 15 days to complete, it now takes a few minutes.
- Every sales and inventory process has become visible.
- The cloud platform-based solution has eliminated scope for manipulation.
- The management control over the sales force has improved.
- Because it is on cloud platform, the software facilitates collaboration amongst sales and marketing force.
- Sales and production forecasting have improved.
- Elder estimates to be saving 15% on inventory due to improved stock management.
- By presenting information in the form of graphs, sales force tool on cloud platform has made it easier for the management to take quick decisions.
- Since sales force management tool presents real time information about best-performing doctors and chemists, it helps Elder to offer them timely incentives.
On the agenda
Currently, Elder’s sales force management tool on cloud platform covers 2,500 MRs. Company expects it to cover 500+ MRs within a quarter.
Elder will automate a few other functions using the cloud platform, shortly. The project expected to commence this year will be a dealer management system.