Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice. Have you ever watched one of these TV shows? After moving out Spain, my TV screen time rocketed. With the purpose of improving my English listening skills, I indulged in watching TV, and I discovered some fantastic programmes. I know, to acknowledge watching TV, apart from Netflix, isn’t cool, but I’m not a Millennial so I can do it.

Shark Tank is an American TV programme where some entrepreneurs make the pitch of their life to secure an investment from one of the millionaires listening to them. These investors are well-renowned celebrities such as Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the NBA team Dallas Maverick. It’s inspiring to see many entrepreneurs to spot a gap in the market and to try to fill it with some imaginative propositions. Bringing on board one of these famous investors paves their way to succeed, but the hard work of proving their concepts have already done.

Conversely, The Apprentice is an entirely different issue. The goal is the same: to get £250,000 investment and to be mentored by Lord Sugar (British version). However, the contestants don’t have to pitch their idea to get the long-desired investment, but to face different challenges, such as to cook some muffins and to sell them afterwards, with the purpose of showing their business skills. Every week, one contestant goes to the boardroom, and he/she has to hear the dreaded words: you’re fired. 

In the Pharma industry, I feel digitalisation hasn´t gained traction yet. It looks like it’s more important the show, similarly to The Apprentice, than proving real concepts. There is a disconnection between what is discussed in conferences and blogs,  and reality.

It’s not uncommon to listen to some «keynote speakers» to emphasise how important it is to digitalise the Pharma business. But, what would be the outcome of that digitalisation? To reduce the cost of R&D drastically and, therefore, to boost the discovery of new medicines? To replace pills by «another thing»? To change the promotional model, replacing medical sales reps by digital communication? To create platforms connecting Pharma companies and patients, skipping doctor and pharmacist intervention?

In my view there’re four examples to be inspired and to use as a yardstick to measure the level (or need) of digitalisation and potential disruption in any industry:

1- Product evolution: Kodak and Nokia

Both examples have been used a myriad of times to show failure. I’m not so sure if it’s needed to be so harsh. They brought innovative products to the market previously! Maybe it’s just the life-death cycle. Pictures started to be captured and stored in pixels, and the lucrative business of producing camera roll went down the drain.

Will it be possible to have “digital medicines” disrupting the whole supply-chain? Will 3D-printing became a reality forcing many production sites to come to closure?

2- New services: Google search engine

Arguably, Google is one of the largest companies nowadays because they created something seemingly elementary: a search engine. The internet is an incredibly vast quantity of information with no value if people don’t come across it. Google managed to build the best search engine, beating powerful competitors at that time, such as Yahoo. I guess this is a brilliant example of focusing a company on a single task and delivering excellent results.

Can we think about new healthcare services needed due to the digitisation of our society?

3 – Digital platforms

There are digital platforms no matter we look around us. Connecting friends, connecting drivers and passenger,…, in brief, connecting needs, connecting supply and demand. For a platform to become successful is key-and-touch to attract millions of users to take advantage of the network effect.

Have you thought about a platform connecting people who need “health” with people who can provide that much-needed health? How would it be? How would the players be? Some people have already thought about it, and there’re some examples to be inspired.

4- New promotional and/or go-to-market models

For the mass market, the traditional media, especially TV, played a crucial role in their promotional activities, and only big companies with big marketing budgets could get access to it. However, the internet changes the rules and somehow levelled the playing field.

The evolution of the go-to-market model has been a hot topic in Pharma for ages. Companies invest heavily in large sale forces to promote their products. Would it make sense to change this fact?

Along the following weeks, we’ll discuss the many topics I’ve touched upon. Digital marketing and the analysis of potential new promotional models will have a relevant place in this blog but digitalisation is an extensive topic, and other areas can´t be left behind.