China’s OTC Market: squaring up for a talent fight

China’s OTC Market: squaring up for a talent fight

At US$32bn – and growing – OTC accounts for 10% of China’s colossal drugs market. 2016, 2017 and 2018 will likely see GSK take stock of their position with the largest OTC operation in the world and if their attention turns to China, their efforts might well define the pharma world for the next 36 months.

The fight for talent and competitive intelligence to enable better informed business decision making will be a bloody duel; there will be no geographic or industry borders. The winner will secure a priceless jewel, the loser will exit bloodied and bruised from an expensive duel.

With 12% market growth y-o-y, China’s OTC market is looking healthy. The key driver for the OTC market is the popularity of preventative OTC medicines with China’s urban earners and self-medicators, who have a tendency of bypassing medical doctors. Finding the right talent who will build loyalty and engagement channels with this consumer pool will be strategically key. Equally, I challenge the pharma world to change that – with the right people it would be possible.

Considering the improvements in consumer protection and HK Islander influences, securing future-fit regulatory affairs (RA) talent may be as equally an import risk mitigation exercise to pharma as the Draft is to the NFL. Tarnished reputations in the Asian market are unaffordable, even to deep pocketed corporates.

Hiring the “right” Chinese sales force – Ferrari ($RACE), in their own way, are show stoppers at this for their own brand – will be a big challenge. Fulfilling the business ambition will require a new approach to sales in China. The market is already identifying, cultivating, building loyalties and pipelining this talent for future focused hiring requirements.

Softer touches, including how to craft Asian-Employer Value Proposition (A-EVPs) will be at top of the agenda. BUT, accessing the best in-house talent to support and bridge the culture gaps to marry a Western EVP to Asian values will be a considerable challenge for those without the knowhow.

FY 2016 is looking exciting, and the above doesn’t even scratch the surface of talent challenges about to engulf the pharma, healthcare and the wider life sciences market in China or because of China. One things for sure, it’s going to be a fight my clients and I are going to win.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sebastian solves business challenges through people. He is also an expert on China and the APAC region. Follow him @slspowell

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