India Co-creates > Ayurveda Industry
India Co-creates is a series of reports that analyze how companies of India's key business sectors are using social media to co-create business value with customers and other external stakeholders.
Connecting with Next Gen, Key to Future Growth
_Seeking health information is found to be the third most popular online activity, globally, as revealed by Pew Internet Project survey. And social media, needless to say, forms a major part of online activity these days. What are the ways patients use social media? A recent PWC report (Social Media "Likes" Health Care: From Marketing to Social Business) points out that patients use social media networking sites to post or comment about their health experiences or updates, post reviews of medications or treatments or doctors or health insurers, share health related videos or images, trace and share health symptoms or behaviours, join or support a health related cause, and so on.
Emergence of Connected Patients
_In the context of a growing number of connected patients, there is a big scope for drug companies and health care providers, to be in social media to run campaigns and build communities of patients or patient-support groups.
In India, even major corporate hospitals, excepting Apollo, Fortis and probably one or two more brands, are largely inactive in social media, and hence it is not surprising to see Ayurvedic sector not adopting social media in a big way.
However, the Ayurvedic industry, which faces the huge challenge of getting the highly informative next generation patients to its fold (young population constitutes about 70% of the healthcare market in India), it should tap the potential of social media to:
1) actively publish health information from Ayurvedic perspective, and build patient/customer support groups
2) interact closely with patients and consumers, and engage them through idea contests and product formulation challenges to make its products and services more convenient for the customers
3) make use of social technologies - like product configurators - to empower its patients configure their own food supplements, treatment regimens - if possible, drugs - that suit their unique health and lifestyle needs.
Opportunity and Challenges
__When non-communicable diseases - also known as lifestyle diseases - are on the rise, and more and more people are averse to taking synthetic pills, traditional, and non-invasive medicinal systems like Ayurveda have a good chance to become mainstream. However, some of the key challenges of Ayurveda include: lack of confidence of new generation patients in Ayurveda, lack of modern drug formats, lack of evidence-based practise and standardization, need for personalization of drugs, and raw material shortage.
Current Social Media Usage
_Currently all leading brands like Himalaya and Dabur and upcoming brands like Dhathri have their presence in Facebook. Most Ayurveda brands that are active in social media - read, Facebook - publish herbal, home remedy health tips regularly for minor illnesses and general maintenance of health. The publishing of such health tips generate good responses from the fans. They try to engage with customers, and potential customers.
Social Media Activities
__In addition to publishing useful content, companies like Himalaya, and Dabur run idea contests, but mostly to create a buzz around products. For instance, one of Himalaya's idea contests - India's most like-able lips - asks its fans to take and upload photos of their smiling faces. The most voted photos were to win a prize. Himalayas sells natural moisturizing lip butters, and the like-able lips contest was designed to create more awareness about this product.
Considering the need for the industry to reach its strengths, revisit the packaging of its offerings, we provide the following suggestions that are given under two titles: small steps, instantly implement-able action items, and big jumps, which require thorough planning and investment.
_Provide links to your social media networking site URL prominently in the home page of your website, and in other print, television marketing materials.
Have a well documented internal social media policy or guidelines that would give your team members clear instructions on what to post, where to source the information from for responding to comments or medical queries, and what not to post. Have your HR team to train your social media team.
Make sure you have a internal expert team that is readily available to provide timely response to medical/health queries. Checkout this template (one page PDF) that you can use to organize your responses.
_Set up and run patient/customer support communities:
Over 80% of the people who are diagnosed with a disease look out for health information, and according to, NMIncite, a global consulting firm, among all online communities of all interests, the biggest groups are patient-support groups - especially for illnesses like depression, breast cancer and so on.
These are some of the opportunities why Ayurvedic healthcare companies that want to promote the curative aspects of their medicine and treatment should build online communities.
Try expert sourcing:
Drug Formats: The traditional drug formats like rashaayans - liquid drugs - are not suitable for the patients who lead a fast-paced modern life. The new generation patients travel widely and find the Ayurvedic drug formats and treatment regimens cumbersome. They are used to modern drug formats like pills. Ayurvedic organizations can try expert-sourcing, getting ideas from experts by initiating idea contests, for instance, to come up with new drug formats. Companies can partner with third party online community of "solvers" like Innocentive.com that specialize in conducting idea contests and developer challenges for all types of industries.
Personalization of Food Supplements and Drugs
_Many popular Ayurvedic drugs contain ghee as one of the key ingredients, but patients who suffer from high cholesterol are averse to taking those drugs that may increase their cholesterol content. There is hence a need for personalizing Ayurvedic drugs and food supplements.
Companies can make use of social configuration technologies to help patients and consumers design their own health products. They can publish information about the content - such as nutritional facts and medicinal properties of ingredients of a particular drug or food supplement. An example is Youbars, which enables its customers to design their own protein bars. Youbar lets its customers to choose the ingredients and the bar size, view the nutrition facts of the ingredients, and so on. Customers can select the base (almond, cashew, dates, peanut, etc), protein powders, nuts and seeds, dried fruits and berries, sweeteners, seasonings.
Promotion of Herbal Gardens:
The Indian Ayurvedic industry can promote herbal gardens especially among urban households. This suggestion is for corporate social responsibility, if not corporate sourcing strategy. The raw material for Ayurveda industry are mainly medicinal plants. But today a large portion of medicinal plants and herbs are harvested from forests without a plan for their revitalization. Only a handful of big drug manufacturers are making conscious efforts to cultivating herbs in house to meet the growing demand.
Publishing information on herbal gardens, and trying to form a network of herbal gardeners are a good area for a company to build its brand in the way of a corporate social responsibility.