On the move

Modern Pharmaceutical Company does not expect to grow the UAE drug market by deploying a mobile CRM but it does expect other business benefits. Colin Edwards feels much better about only waiting six hours instead of days for medicines to be delivered.

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By  Duncan MacRae Published  May 20, 2007

|~|200-Felton,-Jan---MODERN-PH.jpg|~|Hafez: Before this system, dealers would send their orders by fax, which would be collected and reviewed.|~|Don’t be surprised if the rep from Modern Pharmaceutical Company (MPC) whips out a tablet PC at his pharmaceutical client to check stock availability and says that an order will be delivered in six hours instead of the expected 24-hour delivery that was his best promise in the past.

And the pharmacist must not be afraid that the rep will have to endure Dubai’s lunch time traffic crawl and snarl up to get back to Sharjah to place the order. It is already being processed as he drinks a cup of coffee before going to his next appointment.

Dubbed the CTC (Close-to-Customer) project, MPC, part of the giant business conglomerate, Al Batha, has become the first regional user of SAP’s mobile CRM.

In the last four months delivery has improved from an average 24 hours to six. Of course it also means that MPC can instantly check the credit worthiness of its pharmacy clients while in front of them. It can then decide on the spot whether or not to take the order.

“The 18–24 hour delivery we achieved previously was already market leading here in the UAE,” according to Jan Felton, CEO of MPC, who says that pharmacies are used to waiting several days for a delivery. “The sales person now takes the order in the field and sends it via corporate GPRS directly to the warehouse where it is picked and packed, which means that we can deliver in six hours.”

Felton stresses that this and sales rep activity planning, where the sales person’s time is planned and maximised, are just the initial benefits of the system, because the company is still working out how it can leverage the system in the field.

“These are the first two elements of the mobile CRM, but it is only the tip of the iceberg that the CRM will make possible for us as we progress over the years. Our objective now is to embed those two elements in our sales force, and get them working efficiently with the CRM,” he says.

Its goal is to transform the MPC sales force from order takers to business partners to the pharmacists to ensure the efficient delivery of medicine.

For that to happen the company has invested in a change management programme for its sales force, training and empowering them to take decisions out in the field rather than merely take the orders. MPC, which is responsible for more that 25% of the medicines distributed in the UAE, has been a SAP customer since 1998, and in addition to the mobile CRM system uses SAP’s business intelligence module and has deployed a balanced scorecard for all of its activities.||**|||~||~||~|The BI component is integrated with the CRM so that the sales people can make better decisions, such as what products to cross-sell, based on up-to-the-minute facts. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are also set so that sales performance is closely monitored by the company.

The mobile CRM deployment is likely to be rolled out to other companies in the privately owned group, which consists of more than 20 autonomous companies including automobiles, pharmaceuticals, contracting, manufacturing, electronics, FMCG, real estate, education, and trading firms.

MPC has four dedicated divisions – pharmaceutical, medical equipment, consumer products, and retail pharmacies. Two of them are currently using mobile CRM, but once bedded down over the coming months, MPC plans to expand the system.

“SAP mobile CRM gets us closer to our customers, and that gives us significant competitive advantage,” says Felton.

Having a mobile CRM is unlikely to result in greater sales of medicines in MPC’s case, “because you can’t make more ill people”, but it will result in faster turnaround to the pharmacies and could attract more distributors to the company.

“Any return on investment is now based on increased sales. The return for us is that companies will choose us to distribute their products over our competitors,” adds Felton.

He expects prescription medicine sales to increase by about 1% because of greater customer service and efficiencies. This, he says, will more than pay for the system. Consumer medication sales could increase by around 5%.

“Our CTC project has already begun to show signs of success,” says Saji Oommen, general manager, Group IT, Al Batha Group. “Advancements in technology have meant that order processing cycles have increased in speed, but SAP’s mobile CRM application allows us to maintain a leadership position, even in this fast changing environment.”

He points out that MPC’s deployment of tablet PCs differs from the norm where the sales force, if not using paper order forms, is equipped with PDAs or handheld tools where orders are taken while on the road and only uploaded to the core system, SAP in this case, at the end of the day.

“Primarily orders in this region are taken on paper. There are a few PDAs around, but they are miles away from a fully integrated CRM solution. It is basically a dumb terminal. You don’t become a customer consultant that way,” says Felton.
Oommen adds that PDAs are used by group companies but mainly for taking orders. There is little or no CRM functionality with them and they are not lined wirelessly online to the central SAP system.

“We have a 360 degree view of the customer inside the tablet PC. They can take this to the field. They have all the information about the customer – previous transactions, financial data, pricing, information about sales promotions. We can also access the system online. SAP is still in the background,” says Oommen..

Several companies in the region that implemented SAP ERP back in 2000 were now looking at SAP CRM, and the market in the region was expected to grow 20% year on year on a year for the next five years according to Essam Enany, president of SAP Arabia.

“Other companies are struggling to implement something as advanced as this CRM because they don’t have SAP in the background. Their financial system is not necessarily linked to their sales system,” Felton says, adding that the system has helped the company become the partner of choice.||**||

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