In 1976, Population Services International (PSI), a non-profit organisation, in agreement with Government of Bangladesh, started a family-planning program through social marketing. The family planning initiative in Bangladesh was brought under the umbrella of the Social Marketing Project (SMP). The SMP consisted of active participation from the Bangladesh Government, the PSI, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities).
SMP involved the use of modern marketing techniques to sell condoms under the brand name RAJA and the oral contraceptive pill MAYA. Within a span of six years, it was found that while the sales of Raja went up to 50. 4 million pieces, the sales of Maya had declined from 1. 1 million cycles in 1980 to 0. 62 million in 1983. This was surprising as both products had similar marketing strategies in place, and it was expected to affect their sales’ patterns similarly. Objective:
The major objective of the SMP was to control the population growth in Bangladesh, by selling family-planning contraceptives, at very subsidized rates. They had to come-up with innovative marketing techniques to enhance the sale and use of Maya, get it approved by the project council, and then have these implemented for the overall benefit of the Bangladeshi society. There is also the perplexing problem of the Maya sales not taking-off. The council had to come-up with ways of marketing Maya, and making sure that its sales would be improved.
Alternatives Available: The use of Maya, being the oral contraceptive pill, required the support and advice of a medical practitioner. Raja, being the condom, was an over-the-counter product and was easily available to the Bangladeshi male through retail stores and pan shops. As per our assessments, it was here that Maya was losing its market share. Especially during the first cycles when side-effects and discontinuation was most common, the Maya consumer should have been guided by a medical practitioner. The alternatives available ahead of us were: To go-in for much larger promotion campaigns. * Re-branding the product, to correct the false perception that Maya was a low-priced, and therefore, cheap product. * Educating the RMPs and doctors about the value of Maya – equivalent to Syntex’s Noriday. * Along with directly reaching out to women consumers, through door-to-door campaigning and word of mouth marketing * Re-pricing the product to ensure that there are good margins for the retailers. * Supplying Maya bundled with Raja. Criteria For Choosing An Alternative:
All the alternatives would have an impact on boosting the sales of Maya. However, any additional costs would need convincing the SMP council. Based on our research, we would consider it viable to opt for an alternative where the doctors and RMPs recommend the benefits of Maya – a relatively cheaper alternative, but one with the greatest impact amongst all to the consumers. The Chosen Alternative: We would go on a vigorous campaign to educate the doctors and rural Medical Practitioners (RMPs) about the various benefits of Maya.
There was a clear lack of understanding among the medical care practitioners about Maya. A majority of them did not know that Maya was equivalent to the Noriday from Syntex. It was only repackaged as Maya. There could also be an attempt to take the ‘spiritual doctors’ into our confidence. But, this could prove to be very tricky indeed. Hence, the doctors and the RMPs could be used also to convince the people that Maya is not an inferior product, just because of its pricing. The use of a contraceptive pill, unlike that of a condom, requires the advice and support of a medical practitioner.
This is especially true during the first cycle when side-effects and discontinuation are very common. It’s only through the advice of a medical practitioner that the consumer could be convinced to go-ahead with the intake of the contraceptive pill. We also intend to start a commission-scheme for the RMP’s. If a particular RMP would meet his targets for a month, he would stand to gain a decent commission for his performance. This would serve to motivate the RMP to sell Maya – a very crucial factor in the rural areas, where the RMP himself plays the roles of the doctor as well as that of a salesman.
The extra funding required for this project would be taken care by withdrawing a bit of advertising at the point-of-purchase. According to us, intense media advertising here would not be beneficial, as the consumer – the woman – is rarely at the point-of-purchase. Once the consumer gets convinced that the Maya is the product to go for, his demand would force the retailers to supply the product. At the moment, the shop owner is not very interested in supplying Maya as his margins are not too high. However, he would not be able to continue doing this, if there is an overwhelming demand from the consumer.
Contingency Plan – In spite of all these measures, if the sales still fail to pick-up, we could offer the commission scheme to the spiritual doctors. This group would probably be glad to accept the extra earning, and could be made to work to our advantage, if they could be taken into confidence. We estimate that these measures would lead to a rise in the sales of Maya, and would lead to a number of additional births averted. Improvement in the sales and use of Maya would eat into the sales figures of other contraceptive pills like Ovastat, Lyndiol, Ovral and Nordette.
As per the Couple Years Protection (CYP) figures for 1983, the total pill CYPs was 620,000, and that of Maya was only 47,800*. If Maya could tap-into the sales of these competing contraceptive pills, and attain a CYP rating of 80,000, we could be averting an additional 8050 births#. This is not an unrealistic assumption, as Maya had attained ratings of 84,500 CYPs in 1980 and it should be possible to recover lost ground through the alternative suggested here. * Source – Population Services International. # The CYPs were multiplied by a factor of 0. 25 to arrive at the number of births averted.