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Population Services International The Social Marketing Project in Bangladesh (Abridged) Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
888 1242 Words (4 Pages) James E. Austin Harvard Business School : 590061
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The following write-up provides a brief analysis of population control initiatives carried out by the Bangladesh government, particularly its Social Marketing Project (SMP). The analysis considers the competition in the retail environment of the Bangladesh. Apart from this, a brief introduction of the retail setup, along with the role played by the medical community is also described. Last, reasons are identified for the success of Raja, a condom brand, and failure of Maya, an oral contraceptive pill brand of PSI.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution:

  1. Explain the competitive environment in Bangladesh. Are we competing with the government, which is giving away its goods?

  2. Explain the consumption system, including buying behavior, the distribution channels, the medical community

  3. What is your plan for improving Maya sales?

  4. Why does Raja do so well?

Population Services International The Social Marketing Project in Bangladesh Abridged Case Analysis

1. Explain the competitive environment in Bangladesh. Are we competing with the government, which is giving away its goods?

In both product categories i.e. condoms and oral contraceptive pills, there are three – four popular brands in the market with a considerable share. For example, in condoms category, though Raja is the market leader with approximately a volume of 50 million, but other brands like Tahiti, Sultan, and Durex have a reasonable market share, as well. In oral contraceptive pills category, the highest volume is of pills that are distributed for free by the Bangladesh government. In 1983, 3 million cycles were complete by consumers of this government distributed pills. In addition to this, other brands like Ovastat, Lyndiol, Ovral, and Nordette have a significant market share. Despite the fact, that Maya, PSI’s oral contraceptive pill, was considerably cheaper than all other local and international brands, it lagged behind by a huge margin, in terms of volume.

Because of its low price, the direct competition of Maya was with Bangladesh government’s free distributed pills; therefore, it would not be wrong to say that the PSI was effectively in competition with the government. But it should also be kept in mind that the Social Marketing Project (SMP) was also one of the many initiatives of the Bangladesh’s government to control the population increase. The government was trying to tackle the issue from multiple fronts; therefore, it had hired a foreign agency and was also pursuing its own local strategy, so it would not be wise for PSI to consider it a competition as both were aiming for the same result. One aspect that PSI should consider was to avoid cannibalization with government’s other initiatives so as to improve its performance, particularly in the oral contraceptive pill market.  

2. Explain the consumption system, including buying behavior, the distribution channels, and the medical community.

Consumption System and Buying Behavior

In Bangladesh, 80% of total buying all products including groceries is done by male members of the family that’s why it is not uncommon to see the majority of the communication message directed towards men. In addition to this, since three – quarters of the population are illiterate; therefore, they rely heavily on recommendations made by the retailer or the shop owner in the majority of product categories, which means retailers have a huge say in the customer’s buying decision. Secondly, convenient products like aspirin, cigarettes, match boxes, condoms etc. are usually bought from Pan Shops, which are located on corners of the street. Moreover, as evident from the case, Bangladesh population has been more open to the usage of condoms as compared to the oral contraceptive pills.

The Distribution Channel

The distribution channel comprises of various stakeholders, which include warehouses, semi-wholesalers, retailers (pharmacist, general store owners, Pan Shop owners etc.). In the Social Marketing Project, products were sent to warehouses from where orders for 22 main wholesalers were fulfilled. These wholesalers were then responsible for selling the product to retailers and semi-wholesalers. Semi-Wholesalers, in return, sold to Pan Shops and small general stores. Through this distribution network, PSI products were made available at more than 40,000 general stores, 30,000 pharmacies, and 30,000 Pan Shops, across the country. This intense network was necessary to reach out to 20 million potential customers who were in their fertile age.

The Medical Community

The medical community comprised of professional doctors, rural medical practitioners (RMPs), and spiritual doctors. Apart from professional doctors, both RMPs and SPs preferred traditional non-western approaches, but often used assistance of professional doctors. Professional doctors were few in quantity and were mainly available in urban areas. RMPs and SPs were highly respected in rural areas and were a key stakeholder in the health community.

3. What is your plan for improving Maya sales?

First of all, it should be understood that only a quarter of Bangladesh’s population is literate; therefore, they rely heavily on the retailer’s recommendation for buying products, be it a fast moving consumer good, medicine, or any other product. There is a considerable difference in the retailer’s margin among Maya and other oral contraceptive products resulting in low recommendation from retailers for Maya to consumers. So an ideal way of moving forward would be to increase retailers’ margin on Maya and bring it close if not equal to other popular oral contraceptive brands. Secondly, for success in a foreign environment, it is essential to not only accept, but fit in the local culture. Rural medical practitioners (RMPs) hold a key importance and respect in the local setting, particularly of the village where the majority of the population resides. PSI will have a hard time in increasing sales of Maya if it fails to take into confidence RMPs. Therefore, it is important for PSI to take all RMPs into confidence, brief them about Maya, its benefits along with its possible short term side effects. Having a support of RMPs at rural level would be a significant step in improving the image of Maya. In addition to this, as apparent from the survey and other informal conversations that even professional doctors think of Maya as an inferior brand; therefore, it is necessary to educate not only doctors, but also consumers regarding the brand. A communication directed towards consumers would assist in improving the image and clearing out all misconceptions regarding Maya. It should be comprehended that without the support of all respective stakeholders, it would be not possible for PSI to succeed in the local market.

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