Archive for November, 2011

November 21, 2011

The conundrum of Pharma Research and who pays for it

The biggest challenge today is how to reach new drugs to  the poorest people in the world particularly for life threatening diseases such as cancer. Effective new molecules apparently cost a great deal to be brought to the point of commercialization and the finders want patients to cover the price of research as quickly as possible. Except that there are large parts of the world where patient cannot afford to do this. So effectively they have no access to new treatments. Fortunately for them in these parts of the world there are some very clever people who are able to copy these new drugs pretty quickly and make them available at less than half the price. And this becomes a deeply contested quarrel where words such as ‘piracy’ are pitted against ‘legitimacy’ etc.

If the developing countries such as India had relied only on the multi national pharmaceutical companies their patients at middle and lower middle levels would have been almost completely deprived of modern cancer and HIV molecules. It is the Indian companies that allegedly ‘cracked’ patents and produced the drugs in large enough quantities for Indians to benefit. India pharma is now supplying the drugs at ‘affordable’ prices in India and abroad.

So the debate that Indian patent laws need further amendment continues.

What the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done in this respect therefore could be the model of the future. Where research is co funded and amortized over a longer period so that new drugs and treatments can be available for the rich and the poor at the same cost. I bet this sounds stupid and idealistic to most but it is in fact the most humane way of looking at this twisted problem.

A different example of cooperation is available for malaria research. As with TB this is likely to be one of the frontiers that medicine will have to breach for the global challenge to be met. Again the incidence and severity are the highest in the developing world. So the need is for cost-effective readily available antimalarial for both prevention and cure.

Novartis appears to be laying down a viable track for more than one company/group of researchers to move towards the solution.

The pharmaceutical companies are unable to fill their pipeline for ‘block busters’. They are investing less in R&D because they are finding that returns on investment are slowing down. But the growing epidemics of communicable, non communicable and chronic illnesses need a fully engaged and enthusiastic pharmaceutical industry committed to finding new treatment. “Co-opetition” gives them the new route if they will take it.

November 20, 2011

Benetton’s new ad campaign……not so funny after all

We had no intention of commenting on this crass and crazy “Unhate” campaign, but after today’s defense in the Economic Times something needs to be said in protest. Freedom of expression is not in dispute here, nor is the fundamental attempt to make enemies love each other, if the naiveté of this situation can be accepted. What is being questioned is the particular style of expression, which on almost all levels violates sensibilities and social protocols and ends up with the brand raising a maelström to no purpose. So here are the key issues:

Brand communication ideas do not get creative legitimacy when they break with socially acceptable value systems largely because their wider resonance depends on broad based acceptability. Anything else is self indulgence.

Communicating social change issues through visual or verbal shock does not guarantee long-term embedding of key change parameters

Brands cannot and should not break the social contract with their stakeholders. This is not responsible behavior.

Stretching ideas to breaking point only ensures that communication snaps back to hurt rather than help branding. This is like taking such a big leap that you land in the deepest pit. And you may never be able to get out of it.

Advertising communication is first and foremost brand communication and should not go on to espouse so-called “artistic” pretensions.

For brands to embed socially relevant messages in their advertising communication is great, and they have done this in the past, but the best ideas have NEVER ever been crass.

72h for Peace on the other hand is worth endorsing in full.

November 20, 2011

Dow and Bhopal….dragging the nightmare along wherever you go

Dow is a sponsor of the London Olympics but probably never thought that Bhopal would follow them around to London and emerge like their worst nightmare one more time. The tragedy of a flawed inheritance compounded by corporate resistance to do more than legally mandated, the fire of social protest fed by an unrelenting sense of moral rightness….how much longer will this go on? The Economic Times today has the latest on the London protest

January 28, 2011

Dow makes $10 million commitment to sustainability. Is any of it coming to Bhopal?

Bhopal disaster: Amongst the 10 worst according to environment experts….. 

In terms of death toll, lasting injuries, and damage to the environment. Also seen as the worst industrial tragedy of all times. Wholly man made and a result of total corporate negligence. The Gulf Oil Spill has displaced all such earlier tragedies in people’s minds but when this kind of “do good” news comes out this question must be asked. Dow bought out Union Carbide. Union Carbide was the culprit. Dow preferred to look at legal and statutory agreements and not at the moral and ethical requirements. Up till July 2010 the people of Bhopal were still fighting it out in court with Dow.

This sites tell it all:

November 16, 2011

A commendable goal and an admirable commitment but a somewhat unhappy title…

Unilever announces the setting up of Domestos Toilet Academies!

The first will be launched early next year in Vietnam. The aim is to provide sustainable, long-term solutions to sanitation problems in places where these are urgently needed. Unilever has partnered with the World Toilet Organization – had no idea such a body existed –  so perhaps they had no choice in having to brand their initiative accordingly. But some of the promotions planned for the initiative seem to have no compunction in playing on the most obvious word in this context which frankly begins to be distasteful after a time. It does not particularly raise the profile of this initiative and simply serves to irritate. Here are the details from And by the way did you know that November 19  is World Toilet Day? We did not.

And here is more of the same from

November 16, 2011

Sustainability: the idea grows, the goal post moves

November 16, 2011

Sustainability gets a new impetus. ‘Biomimicry’ which explained in simple terms means looking at Nature to solve problems in the human domain, is now being used and tracked by more and more experts to ensure sustainable innovation keeping both environment and economic outcomes in mind.

FastCompany has the latest on this….

June 16, 2011

Every idea is an organism. It is born, it is fed, it grows and reaches maturity. It works because it has the inherent vitality to imbue the social fabric with the colors of change and survival. Its power can be felt. Its survival is ensured.

To sustain is to keep going. For business the challenge is to keep the balance between commercial interest and the pressure this puts on its operating environment: not deplete resources, use them efficiently, save on inputs, innovate and find new solutions.

Companies have used the word sustainability in many contexts: the ecology, finance, finance and ecology, natural resource use, community support, employee wellness, human rights, new technology from time to time

Sustainability is linked to innovation, to changing current consumer lifestyles,  recycling, reusing, reconstructing, reviving. Higher level considerations  are: preserving biodiversity, curbing pollution, changing technology from toxic to clean.

Idea of  Sustainability is everyone’s concern.  It now has a dense pool of intellectual energy that surrounds and sustains it. Business alone cannot keep up the churn or provide enough stimulation for its future growth. We need many other constituents. We need social platforms, civic groups, community forums to espouse and surround the idea with new paradigms.

Brands Making Sustainability a Goal


Some related and interesting comments below:

Why we Need Heretical, Holistic Green Thinking

Umair Haque on the “Ten Things You are not Allowed to say at Davos

David Sands on “The $ 300 House: The Sustainability Challenge”

November 4, 2011


Virtual body language? Yes. I was so intrigued by this article that I had to share it…..

November 4, 2011

CSR, CSV…..shared value and shared confusion

These acronyms are not the only ones that cause confusion in this space. There is ‘corporate philanthropy’ and corporate responsibility’ that add to the confusion. How can words such as philanthropy and responsibility be interchangeable? They have different meanings and different linguistic functions and must therefore refer to different types of action. In common parlance philanthropy is understood to be closer to charity than responsibility. And of course the traditional meaning of social responsibility was to be charitable. Give without receiving that is. The new gurus however are saying that unless you receive there is no point in giving! Basically companies must not enter this area at all unless they can see a clear commercial advantage.  There is no giving away of corporate funds for social development out of the goodness of some CEO’s heart. In this context, the newly minted concept of Corporate Shared Value is a nice spin. Thank you Mr Porter and Mr Kramer (see Mint interview Friday November 4, 2011). Here CSR and sustainability sit under CSV! Example: polluting industries must see this misdemeanor not just as harmful to the environment and socially bad for human beings, but as a waste of money that actually belongs to the profit line. Great as incentives go, will resonate well with finance heads and other money minded leaders. But the ‘visionaries’ may have a problem with it since it tends to take away from the ‘feel good’ factor that very often motivates such corporate action, the ‘leave my mark’ push that corporate CEOs believe sets them apart from predecessors.