Abid Hussain Barlaskar

"Dip in condom sales in early lockdown months helped Prega News sell 20% more": Mankind’s Rajeev Juneja

Prega News witnessed a spike in demand during the COVID lockdown. The CEO of Mankind Pharma reveals the brand’s strategy as it completes 10 years.

With 67,385 deliveries on January 1, 2020, India recorded the highest ever number of births in a single day. No wonder Prega News, a brand that helps women confirm their pregnancy status, has been growing in healthy double digits annually. The Mankind Pharma owned brand witnessed a steep spike of over 20 per cent in its demand during the COVID lockdown.

Rajeev Juneja, CEO, Mankind Pharma, tells afaqs! that the 10-year-old Pregnancy Test Card (PTC) brand Prega News is a much cherished entity in the company’s portfolio. More so because the success rate in building a brand in the PTC business is in single digits.

Rajeev Juneja
Rajeev Juneja

“Less than 10 out of 100 new brands survive. It takes at least three to five years to build a brand. You have to keep spending money during this phase,” Juneja says.

Prega News is currently endorsed by Bollywood star Kareen Kapoor. It has had Shilpa Shetty as the brand face in the past.

Folks at Mankind Pharma witnessed a sudden spike in the demand for the Prega News testing kits in the later lockdown months. As Juneja reveals, the reason is linked to a sharp drop in condom sales in the recent past. Mankind Pharma also owns leading condom brand Manforce.

“There was quite a drop in the sales of condoms in the months of March, April and May."

“There was quite a drop in the sales of condoms in the months of March, April and May. And then, we saw the spike in the sales of Prega News. The reasons behind the dip in condom sales could be – people not buying items from outside, not venturing outdoors, or getting a bit careless. It could also be because of couples realising that they were going to be together at home for a long period due to the extended lockdown and it could be a good time to start a family,” Juneja says.

A recent UNICEF report says that around 116 million babies will be born globally during the COVID pandemic. India will account for the highest number of births, with close to 20.1 million babies.

According to Juneja, Prega News currently commands 80 per cent of the Indian PTC market. The brand clocks over Rs 100 crore in annual revenues and plans to increase it by 20 per cent this year.

It gets an upper hand, as most of its smaller rivals are generic brands with little advertising. It shares the space with brands like Dr Reddy's Velocit, Piramal’s i-can and Cadila’s AccuTest.

Prega News also unveiled its campaign #PregaMoment to mark its 10th year in the Indian market. As part of it, the brand urges mothers to visit a micro-site and share their pregnancy stories. The two-month-long campaign will run on television and all digital platforms of Prega News.

The ads will also be released across India in five regional languages (Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi) to drive participation. The films have been conceptualised by ADK Fortune and executed by Havas Worldwide. One of the them even features a husband, who’s attending a video conference while working from home.

Prega News targets both men and women (especially married adults) and recently, a significant share of the media pie has been diverted to digital advertising.

“We reach both males and females as, a lot of times, it is the husband that buys the kits."

“We reach both males and females as, a lot of times, it is the husband that buys the kits. Initially, our digital ad spends were at 20 per cent of the total pie, it has gone up to 40 per cent. The share has been diverted from mediums like magazines and newspapers,” Juneja reveals.

A larger chunk of the pie is reserved for TV spots, with a growing focus on regional channels. “In the last couple of years, we have seen a rise in the influence of regional channels. We now run different media plans and brand ambassadors for different regions. We have got good success with regional channels. The consumers relate with them well.”

The regional flavour of communication also leads to better engagement on digital campaigns. Juneja says that while a national campaign on social media could get a lot of likes and reactions, the region-specific content led by local influencers, attracts a lot of comments and better interaction.

Adoption of regional attributes in its communication also helped the brand pry open newer markets. “We struggled to crack the southern markets for a few years. The mistake that we were making was of not investing in regional brand ambassadors. Things started moving well once we changed that,” says Juneja.

He says that the brand awareness is pretty high among urban populations, even in smaller towns. The task at hand is to drive awareness in rural India. The product enjoys steady sales all through the year across markets.

“At times, people want the good news and at times, they don't. It helps clear confusions round the year.”

“At times, people want the good news and at times, they don't. It helps clear confusions round the year,” says Juneja.

Like most OTC (over the counter) healthcare products, Prega News sells primarily via pharmacies. However, unlike many OTCs, it sees a limited influence of doctors. “It is a consumers' product and an OTC brand. Gynaecologists might be using it, but that is less than five per cent,” Juneja signs off.

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