Mumbai: French drug multinational Sanofi-Aventis SA is formulating a large-scale rural business strategy in India aimed at doubling its share to at least 4% of the Rs35,000 crore local drug market by 2015.

Increasing sales: Aventis Pharma’s MD Shailesh Iyyangar.

The rural push that envisages enrolment of at least 100,000 doctors in rural India in its training and continued medical education programme under a no-profit banner, is aimed at ensuring an additional Rs500 crore in sales for the company in India over the next five years.

The initiative, known as “Prayas", will be operated under a new division—the Hoechst Business Unit—within the Indian company, Aventis Pharma Ltd. Hoechst, a well established name in the drugs and pharmaceuticals market in the past, was transformed into Aventis Pharma after the worldwide merger of two top drug makers, Hoechst AG and Rhone-Poulenc SA in 1999. Hoechst had a strong presence in the Indian pharmaceuticals and veterinary market at the time.

“The India rural push is in line with the company’s global strategy of becoming a fully integrated health care company involving partnerships with other service providers such as clinicians, diagnostics services and even no-profit organisations for value-added services to improve quality of health care by bridging the gap between treatment and diagnosis along with better access to medicine," said Shailesh Iyyangar, managing director, Aventis, in an interview on Thursday.

The world’s top drug makers such as Pfizer Inc., Novartis AG, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Merck and Co. Inc., among others, are now moving towards a new business model that involves becoming holistic health care solution providers as the traditional way of remaining a focused drug making and marketing company may no longer be viable.

While Sanofi Aventis has been present in India for several years, its presence is largely felt in the urban markets thanks to its specialty pharma products, mainly from the global parent’s portfolio. Aventis’ current share of the Indian drug market is around 2%.

“We expect that the rural initiative would provide another 2% share in the next five years," said Iyyangar. Under the low-cost generic initiative, the company has already introduced some 10 drugs in India, he added.

A pilot programme of the initial phase, which is the training and continued medical education for rural doctors, was successfully tested by enrolling 3,200 doctors in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bangal, said Iyyangar.

“It will get now extended to Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh next year," he said. “We have tied up with three local contract manufacturers to make cheap generic medicines for the rural market in India. The prices of these drugs, made under Aventis quality standards, are mainly in the anti-infective, pain management, and gastric disease areas, said Iyyangar, all diseases that are widely prevalent in rural India.

As part of the rural doctor education programme conducted by physicians from urban locations, the company has conducted 554 workshops in the three states.