Medical Representatives on the March
CORRECTLY DRESSED and well-groomed, the medical representative stands out in a crowd. There are 20,000 of them all over India, promoting the big sell for the multinational and Indian pharmaceutical cartels.
What was a turnover of Rs 10 crores in 1947 stands today at Rs 300 crores. The medical representatives are among those who made a signal contribution to the industry's phenomenal growth by boosting its profitability. While the industry is booming, the salesmen themselves have a very hard time of it, and if only they fail to fulfil the arbitrary marketing targets based on unscientific norms, they find themselves gentlemen at large.
The companies have their own way of confusing the government and the public by citing the exorbitant increase in'promotional expenses' which they say should be promptly reflected in the mark-up of drug prices. Expense accounts, affluence of executives, rents for palatial residences and offices, all-India conferences, staff training fanfare, five-and seven-star hotel charges for executives, fabulous brochures and sales literature, all these together with the payments to field workers, add up to what is euphemistically called 'promotional expenses'. The outlay on 500 executives and 60 big men at the top would exceed the total emoluments of all the 20,000 field workers put together!
The national and multinational firms find themselves in collusion for this fraud and fiddle. Under the banner of the Organization of Pharmaceutical Industries, they clamour for ^a better climate of confidence" and statutory increases in the prices of their products. Reported as 'deliberations'^ the demands of the cabals are communicated to the authorities and duly acted upon. At the same time, if the field workers assemble, it is termed as 'ganging-up' and the appeals for statutory wage revision (based on the consumer price index) coupled with job security are dismissed as inspired by irresponsible third parties to undermine the 'image' of the companies.
Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman^ exposes the impingement of American commercialism on the aging salesman, Willy Loman. An Indian field worker has the same story to tell: when his hair turns gray,