The Oyster's Calcium
Shelcal, an eighteen-year-old brand has become one of Elder
Pharmaceuticals' three biggest brands. What differentiated Shelcal from others?
Arshiya Khan finds out
It came, differentiated and emerged
is easier than innovation. But Elder Pharmaceutical's brand Shelcal took the
other route to success. Shelcal- 250 was launched in 1988, followed by Shelcal-500
in 1990. There were biggies like Calcium Sandoz from Novartis' and GSK's Os-cal,
which already existed in the market. The market was worth only Rs six crore,
which was a relatively small market, but as it was growing at 13 percent, it
had huge potential. Elder positioned Shelcal for the prevention of post-menopausal
osteoporosis. Yet another differentiating factor was that while calcium supplements
were OTC products, Shelcal was targeted to the doctor segment. The special route
gave the company the ability to price it right rather higher at ten times more
than other calcium supplements in the market.
Shelcal also had a third factor differentiating strategy its composition.
"Shelcal is made from an organic source, that is oyster shells," points
out Sunita Saklikar, Deputy General Manager, Marketing, Elder Pharmaceuticals.
Because of its organic origins, it is highly bio-available and gives significant
increase in BMD (Bone Mineral Density). Other calcium supplements have synthetic
origins and hence their contribution to BMD does not match up to Shelcal.
The strong tides
In 2003, Shelcal was hit by a strong wave of generics. As a result, Shelcal's
share of Elder's total sales dropped to eight percent from 25 percent. Over
time, Shelcal survived the generic wave because generic brands could not match
the patient benefits provided by Shelcal. The company did not have any specific
plan to combat generics, but in the end patients returned to the superior brand.
"We were able to stand by ourselves. We were very clear, consistent and
we just went ethically and never went out of the way," says Saklikar.
Over the years Elder extended the brand to Shelcal OS and Shelcal M, with the
added benefits of magnesium, zinc, copper, boron and manganese.
Ready for any counterattack
Today the market size for calcium supplements is Rs 236 crore. Sales of Shelcal
are back on track, growing at 25 percent, according to Saklikar. For Elder,
Shelcal is a Rs 82 crore brand, comprising around 25 percent of Elder's total
sales revenue. Any drop in Shelcal sales will therefore reflect on the company's
sales graph. But Elder is well armed with strategies for a counterattack. The
company continues with its strategy to create and cater to different customer
segments. Thus future line extensions of Shelcal will target different segments
like management of osteoporosis, pregnancy and lactation. Shelcal is for all
age groups and each formulation of Shelcal is a 'brand' by itself. Though Shelcal
may have equipped itself with all available strategies it is only the market
which will decide its fate. We will have to wait and watch whether it will sink
to the bottom of the sea or emerge as a 'pearl'.