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Healthcare communications set to take off

By N.Chandramouli,

The author is the CEO of Blue Lotus Communications Consultancy, a knowledge based public relations agency headquartered in Mumbai. He can be reached at mouli@bluelotuspr.com.

After the telecom thunder and the retail rush in India, Healthcare seems to be the next biggest bet for everyone. With promises of many billions of Indian Rupees, large diversified conglomerates such as Reliance, Birlas, Tatas are all betting their money in the Indian healthcare delivery space. As has been with other high growth sectors in India that witnessed a rapid meteoric rise, those who don't jump into the bandwagon quickly are likely to miss the speeding bus completely. Industry experts promise that among other businesses which will ride the crest of this healthcare delivery boom will be the erstwhile non-starter business of healthcare communications.

Many communication giants who were early starters in healthcare communications (having started two to three years ago) in India had to face the embarrassing ignominy of their businesses not taking off despite repeated attempts at survival. Some continue to struggle, but on the whole, it would be safe to say that most have been decimated by being ahead of their time. Some continue to adorn the garb of existing as healthcare communications agencies on the face of it, but beneath the surface their survival instincts have taken the better of them and they are doing all but healthcare communications while waiting for the elusive critical mass of clients.

But today, after the many months of vacillation and intemperate behaviour, the healthcare sector are finally going to go the way of the 'boom' sectors. But before entering this field do not forget to read the warning sign which proclaims, "Enter at your own risk. Blink and the race will be over".

Today's signs that show the glimpse of a different tomorrow. Lets take a look at the signs - Reuters has projected 2007 to have the highest year-on-year earnings growth, medical tourism has grown ten-fold from 2000 to have over 1,00,000 medical tourists touching the shores of India, private equity funding is finding its way into the healthcare sector, healthcare insurance has also taken off and finally the clincher probably is the coming together of the tipping point 'influentials' - the big Indian conglomerates investing big money in healthcare, are making the sector impossible to ignore.

So, the healthcare sector will grow at a frenetic pace - Quod Erat Demonstrandum!. Coming to the need for good communications companies in this field and why they will grow is as self-evident as it is when we see the tree in a good seed after adding in the factors of the right conditions, right nutrients and a little luck.

This need for specialized communciations in the healthcare field is particularly important in a country with a tropical climate profile as in India. Sadly the climate makes India a breedng ground for diseases. Therefore, as much as we dont want it to happen, there will be many manifestations of many diseases(a few of them which have even been eradicated from the rest of the world!)

Secondly, we live in a country where traditionally we have been taught not to question the medical professional; where a question by the tradional patient may even border on being branded as a taboo. The need for educating the huge and myriad Indian population in many ways will be an imperative difficult to ignore.

Then, the very nature of India's diversity calls for an effective communications scenario. Last known to have 1652 dialects of which 24 languages are spoken by over a million people, a mosaic made of thousands of cultural nuances that neccesitate an intricate understanding of regional needs before communications can be effective. Also, healthcare is an area of special interest and communicating the needs, dispelling the myths and clearing the misconceptions in this field will assume sigificant proportions.

The barometer signs all indicate towards a high growth in the healthcare communications space, and those who have an advantage of local knowledge, understanding of healthcare and efficacy of implementation, will benefit enormously by riding the current healthcare crest.

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