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1-15 September 2007  
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Home - Management - Article

Case Study

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

Imitation 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'.



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