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On February 21st, 2000 I was moderating a panel discussion in Stockholm and the theme was: The IT society, a threat against printing paper?

Starting up the panel discussion, I reminded the audience that there was an Internet company traded on NASDAQ called Amazon that had 3,000 employees, negative profits, and a market cap of 8 Billion US dollars. This was equivalent to the market cap of SCA, Stora, Enso, UPM and Holmen – COMBINED. Most people in the audience laughed and exclaimed that the world had gone crazy. Not so many are laughing today. Since then Amazon’s stock price has soared by over 2100% and the market cap is now 700 billion US dollars. What about the named forest industry stocks? Well, they have risen too and are today valued at 60 billion US dollars. With Amazon´s market cap outperforming the selected basket of forest industry stocks 12 fold, we can conclude that at half-time it’s 1-0 to Amazon.

However, the game isn’t over until the referee blows the whistle. What will happen in the next 18 years? Today the forest industry is in much better shape than in 2000. Their business models are supported by mega trends such as increasing e-commerce, aging population, growing middle class, a world going non-plastic, etc. The industry is optimistic about the future, with many new ideas and innovations in the making. In the second half of the game my bet would be to go long in forestry and short in Amazon.

We see these trends, with all the new opportunities they offer for the forestry industry. And we’ll take an active role in this process of change. Because we help create value for companies around the world by transforming data and knowledge into strategic advice and efficient communication.

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Tenarguments

You can’t see the forest for all the trees”.

In Sweden, with some 80 percent of the land covered by forests, that is a pretty obvious remark. But it is also a Swedish proverb, meaning that it’s hard to see what’s under your nose.

Maybe that is also the case when it comes to the nature of the forestry industry, especially the pulp industry. Things are changing, fast. And few see it. From being the archetypical cyclic industry, ridden by regular financial tidal waves, the forest industry is showing signs of increased stability over time.

 

Let’s list the indicators, one by one, but without any internal order:

  1. Forest land gets a higher evaluation than ever by analysts and is seen as a safe investment.
  2. Printing paper represent a much smaller share of the business now, and hence a much lower implication on the bottom line.
  3. The population in the industrialized world is getting significantly older, which implicates an increased use of tissue products, not least for incontinence care.
  4. Globally, a larger proportion of the population is rising from poverty, and therefore is likely to consume more paper based products.
  5. The growth in the global economy shows surprising stamina, which in turn drives the demand on packaging.
  6. Consumers are becoming more environmentally concerned, and show a growing resentment against plastics and pro paper based packaging.
  7. The shift from a fossil-based to a bio-based society is growing and becoming common practise.
  8. There is a growing lack of recycled fibre in the recycling system, which drives a need to invest in the production of fresh fibre.
  9. The forestry industry, which may have been seen as conservative, is becoming more and more innovative, focusing increasingly on R&D.
  10. After years of development, large scale wooden based buildings (residential as well as commercial) are getting a broader acceptance.

 

We see these trends, with all the new opportunities they offer for the forestry industry. And we’ll take an active role in this process of change. Because we help create value for companies around the world by transforming data and knowledge into strategic advice and efficient communication.

 

 

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Pietro Crovetto, VP Global Inhalation Strategy at Lupin Pharmaceuticals with vast experience from the international pharmaceutical industry at various prominent positions within commerce, marketing, strategy, and business development, for a variety of companies including Novartis, Chiesi, ALK Abelló and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Pietro has been a client to Opticom for over 10 years, both at previous positions and now, working for Lupin. He gives the background to his experiences with Opticom International Research, focusing on the latest Lupin project Opticom conducted, that he was personally involved in.

PietroLupin
Pietro Crovetto VP, Global Inhalation Strategy, Lupin Pharmaceuticals

The main objective was to map the unmet needs of healthcare professionals and patients within asthma and COPD in terms of currently available innovative products’ attributes, in order to develop Lupin’s product so that it would satisfy those unmet needs better than competitor products.

Another aim was to enable Lupin to differentiate its product, including the services and monitoring systems offered, from existing alternatives and competitor products.

In the end, the main goal was to create a product that improves patient quality of life through ease-of-use, thus leading to improved compliance and lower treatment cost, something which would also lead to obvious advantages for healthcare professionals as well as payers.

The targeted markets in this project were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The information was gathered in two modules, starting with desk research identifying relevant respondents with whom in-depth telephone interviews were then conducted.

Describing this project, Pietro explains that his idea was to monitor the emerging changes in therapeutic approaches and especially the interest in new combination products within the treatments of asthma and COPD. Basically to get a European overview of the present situation and to identify whether their designed new combination product was going to be successful or not and whether there were any differences across the European markets in this respect.

Pietro continues: I wanted to benchmark, to interview “real” clinicians, not opinion leaders, because there is a critical difference here. Opinion leaders are up to speed with the latest research and treatment options, as they often have done this research themselves, while clinicians might very well have heard about new stuff, after all they are specialists, but they are not necessarily as enthusiastic to adopt something new as the opinion leaders.

Choosing Opticom to supply Lupin with the market research was based on a combination of different factors; first of all good experiences in the past, resulting in a strong sense of reliability. According to Pietro, a key asset of Opticom is the fact that they offer both a very knowledgeable staff who understand the complex medical issues as well as their multilingual skills: “It helps a lot when we do not have to explain so much to a supplier and more time can be spent on the actual research, on the specifics of the projects!”

Sometimes the challenge with international market research, Pietro explains, is that you end up with the “Chinese whisper”, meaning I brief you, you brief somebody else and then that person briefs somebody else in turn, and then at the end of the day, you are not sure what went missing and where. So based on that, the two main points on why to choose Opticom are definitely their knowledge of the field and its multilingual staff based in one office. A third reason, according to Pietro, actually equally important: every time he has worked with Opticom, the adopted strategy has been to do 20-30% of the interviews, then pause for evaluation of the questionnaire, the response and answers so far: simply put: is it working? The Project Managers at Opticom are very flexible here and that is greatly appreciated, to optimize the quality of the output.

Concerning what the market insights provided by Opticom have meant to Lupin and what has been most valuable, Pietro points to the decision to invest in particular combinations of treatments, emphasizing that this is the most critical stage in their R&D and business development without going into specifics.

The results have also influenced their business decision-making, being added into their forecasting, because even if the research was qualitative, it was still very helpful to better understand what direction the market was taking. All in all, the insights have been used on several levels and according to Pietro, further investment decisions within asthma and COPD are definitely going to be based on the results from this research as well.

Asked about the return of investment, Pietro confesses: “To be honest, we didn’t count on ROI, but it was not at all expensive considering the huge amounts that have been spent on this treatment area, so the money we spent with Opticom was definitely worth it, more than worth it!”

According to Pietro, the main benefits of this specific project were that his team at Lupin got an additional level of insights on a practical level: there is a crucial difference between the people who work on the front line with patients and the opinion leaders, the high science: “We need to have a balance of both because we cannot ignore high science but at the end of the day we need to understand nurses on the floor, having issues reconstituting the product, for example. That is really a very valuable difference to us and something that Opticom understands. So I am very satisfied, more than satisfied and very happy with the co-operation with Opticom!”

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Niko Kujala has been working within the product segment of breakers and switches at ABB Protection and Connection in Vaasa, Finland since 2011 and he has held different international positions within both sales and production. He gives the background to his first experience with Opticom International Research: We knew that we wanted to conduct customer satisfaction research on a global level in order to better understand our customers’ needs, basically asking them: What were the needs in different fields and what do we as a supplier need to do better?

Niko ABB
Niko Kujala, Global Sales support Specialist, ABB Protection and Connection

In the process of selecting a market research agency, the ABB team had five competing potential suppliers providing quotes to look into. Niko continues: After evaluating the different options, we found that Opticom’s offer was by far the clearest, it was obvious that Opticom had made an effort to get to know our business and therefore understood our needs. In addition to that, the price level was also good.

Niko says that the quick initial response to any question that ABB had concerning the designed project as well as the smooth communication with the Opticom project team overall were further factors that tilted ABB to choose Opticom in the end.

The customer satisfaction survey covered more than 20 countries worldwide, with strong involvement from the local offices to make sure the most important customers per market were interviewed.

We got very valuable insights concerning client needs in in an ever more competitive market: what our clients appreciate about our products and services, how we can help them improve their own business, and also indications on where there is still need for improvement.

Niko explains that a lot of actions have been taken by them at ABB after the results in the final report were presented and statistical files and individual interview transcripts were delivered. Most decisions concern increasing and improving their direct communication with clients. He reveals that their business has grown since the research was completed and that the insights definitely have further supported this growth.

When asked what he would regard as the main benefits with this specific project, Niko points out that it was easy doing business with Opticom, that the communication was always smooth, the offer was prepared really well and that Opticom understood our needs in this kind of research right away. Therefore, wrapping up, he would definitely recommend that ABB would go with Opticom again, whenever the need for market insights arises.

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Francesco De Rosa, with vast experience from the international pharma industry at various prominent positions within sales, brand and business managing, gives the background to one of his first experiences with Opticom International Research: “At the time, I had taken over a very important Pfizer brand with a five-year legacy of declining market shares and I needed to get a 360 degree understanding of the decision-making process within the growth hormone therapy area” he explains and continues: “My scope was clear: bend the trend!”.

To gain this crucial understanding, Francesco turned to Opticom, a company which had previously delivered very good and useful results in projects for another pharmaceutical brand he had worked with. In the project of close co-operation that followed, Opticom conducted about 100 qualitative interviews with parents, paediatricians, and nurses to understand their different needs and reasoning within this therapy area.

The research discovered many “leaks” that delayed children’s access to treatment as well as large regional differences. Based on Opticom’s comprehensive analysis of the patient journey and treatment rationales, Francesco was able to change his company’s strategy, including a relocation of resources, better aligned to the customer landscape, as well as to improve communication around the value of treatment. In addition, the team could optimize its different support tools to physicians, nurses and parents, in order to facilitate earlier diagnose and better compliance.

Furthermore, Francesco and his colleagues came up with an improved treatment device to deal with an issue rated very important among respondents in the survey: Ease-of-use.

He describes the direct impact of this new, very valuable market knowledge: “Thanks to the new insights we designed a new device for the treatment of growth hormones deficiencies among children in order to meet the single most important factor in the choice of treatment: Easy-of-use of the device. This resulted in a patent available in more than 100 countries worldwide”.

As a result of the new strategy, the brand soon turned decline into growth and has been continuing this positive development ever since.

According to Francesco, the generation of updated customer insights is key to their business. Understanding both traditional and non-traditional stakeholders, their needs, as well as the patient journey and the decision-making process is fundamental in forming a successful business strategy.

In these situations you need a consulting company with a strong focus on quality, and with a thorough process for both research as well as analysis that delivers real and actionable results. That is where Opticom comes in as a very valuable partner with the staff’s vast knowledge and experience of the pharma industry:  “They are methodical in their understanding of customer needs and in making sure that the setup of the project, from the very start to result implementation, is consistent and with a great focus on details and delivery” says Francesco, who would definitely engage Opticom again to gain strategic insights and/or to facilitate optimized communication.

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