Juan Garcia, Country Managing Director at DKT International, on the novel experience of marketing condoms in Pakistan.
A Mexican man who has spent most of his career marketing soft drinks, wine and spirits and now lives in Pakistan selling condoms and other family planning methods for a living, is bound to be an intriguing subject for a profile. The fact that he heads a company that has had two condom ads banned on the grounds of indecency in the last three years only serves to heighten the sense of mystery about him.
Enter Juan Enrique Garcia, Country Managing Director at DKT International, a company that “treats the family planning business not as a health problem but as a marketing problem.”
With his sandy hair and medium physique, Garcia is not particularly distinctive looking, and if he were to don a shalwar kameez, he could easily pass off for a Pathan. However, the name and the accent are dead giveaways of his South American ethnicity.
Garcia’s approach to contraceptives is refreshingly different. When he arrived in Pakistan in April 2012 to set up DKT, the first thing he did after hiring an HR manager was to draw up a landscape of family planning in Pakistan.
“What I found was that the advocacy job done by the government and others was very good but that people were looking for options and an upgrade in terms of products.”
As a result of his findings, he identified three opportunities: penetrating into rural areas because companies such as Greenstar and Marie Stopes had been focusing on urban and semi rural areas; delivering a message that was different, inviting and suggestive rather a tutorial; and finally, showing that family planning can be fun.
The first opportunity was fulfilled by opening 850 small Dhanak clinics across Pakistan where community midwives offer maternal and neo natal child care, while the clinics market Heer IUDs (one of DKT’s products) to women.
“There are very few pharmacies selling family planning products in the rural areas, so we created our own distribution system through the clinics,” explains Garcia.
In the urban areas, DKT markets family planning through the sale of pills, injectibles and condoms, which come in three different brands. Prudence, the premium brand which competes with international brands such as Durex and Trojan; OK, aimed at people who are looking for straightforward family planning; and then Josh, which is the company’s largest selling and fastest growing brand and fulfils the brief of making family planning fun and exciting.
“There are very few pharmacies selling family planning products in the rural areas, so we created our own distribution system through Dhanak clinics.”
Garcia knows a thing or two about distribution and making products fun. When he started his career at Coca-Cola after completing a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, his first job was in mass media and marketing. However, when he decided to return to the company after pursuing a Master’s in Financial Management in London to “reinforce my financial acumen,” he began working as distribution manager. That, however, didn’t last very long and Garcia switched to Seagram beverages where he was in charge of Martell cognac and wines. When Seagram was acquired by Pernod Ricard, the second largest producer of liquor and spirits in the world, Garcia’s work acquired a new dimension and he started travelling to France frequently. This is where he picked up many insights about the consumers of alcoholic beverages.
“No one drinks to get drunk,” says Garcia, “so what you are really selling is the experience of alcohol. For cognac, you sell tradition and heritage, for vodka, you sell to the niche that loves fun and the night life. Marketing alcohol is complicated because the shopper is very different from the consumer, in that the shopper makes his decision based on the 20 or so brands he sees on the shelf and the motivation is very different, whereas a consumer usually goes to a bar or a café and chooses a drink based on his mood.”
“No one drinks to get drunk, so what you are really selling is the experience of alcohol. For cognac, you sell tradition and heritage, for vodka, you sell to the niche that loves fun and the night life."
Having learnt plenty from the French, whom he calls “difficult people to work with, but very knowledgeable about marketing spirits,” Garcia tried his hand at entrepreneurship, exporting his own brand called Factor Tequila to Colombia, Italy and Japan. While the brand did well, Garcia confesses that he likes to have a “boss and an organisational structure” so he sold his shares and went off to Tanzania to work with Pepsi.
The motivation for the move was the opportunity to work as an expatriate in an underserved market. Working on a small old production plant in North Tanzania, about an hour away from the Serengeti, Garcia was literally in the middle of nowhere, but he put his industrial engineering, distribution and marketing background to use to increase Pepsi’s distribution and strengthen the brand in a Coke dominated market. Within a year Coke poached Garcia and put him to work at their much larger production plant in Tanzania, making him in-charge of country operations.
Seeing my surprise at his return to Coke, Garcia exclaims, “my t-shirt is red, it is very red and my heart is red. I only drank Pepsi when I was working for Pepsi, otherwise it has always been Coke. When I go to the cinema in Pakistan and they only serve Pepsi, I tell them, ‘no thanks, I’ll drink water instead!’”
Speaking of Pakistan, Garcia says that when he was asked to come here to set up an office for DKT, he didn’t really have an opinion about the country. “As a Mexican, Pakistan did not mean anything to me. The connotation was very neutral.”
Although Garcia and his wife have adjusted easily to Pakistan and he is all praise for the quality of life that expats enjoy in Karachi, he has had quite a challenging time navigating the minefield that is family planning.
“I have seen resistance in terms of changing behaviour towards family planning,” he explains “because Mexico was in a similar situation in the late 70s and 80s, but working in Pakistan is challenging because I am trying to find the boundaries and be respectful.”
“Over 60% of our sales are for strawberry condoms and we haven’t even advertised them!”
Although Garcia says he puts 20 Pakistanis in a room and makes them vet all of DKT’s new products and promotions before release, clearly this strategy was not effective enough in terms of the Josh ads.
Garcia’s response is nonchalant; “We take it as a learning and we will try to ensure that we bring something different next time.”
“Perhaps the communication was a bit too much for a conservative country like Pakistan,” I suggest.
“I don’t know about that” comes the prompt rejoinder. “Over 60% of our sales are for strawberry condoms and we haven’t even advertised them!”
So what is next for this Mexican who has crossed the boundaries without even trying very hard and who is anything but the usual kettle of fish?
“I plan to stay with DKT because I like the business and I am convinced about the mission. As per company policy, my time in Pakistan will be up in one year and then I will move somewhere else.”
In the meantime, it would not be entirely beyond the scope of imagination to expect some more family planning fireworks from Mr Garcia.