How to appoint a Distributor of Medical Supplies in emerging markets?

The emerging markets are touted as the next engines of growth probably owing to the growing young population and extremely low penetration of healthcare services.  In emerging markets, appointing a distributor of Medical supplies or consumables is yet to be well structured when compared to developed markets such as Europe or the USA. However, digital access today has accelerated awareness of treatment modalities and the latest technologies for the drug or a medical device as available in developed markets.

This changing market orientation is influencing healthcare policies thereby increasing the importance of market access functions required in appointing distributors for medical and surgical supplies. It is important to build influence (Price, Channel, promotion etc. & and engage with all stakeholders (Medical councils, government authorities, certification agencies etc.) together to support distributors.

Market Access Strategy

Some of the key success factors that a hospital and healthcare supplies manufacturer should consider if they wish to appoint a top medical supply distributors and gain smooth market entry:

  1. Integrated market entry plan, beginning from the product development stage keeping in view labelling, training and regulatory environment of emerging markets.
  2. Diversity and cross culture team effort by facilitating effective collaboration among various business functions (e.g.sales, marketing, regulatory, etc. in target markets)
  3. Key Account approach & specification influencing team to engage with regulatory bodies and influencers such as pharmacists and advocacy groups.
  4. Adopting an integrated & uniform communication strategy.
  5. Thorough understanding of sales process (manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to retailer) & relationship between market access and advocacy groups.
  6. Working on optimal processes, plans, and most importantly training and skilling of healthcare professionals, technicians and laboratory staff.
image of online wholesale distribution and b2b trade

In addition, the distribution strategy has to be closely aligned with other corporate functions and implemented through appropriate tactics to ensure product success.A pharmaceutical or medical device company in emerging market may require a different approach altogether when compared to mature market like EU. The healthcare landscape in the emerging markets is complex and does not follow a structured drug approval process & has to be customized to local challenges, when compared to the developed markets.

For e.g. in EU the regulations are integrated and uniform throughout the EU countries when compared to Indian subcontinent where India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar all may different set of rules and regulations.


Growth for any pharmaceutical or medical device company will depend on its performance in emerging markets. Emerging markets require a customized market entry planning integrated with the right processes and talent to mitigate risks and challenges.

Mckinsey (a global consultancy company) recommends that medical device companies entering emerging markets should look to establish local leadership and customize new products with local R&D, and should move from a hands-off distributor management to a proactive hybrid model. consultants recommend that medical device companies entering emerging markets should look to establish local leadership and customize new products with local R&D. This may help them to move from traditional hands-off distributor management to a proactive hybrid model.


Who is a medical distributor?

Medical distributors are logistics experts & do not manufacture, prescribe or promote medicines; there only objective is to purchase, store and distribute prescribed or OTC medicines and approved / certified medical consumables and supplies to pharmacists, hospitals & clinics and testing laboratories.

How to classify Medical Distributor?

Medical distributors can be categorized into many categories major ones being: diagnostic, surgical, durable medical equipment (DME), acute care, and storage/ transport.

What are examples of medical supplies?

The medical supplies can be consumables like Nursing Aids — dressing aids, under pads, restraints, anti-embolism stockings, diapers etc. Or Needles/Syringes — all types and varieties, sharps disposal containers etc. Surgical tools & instruments — umbilical catheters, speculums etc., maternity umbilical clamps etc. Operating Room — surgical packs, table covers, towels etc. Hospital Furniture- Beds, wheelchairs, stretcher’s and dentist chairs etc. Or Medical and imaging machines like X Ray/ CT Scan/ MRI/ BP monitors etc.