In a decade, Baba Ramdevâ€™s ayurvedic company has challenged established consumer businesses in a tightly knit fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) business cocoon that is rarely invaded by outsiders.
A pronoun often used for Ramdev is â€œyoga-turned-business-tycoonâ€. And rightly so. The companyâ€™s net sales for the fiscal year 2015-2016 were calculated at INR 5,000 crores. Thatâ€™s a staggering 150% growth rarely achieved by novice businesses.
Patanjali Ayurved, with headquarters in Haridwar, was founded in 2006 to take on multinational corporation and perhaps also build on the â€œyogicâ€ brand Baba Ramdev had established for himself by shifting into humble yoga postures on Aastha channel on television. It produced everything from toothpaste to soaps to honey to aloe vera juice, and in its latest ventures, it is going to produce â€œswadeshiâ€ jeans, which gave Twitter users an open window to troll the yoga guru.
I am assuming there will be no ripped #Patanjali jeans; that will be so anti-national.
â€” Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) September 12, 2016
â€” Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) September 11, 2016
Ramdev reiterated the same reasoning when asked why he was expanding his business in all directions. He said that he wanted to end dominance of multinational corporations. His â€œfight is against foreign companies trying to take over our economyâ€. WhenÂ Nestleâ€™s Maggi was taken off Indian shelves last year for high proportions of lead and MSG, Baba Ramdev quickly swooped in with a local brand of noodles in November 2015, which he claimed were deplete of harmful ingredients. However, his atta noodles were boiling in controversy after it was alleged that the Food Safety and Regulatory Authority of India had not, in fact, approved the fast-food product. Also a team of food and drug administrators in Meerut gave Patanjali noodles a sub-standard rating with ash content in the tastemaker exceeding the prescribed limits by nearly three times.
While Patanjaliâ€™s success, and by default its CEO Acharya Balakrishna and founder Ramdevâ€™s success, cannot be challenged, capitalist products like jeans and fast-food products like noodles do prop up the question of business integrity. It is an ayurvedic company after all. And such is the success of this ayurvedic company that Balakrishna, who owns 94% of its stakes, is now in the league of the richest people in the country with an astounding INR 25,600 crores under his belt.
However, the company has been met with consistent criticism. Apart from the noodles controversy mentioned above, it was reported in August this year that according to the consumer affairs department,Â 17 out of 21 advertisements by Patanjali were considered to be in violation of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) code. Also at the beginning of the year, Uttarakhand health department pointed fingers at Patanjali’s fertility pill and said it violatedÂ Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 1994. Then there was fungus found in a bottle of ghee as well, an allegation that was outright denied by Ramdev.
The duo want to expand Patanjaliâ€™s hands into every vacuum that exists in the Indian market by producing everything from home-cleaning products to oils. And while they already have manufacturing units in neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh, they want to move further out by setting base in African countries. Currently, Patanjali Ayurvedic products are available in stores in Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Canada, with plans to enter Pakistan.
Baba Ramdev, who was named as one of the world’s most creative people by a US business magazine, has continuously maintained a sense of transparency in Patanjali Ayurvedic’s products and is not afraid of passing them under a scrutiny test. His company is growing at the speed of light which is going to increase the noises of criticism, especially if he’s going to venture into folds outside of ayurveda.
Well, with time, we should find out if Patanjali really is as transparent as Ramdev’s yoga.
By Shreya Kalra