Aathira and Nasreen Sattar
It is a common traditionalist lament that, for a large number of Indians, anything West is the best. However, the newfound popularity of herbal products in the country belies this belief. While the existence of companies selling strictly made-in-India commodities is not new, the field has now become more competitive than ever before with Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurvedic Limited dwarfing other brands. In April 2016, Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna stated that the Ayurvedic company clocked in profits worth a whopping 5000 crore rupees in 2015-16.
Patanjali, which began as a private limited company in 2006 and later turned public in 2007, recorded a turnover of only 453 crore rupees in 2011-12 and has reached the 5000 crore mark now at an astonishing rate. With its huge range of products, the company is posing a serious challenge not just to Ayurvedic brands but to the ‘mainstream’ FMCG firms as well. Headquartered in Haridwar where the production unit spans 150 acres, Patanjali has outlets spread all over the country which sell 500 products including medicines, food items, skin care and dental care. That the company has Indianised meal options such as noodles, muesli and cornflakes would be enough to disturb the monopoly hitherto enjoyed by brands such as Nestle and Kellog’s.
Though Ramdev himself does not have a stake in the company in terms of business, the steep rise in the company’s profits could be parallel to the growth of his own personal image which has attracted a huge number of followers. At a time when our socio-political discourse is dominated by personalities, the association of a famed guru may have helped Patanjali.
Patanjali bills itself as a buy-local and chemical-free brand. “As Indians, we must buy Swadeshi products. Our commodities are pure and organic as opposed to the others which are laden with chemicals,” said Sushrut Agnihotri, manager at the Patanjali megastore located in Jayanagar.
The sweet success of products quickly going off the shelves is coated with its own hiccups. “Currently, we are finding it difficult to meet the demand in the market as the products are transported from Haridwar, which takes 10-15 days,” Agnihotri added. This means that due to the demand-supply gap, popular products go out of stock frequently.
Market analysts suggest that it is toothpaste, cow ghee and hair oil which sets the cash registers ringing at the highest pitch at Patanjali stores. However, with the company manufacturing everything from atta to lip balms and building an image of nothing less than a supermarket, Ramdev’s brainchild has established an overarching presence in the industry.
The USP of the company is that it does not shy away from innovation; it is now set to unveil a line of jeans, a butt of ‘sanskaari’ jokes on social media recently. By stepping into the territory marked by formidable consumerist brands, Patanjali is catering to the aspirations pertaining to the standard of living of commoners who perhaps shy away from shopping at the upmarket FMCG outlets.
Agnihotri firmly believes that a one-time use of any Patanjali product will ensure customer loyalty. Padmini Nagaraj, a regular customer at the store, is in agreement with him. “Patanjali products are good for health as they don’t use chemicals, unlike products from other companies. My family has been using Patanjali for some time now and will continue to do so,” she said.
The brand is here to stay, as is evident from the website, which welcomes applicants who are interested in opening a new store or would want to conduct any business, aiding the expansion of the company.