They have bushy beards, a choice for loose fitting robes, countless millions of devotees -- and also a line of consumer products. Behind the brands challenging some of the planet’s largest companies, meet the Indian gurus.


They have bushy beards, a choice for loose fitting robes, countless millions of devotees -- and also a line of consumer products. Behind the brands challenging some of the planet’s largest companies, meet the Indian gurus.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and Jaggi Vasudev are among yoga and spiritual leaders lending their names to everything from honey and herbal treatments to toothpaste and clothing. Using a ready-made clientele out of their vast followers, they're helping to solicit soaring demand in India for natural and ayurveda-based merchandises to challenge the likes of Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive Co. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

The newcomers’ success is snatching market share from larger established suppliers, which have had to develop their very own ayurveda lines. Ayurveda is based on a belief that wellness and well-being depend on a balance of head, body, and spirit, and may include the usage of special diets and herbal compounds.

The guru- linked upstarts have lost the market. Unilever’s hold on India’s $11.7 billion attractiveness and personal care marketplace has slipped more than 5 percentage points in the past five years, according to researcher Euromonitor International. And local personal care competitor Dabur India Ltd. says its increase is slowing, even as the market is forecast to enlarge 14 percent in 2016.

As the product has got mass appeal, “These ayurvedic merchandise sellers are presenting a threat to global and Indian players,” said Sanjiv Bhasin, an executive vice president at brokerage India Infoline Ltd. Profit margins are shrinking in response, he explained. “it's made their advertising budgets are enlarged by the present players significantly to try and protect their turf.”

The largest new competitor is yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd., which offers some 500 products spanning food, nutrition, and beauty and personal care.

Ramdev said that childhood friend Acharya Balkrishna holds 97 percent of the business’s shares and he’s an “unpaid ambassador” at Patanjali. That helped make 44-year old Balkrishna India’s 48th wealthiest individual in 2016, worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

“World class quality, low price and giving away our entire profit to charity are the three main reasons for the boom seen in Patanjali merchandises,” said Ramdev, clad in his trademark saffron-coloured robe, in an interview in New Delhi. Executives at multinational companies consider babas, or holy men, like him do anything is known by n’t,” he said. All tie-wearing people are sweating. They recognize loincloth-wearing individuals can do many things.”

Patanjali had a 1.2 percent share of Indian’s attractiveness and personal care marketplace last year from 0.2 percent in 2011, according to Euromonitor. The business is likely to release refined oil, milk and fabrics, mainly to counter the dominance of foreign-owned companies, Ramdev said.

“ be used for this particular state’s service and Why shouldn’t our country’s money stay here?” he said.

Unilever, which started selling “Sunlight” soap in India has said domestic brands, for example Patanjali, have been better than multinationals at picking up on local tendencies. Patanjali is a business “which everybody has been following with a lot of interest -- incredible branding created there,’’ Unilever Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said on an Oct. 13 conference call to discuss third quarter sales.

‘Sun’ to ‘Hamam’

The Anglo-Dutch giant has countered this with Hamam soap, which incorporates ayurvedic herbs, and its particular local component Hindustan Unilever Ltd. bought hair-care brand Indulekha December last year to add a “naturals” line in hair oil.

Patanjali aims to have 500 billion rupees in earnings in the next three years, Ramdev said. Infoline said the company could snatch a third of the market a form of clarified butter, for ghee and 35 percent of the Indian honey and ayurvedic medication marketplaces. Colgate Palmolive and Dabur would be hurt the most by Patanjali’s expansion, Infoline said.

Ancient Roots

Ayurveda, as practiced in India, is one of the oldest systems of medicine on earth.

The consumer believes ardently in natural ingredients,” Bina Thompson, Colgate-Palmolive’s chief investor relations officer, told analysts on a July 28 conference call. New York-based toothpastes have been introduced by Colgate with neem and clove essence, and recently began selling a charcoal-infused toothbrush and Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti, which includes natural ingredients including camphor, basil and eucalyptus.

“The positioning is a toothpaste packed together with the goodness of all-natural ingredients to simply help to keep dental issues away,” Thompson said.

In October, Patanjali’s Dant Kanti toothpaste, which vies with Dabur’s Red brand, as a “fairly formidable player.” was described by Dabur India Chief Executive Officer Sunil Duggal

“Patanjali has made an impact, and we should counter that,” Duggal said on an Oct. 26 conference call with analysts. “we're not growing as fast as we could.”

As it expanded the quantity of retail stores selling its own products to nearly 10,000 nationwide , building on a franchise system created from its existing yoga outlets., sales at Patanjali have increased

Ramdev’s yoga followers gave him an easy-to-reach customer base, Infoline’s Bhasin said.

“This has seen him save on marketing costs and advertisement expenses compared to larger players,” he said. And land around the yoga ashrams Ramdev has created will “ give him enough room to expand for the next three years.”

More Babas

Following Patanjali’s “spectacular” success, Edelweiss Securities Ltd. anticipates other spiritual gurus, including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Guru Ram Rahim Singh, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, “to go the Patanjali manner,” analyst Abneesh Roy and co-workers said in a report in March.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sant Shri Asaramjibapu Ashram, and BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha are other organizations that cater to the spiritual needs of an incredible number of followers, but are also appearing as suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods, the Edelweiss report said. Shankar’s Sri Sri Ayurveda, specifically, is revealing “renewed aggression” as it rides on the brand equity of its creator, whose “Art of Living ” movement has 370 million followers world-wide, it said.

Sri Sri Ayurveda is beginning to use mass media, point-of-sale advertisements and online retailing, Edelweiss said.

National Plan

I foresee requirements for pan-India exclusive shops,” said the business’s chief marketing officer, Tej Katpitia.

Ramdev and Shankar ’s products are gaining from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” program aimed at supporting local brands in addition to trust within their products, said Shreyansh Kocheri, a research analyst in India with Euromonitor.

“Consumers have immense trust in both these personalities and therefore perceive their products to be of top quality,” Kocheri said. “Consumers are becoming careful of the goods they employ or use up on their skin. They are looking for natural, herbal and ayurvedic products which they perceive to be healthy and not have some side effects.”

A television producer in Mumbai, Pranay Naithani, said she switched to Patanjali and also other ayurveda -based products after finding them superior to the organic lines from multinational companies she was purchasing. “It ’s not because Patanjali products are realistic -- it’s more because of the quality of the goods ,” the 27-year-old said.

Hindu Nationalism

The popularity of ayurvedic and traditional herbal ingredients in modern consumer products in India coincides using a revival of Hindu nationalism, said deputy director of the South Asia Research Institute in the Australian National University in Canberra, Meera Ashar.

“One of the ways in which Hindu nationalism preserves by emphasizing antiquity and its singularity itself is,” Ashar said. The hunt for things and practices of national antiquity, which isn’t particular to India, has been seamlessly blended with modern consumerism” there, she said.

“Folks like Baba Ramdev and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar have capitalized on these double want by claiming to package ‘ tradition’ as a product of modern convenience, ” she said. “Their own status within Indian society offers validity to what they promise is ‘ tradition,’ giving us happenings such as for example ‘ ’ that is real Indian pasta.”

That could help all providers of ayurvedic products.

“Patanjali also opened up a lot of doors,” Dabur India’s Duggal said in October. Ramdev “has been very instrumental in expanding the franchise that is whole within ayurveda. Thus, I think we should see him not as a danger to be fought on a one-to-one basis, but as a facilitator.”

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