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Babas and their businesses: Branding them in the right way

business Updated: Nov 24, 2015 11:53 IST
Sruthin Lal
Sruthin Lal
Hindustan Times
Business

Brands and businesses associated with spiritual gurus and ashrams are upping the ante against major firms in segments including FMCG, healthcare and wellness, construction, industries, film and music production. (Illustration: Abhimanyu Sinha)

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s foray into the noodles market is just continuing a tradition of gurus monetising their following.

Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurveda, which recently launched wheat-based atta noodles, is already offering stiff competition to multinationals such as Nestle and Unilever. Patanjali is also a key player in the foods segment.

Brands and businesses associated with spiritual gurus and ashrams are upping the ante against major firms in segments including FMCG, healthcare and wellness, construction, industries, film and music production.

For those in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, mainly food and ayurvedic products, the Indian tradition of Ayurveda and associated ‘natural’ tag are major value points. While these brands highlight the social value of providing livelihood to many employed in the value chain, the revenue generated also goes to the functioning of their respective ashrams and associated activities.

Sri Sri Ayurveda, associated with Sri Sri Ravishankar, was established in 2003 with major focus on Ayurvedic products. Its online portal Sattva Store also offer apparels, wellness and personal care products, food, handicrafts, among other things.

“Due to growing demand, Sri Sri Ayurveda is expanding both in the brick-and-mortar format as well as on the technology highway through tele shops and e-commerce. We plan to have 2,500 stores across India by 2017 carrying an extended range of daily consumption products,” said Tej Katpitia, chief marketing officer, Sri Sri Ayurveda Trust.

The Auroville online platform offers 2,500 products by 42 manufacturers at Auroville, a universal township started with the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo, near Puducherry. Although it doesn’t have a direct connection with the ashram, part of its profit goes directly to Auroville, which is then used for activities, including education and city development.

“60% of our customers come from India, the remaining 40% from rest of the world,” a spokesperson of Auroville said.

Isha Business Private Ltd (IBPL) is a venture promoted by Isha foundation of Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev. While it has an online portal selling crafts, clothings, food and health and beauty items, IBPL has also ventured into construction and architecture. The proceeds, according to the company, goes to benefit the rural poor.

Amrita Life, associated with Kerala’s Mata Amritanandamayi Math, offers Ayurvedic, eco-friendly cosmetic products, and organic food. It currently employs around 60 people. The brand has plans to expand to Europe as well, according to Biju Kumar, a close associate of the ashram.

Santhigiri, another ashram in Kerala, has an industry division, with subdivisions for construction, vehicle body-building, manufacturing of textiles, Ayurvedic medicines and coir products for exports, among others.

One of the most recent ventures of a spiritual leader was that of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh into the film industry with the movie MSG: The Messenger and its second part. According to a PTI report, MSG-2 earned a profit of Rs 395 crore in one month.

“Spiritual gurus have a unique way of following in the Indian context,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman of retail consultancy Technopak. The selling proposition is that the products are based on Indian tradition, he added.

“Even those who swear Baba buy our products,” said Acharya BalKrishna, MD, Patanjali Ayurveda, which claims to employ about 12,000 people. Patanjali’s production is done at the mega food park, opened in 2010, near Haridwar.