Controversial spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has attempted to take a bite out of India’s multi-crore food industry with the launch of his MSG range of “swadeshi and organic” products, a sector where he will compete with yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali brand.
The bushy-bearded head of Haryana’s Dera Sacha Sauda sect that claims to have millions of followers unveiled over 150 merchandises including rice, pickles, honey, bottled water and noodles at a media conference near his headquarters in Sirsa district on Sunday.
Singh, who wears the hats of a self-styled holy man, actor, philanthropist and political power broker with equal ease, clarified that the abbreviation MSG stands for “Mastana Ji”, “Satnam Ji” and “Gurmeet Ram Rahim”, the three heads of the Dera so far.
“Our motive is not to compete with anyone in the market,” he said. “However, we appeal to other companies that they come up with organic products too, so the people of our nation can become healthier.”
Despite his comments, the sect leader is set to vie with Ramdev’s rapidly expanding natural foods and consumer goods empire in northern India that some market experts say is already posing a threat to established brands.
Singh said as the MSG brand ambassador, he has obtained a legal agreement from the manufacturer that allows him to step down from the position if any complaint crops up regarding the quality of the products.
However, there is little possibility of such an occurrence because the company provides “organic, premium and standard-quality” products, he asserted.
The Dera chief, who rode a monster-wheeled motorcycle and sent bad guys flying in two feature-length films he starred in last year, spoke at length on the ill-effects of using modern fertilisers and pesticides.
“When I was in Maharashtra for some time, I found farmers injecting chemicals into vegetables, and using toxic sprays and pesticides that are harmful to both man and animal,” he said at the press meet. “After that, they would harvest the crop the very next day for a hurried sale. It was then that I decided to enter the business of providing organic food to the people.”
The raw material for the products would be cultivated on Dera land, he said, benefitting farmers who grow crops in accordance with the firm’s strict quality standards.
Company chairman CP Arora said the products were launched simultaneously in the domestic as well as international markets and around 150 stores have already been opened.
MSG All-Trading International Private Limited has received dealership proposals from many countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Germany, he added.