BABA RAMDEV of Patanjali Ayurved is IMPACT Person of the Year, 2017 for disrupting the domination of established players in India’s FMCG industry, and riding on the swadeshi sentiment to script brand Patanjali’s phenomenal success story

" /> BABA RAMDEV of Patanjali Ayurved is IMPACT Person of the Year, 2017 for disrupting the domination of established players in India’s FMCG industry, and riding on the swadeshi sentiment to script brand Patanjali’s phenomenal success story

"/> BABA RAMDEV of Patanjali Ayurved is IMPACT Person of the Year, 2017 for disrupting the domination of established players in India’s FMCG industry, and riding on the swadeshi sentiment to script brand Patanjali’s phenomenal success story

"> THE GREAT DISRUPTOR THE GREAT DISRUPTOR

THE GREAT DISRUPTOR

BABA RAMDEV of Patanjali Ayurved is IMPACT Person of the Year, 2017 for disrupting the domination of established players in India’s FMCG industry, and riding on the swadeshi sentiment to script brand Patanjali’s phenomenal success story

12 Dec, 2017 by admin

BABA RAMDEV of Patanjali Ayurved is IMPACT Person of the Year, 2017 for disrupting the domination of established players in India’s FMCG industry, and riding on the swadeshi sentiment to script brand Patanjali’s phenomenal success story


INTERVIEWED BY SRABANA LAHIRI

I do not know what to expect when I am on my way to meet Baba Ramdev, the enigmatic yogi, disruptor and creator of the huge Patanjali business empire. We greet each other with folded hands. He gestures for me to sit on the sofa, and we begin to talk. In no time, the conversation flows easily, peppered by the Baba’s witticisms, and I get a glimpse of the simplicity, vision and clarity of mind that make him the most unique disruptor in India’s business space and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

Excerpted from the conversation, here are Baba Ramdev’s earliest memories of brands and advertising, his staunch ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’ philosophy, comment on Patanjali’s inheritors and more... all in his own words.
 

I had no money to buy first-hand books, but always topped my class...
I come from a modest background. My parents were illiterate and lived in a small village named Alipur in Haryana. My biological mother is from Rajasthan - her name is Pujya Mata Gulab Devi, and my father’s name is Pujya Shri Ram Niwasji. My father was very strict and I think the harshness in my nature is from my father. My mother was very compassionate. My compassion, large-heartedness and kindness come from my mother.

I used to study in a Government school and read secondhand books, as I had no money to buy first-hand books. But I always topped my class. Later, when I went to a Gurukul, we worked very hard and got habituated to working 18 hours a day, be it study, yoga or hard labour. I never looked back from there.
 

My friends were never of my age, but usually 10-15 years older...
 In my childhood, I suffered paralysis on my left side, and my feet were abnormal, so I couldn’t walk straight. I could never sustain friendships with people of my age or younger. All my friends were 10-15 years older to me. My only friend till date is Ramanandji. It must be 8-10 years since I met him last, but he continues to have a place in my heart. I was never close to blood relatives. I don’t even remember the names of my uncles and aunts, nephews or nieces. I only acknowledge my parents... they gave me birth, for which I’m ever grateful to them, but I have never kept them at the centre or had expectations of them.

 I was determined to be a yogi since my childhood...
I used to make sketches of Sardar Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad and Rajguru during my Gurukul days. They were my role models and I wanted to be like them. I read Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati ji’s autobiography and literature including writings of Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi and kept getting inspired. I also read several vyakaranshastra, ayurveda, the Vedas and Upanishads. I was determined to become a yogi since my childhood. So I started yoga at the age of nine. I learnt all the difficult asanas like shirshasan and mayurasan through books, and then went to Gangotri to study yoga.

 I sang parodies of Lifebuoy and Colgate ads in my childhood...
I never had access to Television in my childhood. The first time I watched TV was during the assassination of then PM Indira Gandhi in 1984, at this small town near my native village called Nangal Choudhary. In those days, our Guruji  would give us permission to tune in to Radio every evening for 15 minutes, to hear the news on AIR. I remember the Lifebuoy and Colgate ads - Lifebuoy hai jahan, tandarusti hai waha... Dentist ka Number 1 recommended toothpaste... I used to sing parodies of those ads!

 I had never used a soap until I was almost 25-30 years old...
I learnt in my Gurukul itself that we shouldn’t use foreign products as their proceeds go out of the country. You would be surprised to know that I had never used a soap until I was almost 25-30 years old, since most soaps were manufactured by MNCs. Two soaps were very popular then - Nirma and Rin. Many of my friends used Rin bar to wash their clothes. With Rin, the white clothes we Brahmacharis wore would get extra white. But I refused to use Rin. During my entire education at the Gurukul, I don’t think I ever bought a piece of soap to wash my clothes. Later, my friends still washed clothes with Rin, but I would buy Nirma, an Indian brand. Right from the beginning, I had this thing of using Indian brands. But I never thought that I myself would be able to give people the choice of an Indian brand later in life.

Those days, I used to wear minimal clothing - just a piece of cloth around my waist, that would end at knee level. No thermals, no woollen clothes. I was habituated to that. The way the face doesn’t feel cold, the way our nose or eyes don’t feel cold, my entire body doesn’t feel cold.
 

THE BABA IMPACT

Scale and speed of Patanjali’s growth will make for MBA case studies in the coming years

BY ANNURAG BATRA

He doesn’t own a single percent of equity in Patanjali, yet is the man behind it, the face of it, and also its one and only brand ambassador. This is Baba Ramdev for you. The man has been attributed with the success of Patanjali, taking it from a few crores to now a `10,500 crore company. Although Acharya Balkrishna owns almost all of Patanjali (94%), it is Baba Ramdev who resonates with the company’s name. Simply saying, Baba Ramdev = Patanjali. 


From a famed yoga guru to now a corporate leader cum yoga guru, Baba Ramdev has risen and risen and only risen in the past decade. His early morning yoga lessons (which still continue to happen today) have recently paved the way for his endorsements and press conferences surrounding Patanjali. Having been a follower and an acquaintance of Baba, I have personally felt that there are two distinct attributes which he has perfected, leading to the magnanimous success of Patanjali.

Speed - Post Patanjali’s launch, Baba never looked back and manoeuvred his way into the FMCG market by developing small local chikitsalayas and arogya kendras. The speed at which this happened is a case study in itself although this speed was combined with the trust which people bestowed on him. Having healed many through his yoga lessons and motivated others through his daring speeches, Baba already had a huge following among India’s masses. He also already had travelled and taken his yoga lessons to every nook and corner of India, if not by physical presence, then by Television. It was anything but obvious that when Patanjali was launched, many of his supporters became free distributors of the product (through word of mouth), which speeded things up for Patanjali. This automatic distribution is something which not many companies have had an opportunity to access.

As Baba walked and taught yoga from place to place, Patanjali ran across several cities in India. The result was that the company became hugely popular in the initial years itself. But Baba and his team did not stop, they knew that the momentum was with them and it was time to do something else.

Scale up - This is the second crucial factor that I attribute to Patanjali’s success. As soon as Baba realized that Patanjali was making a significant impact and penetrating through India’s FMCG market, he decided to scale up and ventured into retail outlets as well. The perfect timing of this scale-up reflected in Patanjali’s numbers immediately. From Rs 453 crore in 2011-12, the company doubled its revenues to Rs 849 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 2,000 crore in 2014-15, finally climbing to Rs 10,000 crore in 2017. This massive scale up is something which has sent real jitters across the FMCG industry, sending a clear signal to the biggies in the sector about Patanjali’s ruthless rise.

While this rise has been ruthless for other FMCG companies, people have accepted Patanjali like their own. Baba himself works on the concept of giving back to society, and has maintained Patanjali’s position as a welfare-led company. And that has always reflected in the company’s product pricing, which has been significantly lower than other competing products. This has not only helped Baba endorse his products as tools of welfare and wellness, it has also helped him reach the masses, to the aspirers in Tier II and Tier III cities. Baba Ramdev’s success is an extraordinary example of the level of societal impact a person can create, and I am sure his success will set an example for various MBA case studies for students in the coming years.

 

It is God’s wish; God wanted me to do something like this... 

I have heard this from my masters that certain work is done as per your intentions, and certain work happens as per God’s wish. I believe in God, but I do not worship any idol or go to any temple or gurudwara. But I believe God is present in everything around us. Whatever knowledge, emotions, action, power, whatever we have, its support is God. So, I think it is God’s wish, and God wanted me to do something like this and that is why we have been able to go ahead on the path of Yoga, and work on Ayurveda and develop these products. 

About 25 years back, we began our journey with natural medicines. At that point, we were worried that there was no Indian alternative for toothpaste, soaps or shampoos. Slowly and gradually, we developed these products. Whatever we did, we brought innovation into it. We added value to the soaps, shampoos and beauty creams that we made. With Aloe vera, we created a new market of more than Rs 500 crore. We never thought Patanjali would become such a big brand and would leave behind multinational FMCG companies. Our pricing is the most competitive and a few of our products have disrupted the entire market.

SNAPSHOTS

My successes in life are a result of my karma...
I’m a Yogi and a Karmayogi. There’s no place and scope for family, property or materialistic success in my life. I have no wants or need for worldly gratifications and glory. I view my individual successes in life only as the result of my karma.

I have no political ambitions...
I don’t intend to contest an election or take up any political position because I was not born to be a wazir; I was born a fakir, an ascetic.

I handle my own Facebook and Twitter accounts...
I handle my Facebook and Twitter accounts personally, but I am not really crazy for social media platforms. A lot of people spend 5-6 hours on these platforms, I don’t do that. I just spend whatever time is required, sometimes maybe 30 minutes, sometimes an hour and that’s enough.

Haven’t thought of Patanjali going public...
We haven’t yet thought about the prospect of the company going public...

I haven’t taken a break from work for a single day in my life...
I sleep around 10-11 pm and wake up between 3-4 am every day. My day starts with a yoga session and continues with karmyog. I get immense joy out of my work. I work all 365 days of the year. I don’t understand why people take leave to enjoy and relax. I find relaxation and enjoyment in my work. I haven’t taken leave for a single day in my life because I have never felt the need. I don’t get tired.

In a crisis, I hold on to my inner peace...
To get out of a crisis situation, I firstly hold on to my inner peace, I concentrate on my yoga/pranayam. I’m tranquil from within and energetic on the outside.

I look forward to meeting Ratanji (Tata) someday...
I look up to many people in the industry. Rahul Bajaj is one. I also respect Vedanta’s Anil Agarwal, the people at Hinduja Group. I’m in constant talks and communication with many top industrialists of India. I look forward to meeting Ratanji (Tata) too someday...

 

We live in huts, but our work is of world class quality...
 People used to think that if it is a quality product, how can it be affordable? But if you check any of our products on any quality parameter, it would be no less than world class quality. People do not know that companies make around 100, 200, 500 and in some cases 1000% profit from products in the name of ‘premium’ quality.

 In our recent advertisements, we have mentioned that you can save up to 100% on your bills by buying Patanjali products. We can say that as we have more than 300 scientists working on product quality and research. In fact, the Prime Minister had inaugurated our Patanjali Research Institute. We live in huts, but our work is of world class quality. Our pricing is the most competitive and you can compare it with any other company in the industry. A few of our products have disrupted the entire market. Unfortunately, a few Indian companies have also had to bear the brunt of this.

The three pillars on which Patanjali bases its success...
One, it would be world class quality products, two, it would be affordable, low priced products and three, whatever profits we make, it goes 100% to charity, and that is our commitment.

Other than Patanjali, I use only Indian brands...
 I used a Micromax phone for 15 years. Now, I have a Lava mobile phone. I don’t watch TV, but if I did, I would buy Videocon. In cars, we use either Tata or Mahindra. We have close to 500 cars, and all of them are either Tata or Mahindra. In motorcycles, we only stick to Hero or Bajaj. We have given our disciples motorcycles of these two brands. My footwear is wooden and country-made; so no branding in that. I write with a pen that does not cost more than Rs 2-5, so there again, no question of branding.

 For advertising, we have a simple formula...
For advertising, we have a simple formula which is, low cost, maximum visibility. And you should know how to work this out because today, MNCs are worried about where they are failing and how Babaji is doing it! Our collaboration with Digital companies too is at a very low price. We are managing with 2025 paise the work for which MNCs would pay around Rs 3-5 We have a company called Vermillion through which we develop all our communication, working with different directors. And they do this at a very low price too.

What I consider before sponsoring any property or brand association...
We do not want to sponsor any programme which is not in line with the philosophy of spirituality, tradition and religion. And that is a bit difficult in this industry, because everybody wants visibility. ‘Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai’. Our associations are based on values. Till today, I have never visited the Bigg Boss show despite them calling me more than 10 times.

We will cross our competitor, HUL, by next year, spending much less money...

I would like to see two changes in media and advertising. Firstly, everybody makes creative ads. But they should be knowledge-based. Secondly, advertising should require less investment. The less money you put in advertising, the more the consumer will benefit. We will cross our competitor, HUL, by next year, and we will do that despite spending much less money. People might not be happy when I say this, but they spend Rs 10-15 crore on hiring brand ambassadors. At the end of the day, that expense is also added to the product.

We plan to launch packaged water, it will be called Divya Jal...

Currently, natural medicine, food and cosmetics are our three large focus areas. The fourth one is animal feed and feed supplements, which we are working on currently. This year, it will be a brand of around Rs 500 crore. We are calling it Patanjali Dugdhamrit. We plan to launch packaged water by next year and the brand will be called Divya Jal. This will be our big launch, then textiles and dairy products. Solar energy will be the fourth one. We first plan to use solar energy for our manufacturing units. We are working towards a 0% carbon emission plan, because we believe in inclusive, sustainable, decentralized and justified growth, prosperity and wealth. This is our basic philosophy.

We do not need a CEO the way a Unilever or P&G does...
One hundred per cent of Patanjali’s profits go for charity now, and this will always continue. So far, we have spent around  Rs 10-11,000 crore on charity. We have created such a structure that the Director or MD will always be a sanyasi, and they will work with highly competent professionals we hire. We have been training around 500 sanyasis for the last 10 years now. I have also shared photographs of the people who will be our successors. And I have given this commitment that the inheritor of Patanjali will not be a sansari or a vyapari. It will be a sanyasi. We do not need a CEO the way a Unilever or a P&G does. One person makes around Rs 10-25 crore per annum. Why should we pay such an amount when we know more about our subject? We have experience in this field and have developed this with our own hands. That is the difference at Patanjali. So why should we convert our opportunity into a threat?

I welcome any Indian company coming into this field...
Shri Shri Ravi Shankar ji is my friend, and whenever we speak, it is mostly on spirituality, religion and national issues, not his company Sri Sri Tattva. I have three points of advice for any saint or individual coming into this field: Firstly, one should have complete knowledge of what they are doing. Secondly, you should have your own infrastructure. You can get a small part of it manufactured outside through third parties. Today, Patanjali has been able to do this because it has invested around Rs 500 crore on infrastructure. Thirdly, never compromise on quality but keep pricing affordable. If we have to fight against the economic exploitations of these MNCs, our quality should be better than theirs. Today, we have more than 300 scientists working in our research centre. More than 500 of our staffers work on quality control.

We have not taken any help from the Government...
Any government should not have the intention of harming any industry, but it is the duty of every government to support any business or industry through which people are getting employment and the nation is progressing. So, this Government is not working against us, and that is our biggest support. We have not taken any other support from the Government.

 I have taken up a challenge, to chart an honest political landscape...
There are many difficulties when you take up tough challenges that are social, spiritual and economic in nature. I have also taken up a political challenge... one that involves cleaning our nation’s politics and charting an honest political landscape. I just have two mantras of tackling challenges - one is the sankalp way (resolution-driven), the other is the vikalp way (solution-driven). Resolution is the ultimate vow. It does not matter if I’m mortally alive or dead, resolution is immortal. Fight until your last breath is my life’s motto.

I want to spread the knowledge I have received...
 We may aspire to be like someone, but we can never be them. We are what we are. I’m Swami Ramdev and I have a unique identity like you do... like everyone else does. You can manufacture identical cars and other products, even plants can be grown identical, through genetic modification. But every human being is unique. We can follow someone’s value system and principles, but we can never be them in totality. I have my set of ideals. I worship mother earth every morning, I also worship my teachers, nature and the holy saints before starting my day. I believe I’m the progeny of saints and I want to live my life like one. That’s my objective and mission in life - to spread the knowledge I’ve received and acquired.
 

(Transcription credit: Dipali Banka, Samarpita Banerjee and Allan Dsouza)

FEEDBACK: srabana@exchange4media.com

Feedback: Category: Impact Feature Volume No: 14 Issue No: 27

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