Sri Sri Ravi Shankar all set to launch 1000 retail stores

By Humra Laeeq

In a wave that challenged dominant market trends in India, consumers show ‘homecoming’ to traditional, Indian-made products.

Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd., established in 2006, is the fastest growing ‘Fast-moving-consumer-goods’ (FMCG) company in India, according to HSBC. An FMCG ensures that products are sold quickly and at relatively low costs. Within a period of a decade, Ramdev’s industry is worth Rs. 10,000 crores.

The rise of Sri Sri Tattva

In competition, India’s Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is all set to launch 1000 retail stores across the country to sell herbal products, establish clinics and treatment centres. Sri Sri’s company, Sri Sri Tattva has been selling health drinks, soaps, fragrances and spices since 2003 through retail stores and various online platforms. However, seeing the unprecedented rise and scope of the herbal industry over the years, he has decided to take a step further.

The new list of products will include tubes of toothpaste, detergents, ghee and cookies, several foods and home categories expanding the portfolio to over 300 products. The company will make these products in-house at three manufacturing units in India. The Sri Sri Ayurveda (SSA) trust is also expected to open ‘Sri Sri Tattva’ stores which are offline branches of their online portal.

The story of the Ayurveda Industry

Tej Katpitia, Chief Executive of Sri Sri Ayurveda (SSA) Trust in a statement said, “People have now accepted ayurvedic products in their daily lives.” This demands a groundwork study of how and why, in an age of foreign medicine synonymous to ‘progression’, Indian consumers still deflect towards traditional methods of consumption.

A study by TechSci Research states that the Indian Ayurvedic products industry exercises the scope to grow at a rate of 16 percent during 2016-2021. Toothpaste manufacturing giant Colgate recorded a 1.8 percent fall in shares in 2017. Colgate-Palmolive’s global CEO, Ian Cook, stressed at changing consumer preferences while referring to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali.

The latter was able to challenge Colgate’s market hegemony while having only two lakh retail stores as against the former’s five million stores. Ayurveda’s call prompted Colgate to roll out its first ayurvedic brand Cibaca Vedshakti in 2016 to compete with Patanjali’s Dant Kanti toothpaste. L’Oreal launched a hair-care range under the Garnier Ultra Blends made with natural ingredients. Such home-grown brands make up nearly 79 percent of the personal care market in India.

Consumer preferences and the ‘Nationalist’ twist

At this point, consumer preferences need to be studied under the culture they come from. India has had a rich culture of traditional medicine, a field its citizens take great pride in. Percolating down through the generational chains of parents and grandparents, there is not one Indian who is unaware of Ayurvedic quick fixes. When it comes to naturals, the underlying assumption that stands is that manufacturers use ‘common home ingredients’ making it safe for consumption and less likely to result in side effects.

Similarly, Colgate CEO Cook says consumer trends are ‘premium price oriented’. He went on to say, “Patanjali in India takes a very nationalist view of its business”. Tying the two equations together, Patanjali answered the call of affordable and reliable products in India. While consumers could access herbal products more easily than a heavily chemicalized one, he is also aware of its potential side effects. Adding weight to it is the cultural and familial validation that consumers derive.

Setting up market diversity

Today, the average Indian consumer trusts in the medicine of his root. Like a global consumer, he is also aware of how damaging the alternate, more Western medicine could be. Perhaps it is a homecoming towards the traditional ways of living, or perhaps is a cultural assertion of India’s spiritual history tilted in a commercialized direction.

In both ways, the connecting thread is the changing consumer choice which shows it is more consciously and deliberately made and subverts the trend of blindly following one dominant market choice. This is not to glorify traditional or Indian medicine, but to assert that a wider market choice is emerging in which a consumer can choose the best for himself and even direct large MNCs to cater to their needs. The choice to buy a western product is not thwarted but challenged on legitimate grounds that might just evoke manufacturers to provide consumers what is requisite.

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