Author: Kaushik Deka
"The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon: From Moksha to Market" | THE YOGI WITH A DIFFERENCE
The unprecedented breakthrough by Baba Ramdev that shook the Indian FMCG Market.
From Moksha to Market – this little aphorism captures perfectly the myriad of avenues that Baba Ramdev has grown to occupy. A Saint of many contradictions, he is no less than a phenomenon today, grabbing attention in the pantheons of religion, politics, business, and even sports with his unexpected antics and display of godly virility. Kaushik Deka, a working journalist with the India Today group in his new book, ‘The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon: From Moksha to Market,’ vividly discusses the journey of a young boy from Haryana who grew to unsettle the current Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market in India with a unique twist – he was the yogi in saffron who posed a serious challenge to the tailored coats of Capitalism.
Ram Niwas was crestfallen when his beloved son for whom he dreamt the world, was cursed with partial paralysis at the tender age of seven. Gradually this curse blossomed into a blessing, as in his impairment young Ram Kishen who would grow to become Yoga Guru Ramdev took to texts of ascetic practices in an attempt to cure himself. And, ahoy! He struck himself a miracle. Whether miracle or a result of relentless hard work, over time he was a partially cured boy, who came back from the grasps of immobility. From then till now, Baba Ramdev’s story has been worthy of insight and documentation, a task in which Deka has proven to be successful.
With Patanjali Ayurveda Ramdev along with partner, Balakrishna revolutionised the prevailing FMCG market. To quote, “Patanjali Ayurved has turned out to be the most disruptive force in the Indian FMCG market.” By selling a wide range of products from hair oils, to cosmetics, medicines, herbal solutions, food items, house cleaners – Patanjali has been able to find a place in almost every Indian household. It has made successful inroads relying largely on the popularity of Baba Ramdev, who had already established himself as a yoga guru, a known face of morning television devotees. What Ramdev says, the population believes – and very often not wrongly so. His method of practising yoga for relief from mundane aberrations has proven to bear fruit for common Indians who spend a lot of their day pondering over irrelevant illnesses.
Yet it was not just Ramdev – Patanjali had unique selling points too. They packaged the idea of bringing back the Swadeshi movement where use of indigenous products would be propagated, sold well to the masses, probably more so because they pinched the pocket less than their foreign counterparts. By being exempt from paying IT-returns, as yoga had been recognised as a charitable act, Patanjali is able to accrue even more than its foreign counterparts towards whom it has been openly loathsome. The planning of mega stores and the decisions over the shelf life of products are all given thought and created according to standardised business modules that would make one question, is this really a critique of Capitalism? Yet, critique or not, it is undeniable that Baba Ramdev has been successful in tapping into the sentiments of the Indian market that had somewhere been exhausted by the use of foreign chemicals. The rechristening of Ayurveda as the basis for creating products has brought back faith amidst consumers regarding the quality of that it is consuming. In fact, not just consumers, since Patanjali has made successful inroads, the larger FMCG companies have all taken to releasing new products that are ‘brought from nature’s lap’ such as Garnier Ultra Blends with ‘natural ingredients’ and Colgate ‘Cibaca Vedshakti.’ The iron throne of FMCG market had been shaken and shaken well, not just stirred.There is an inherent contradiction between the ideas of a yogi and a businessman. It is difficult to conceptualise the two in tandem with one another, and this difficulty would probably be the bedrock that has allowed for the number of controversies surrounding Baba Ramdev to surface. His little dip into politics, apathy towards the Congress and indefinable relation with Prime Minister Modi, are probably indicative of the contradictions that he is constantly battling as the yogi who is challenging businesses to bring about the economic independence of India. Touching upon Baba Ramdev’s many controversies and detailing the chronicles of Patanjali’s journey, Kaushik Deka’s book is important to gain insight into how a boy who was born with nothing, grew to challenge the most established business houses who had reigned for decades, comfortably sitting on a throne which showed no visible marks of fragmentation.
It is an essential reading to understand that even the most embedded authority can be challenged, but not just with brute strength, instead, with precise planning and silent invasion.