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RaviKant Banka deconstructs the rise and rise of Patanjali

RaviKant Banka, Founder & CMD at Eggfirst Advertising, analyses the dramatic rise of Patanjali Ayurved – how from promoting Yoga and Ayurveda, it has gone to become one of the top advertisers in India, enough to challenge the big boys of advertising. The brand today has presence across FMCG, skin and hair care, and health products, besides its Ayurvedic medicine range.

I was stunned when I heard “Colgate will be below Patanjali by this year, and in three years, we will overtake Unilever. In three years, Unilever’s lever will go flat”. This is Baba Ramdev’s prediction.

In its extensive report, ‘Wish you were listed: Patanjali Ayurved’, multinational brokerage CLSA has pegged Patanjali to be bigger than Emami and Jyothy Labs and calls it “perhaps the fastest growing fast moving consumer company in India with revenues in excess of Rs 2,500 crore for 2014-15”. To provide a perspective to compare, note this: Jyothi Labs reported consolidated revenues of Rs 1,515 crore in FY15; Emami, Rs 2,217 crore.

On the other hand is Patanjali’s dramatic rise: 2012 - Rs 450 crore, 2013 - Rs 850 crore, 2014 - Rs 1,200 crore, 2015 - Rs 2,000 crore and estimated for 2016 – Rs 5,000 crore.

The numbers speak for themselves. But numbers seldom convey the complete story.

So, I decided to look beyond these numbers and attempt to see what’s really making this magic happen. Undoubtedly, Patanjali, the brand, has stoked and leveraged with fullest intensity the pent up sentiment of Indian consumers wanting a mix of natural, original, traditional, Indian and credible.

I have two specific observations to make: One is brilliance of the ‘marketing’ execution of the brand. Second is in relation to the sentiment that Patanjali stoked through a deeply honest and nearly spiritual relationship with consumers. While both are important elements of the brand, I believe it is the latter that has contributed far more to the success than the former. The marketing capabilities of the larger MNCs are next to none; and no amount of Patanjali’s execution brilliance could have touched consumers so deeply so as to cause a massive tsunami of emotional upsurge across the country.

Marketing execution brilliance of the brand

Pricing: I picked up a few products and checked their comparative pricing- and found that the attractive pricing is truly the star of the show. I discovered that almost all Patanjali products are priced around 15-30 per cent cheaper than the popular brands, with some even priced cheaper by more than 100 per cent. This table shows the bigger picture succinctly:

There are a few hundred of such products in the Patanjali bouquet – squashes, juices, health supplements, balms, cough syrups – each priced as competitively as the above examples.

Market-savvy Indian consumers know a good bargain when they see one. And they have whole-heartedly welcomed Brand Patanjali into their lives. Ask around and you’ll find that one in three people is a Patanjali consumer and perhaps even an evangelist.

In fact, established FMCGs are so spooked by the Patanjali wave that some of them have resorted to price cuts to meet the challenge presented by low-priced Patanjali products.

Packaging: I then decided to check out the packaging. I personally found the packaging a bit rustic. However, its rusticity seems to work in its favour. If people are to be believed, the austere packaging only adds to the authenticity of the products. Make no mistake, while the packaging seems a little rustic, it adheres to all the characteristics of a good packaging-visible brand name, visible category name and design elements, clean designs, etc. Barring a few such as dish cleansers, I found all the packaging quite nice.

Also, check this out, written prominently on each Patanjali pack are the words – ‘Made in Bharat’ – a masterstroke if you ask me. What better way to harness the patriotism that we Indians literally wear on our sleeves!

Promotions (advertising): Between January and March, Patanjali Ayurved double edits ad spends on TV. Patanjali’s weekly television ads jumped 102 per cent from 11,897 in the first week of January to 24,050 times in the week ending March 25, according to BARC. In the past three months, Ramdev appeared 234,934 times during commercial breaks across TV channels to endorse Patanjali products, according to BARC India.

Its ads are ground-breaking in their own right. Take the case of its Dant-kanti ad. It takes an impudent shot at sundry oral-care brands by lampooning their show of a white-coat-clad dentist endorsing their brands, even suggesting outrageously that the white coats could represent white lies! Brilliant!

Consider also, its unique choice of endorsers, Olympic medal winning wrestler Sushil Kumar for its ghee – a true son-of-the-soil, honed in the akhadas of rural hinterland – instead of the usual cricketers/ Bollywood brigade; Hema Malini for its biscuits, not a young, sexy starlet, a la Bipasha Basu in one of its competitor brands.

Even the mass yoga sessions by Ramdev are transformed into an ad blitz for Patanjali products. If it is endorsing the virtues of the Patanjali ghee in one, it is praising the efficacy of the Aloe Vera gel in another. The Baba even goes to the extent of applying the gel on his face, or putting the Patanjali Badam Rogan Tel into his nostrils, much to the amusement of his indulgent followers.

The shrewd yogi has also effectively connected with his multitude of followers via social media to promote Brand Patanjali. Note the Baba’s social media allure:

Twitter – 538,000 followers; Facebook – 915,496 people are talking about him with 5,676,103 likes; YouTube – 53,166 subscribers with 11,059,312 views.

Also, there are loads of videos on the official Patanjali YouTube channel, showcasing the manufacturing process of various Patanjali best-sellers.

That’s some exercise in trust-building!

Placement: The company sells its products via 15,000 exclusive outlets as well as some 1 lakh kirana stores that stock its products. Not just kiranas, but big retailers like Reliance Retail, Big Bazaar, Hyper City and Star Bazaar are also stocking Ramdev’s FMCG products. Not to forget the online play. Patanjali’s flagship online store is doing extremely well as are its products on e-commerce sites such as BigBasket, Amazon, Flipkart, etc. On digging deeper, however, I discovered that distribution and supply are not quite smooth. Quite understandably so, given the massive surge in demand.

Banking on Spiritual and Swadeshi

And now, let me talk about the second observation, that of the deep brand connect, almost spiritual in nature, which has contributed to the massive success of Patanjali.

That Baba Ramdev inspires frenzied trust in his millions of followers is a given. For the better part of the last decade, Baba Ramdev has used this trust and belief of the masses to create a fertile ground for the seeds of Patanjali to be sown and flourish. His mass Yoga camps and sessions have fired up millions. Through these, people seem to have reconnected with Yoga, with the ancient wisdom of scriptures and with their roots. Ramdev’s brand of yoga has given them hope – a hope that Yoga will cure them of diseases and give them a healthy long life. The hope is further kindled by actual people getting cured of life-style diseases by Baba’s yoga camps. This hope has translated into unwavering belief in the Baba, with the Baba’s words being gospel truth for them.

Add to this the Swadeshi wave that the country is in the throes of. The thrill of buying a product that is easy on the pocket as well as the conscience, coupled with the patriotic feeling of scoring over evil MNCs is unbeatable. Patanjali has very smartly harnessed the swadeshi wave to its advantage.

Just when the time was ripe, the Baba and his commander-in-chief, Acharya Balkrishna, unleashed the entire gamut of Patanjali products on unsuspecting, yet willing, consumers, who lapped up the products eagerly. Patanjali had arrived! And taken the market by storm!

And Patanjali is no storm in a teacup or the whim of two yogis. Now, whether the yogis achieve their ambition of upstaging Unilever remains to be seen, but as of now, the Patanjali duo is enjoying the last laugh. And bringing smiles to millions.

All in all, people – read consumers – believe in Baba. They believe in what he has made happen for them and millions around them. This emotional, spiritual trust is what marketers would give an arm and a leg for. Compare this with Johnson and Johnson, which has spent billions and more than a few lifetimes to build trust amongst consumers. Baba Ramdev has made all this happen in a few decades. I guess it emanates from what he refers to as ‘bhaav’. Roughly translated it means sentiment. Have the right sentiment and energy to serve with the right intent and it makes for unprecedented magic. This, for me, is the biggest learning and belief confirmation. If one is out to serve with genuine deep heartfelt bhaav, energy, sentiment, everything simply falls into place and success is a given!

(Ravikant Banka, Head of Eggfirst Advertising, is a maverick, free-spirited, observer of the quirks of humanity. He believes that to create well, one must observe well. An engineer (VJTI) and MBA (JBIMS), he frequently zeroes in on the magnificent, even in the mundane. The views expressed are his own.)

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