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MNCs will be caught between two Godmen?

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Just as the MNCs were putting the finishing touches to what they call their Anti-Patanjali strategies, there might just be another upset around the corner.

Sri Sri Ravishankar founder of the Art of Living Foundation, is supposed to open about 1000 stores called Sri Sri Tattva ( Patanjali in comparison has 12,000 stores that are not under the Neilsen Retail Audit underestimating the true retail sales of Patanjali ) to see Ayurvedic toothpastes and soaps, in view of the increasing demand for Ayurvedic products in the country. Sri Sri’s strategy smacks of a close copy of the retailing strategy of Baba Ramdev. Their opening portfolio will have toothpastes, detergents, ghee, health drinks, fragrances and even cookies.

Source : Economic Times of 22 August, 2017

While Sri Sri Ravishankar says he will not endorse the brand like Patanjali his brand name has the unmistakable stamp of the Godman because it is prefixed with Sri Sri. Additionally Tattva is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘thatness’, ‘principle’, ‘reality’ or ‘truth’. According to various Indian schools of philosophy, a tattva (or tattwa) is an element or aspect of reality. In some traditions, they are conceived as an aspect of deity.

So here is another heady cocktail of spirituality and yoga bundled together with Ayurveda. Something that the MNCs can never replicate. Not to speak of the ready market waiting for Sri Sri Tattva considering that Sri Sri Ravishankar’s global following is supposed to be close to 370 million people around the world. And it does seem that Sri Sri Tatva is going to position its products at a premium to Baba Ramdev. Hopefully this means better quality products with better packaging.

So how is the market likely to evolve in the coming months. And I am not taking into consideration that there is another Godman lurking behind these two who is getting very popular these days and might not be far behind in thinking of launching his own Ayurvedic brand.

Clearly there might be a position available for a premium herbal product from an MNC, with the danger of course of it being niche. But then with premium products, you don’t expect volumes, but they often can be very profitable. Body Shop is a good example.

Somehow herbals do seem to have an altruistic view of the business. For example Body Shop’s vision statement reads ” The Body Shop has always believed that business can be a force for good…”.

And no doubt the Ayurvedic products in the country are also proclaiming to be a force of good, or at least the products marketed by the Godmen are. That combined with a dose of spirituality and yoga and generously tempered by nationalism is making quite a powerful combination. MNCs typically find it more difficult to think of ‘the force of good in business’, severely disadvantaging them.

There is little doubt that they are going to get caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Or to put it another way, between one godman and another.

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