You have come a long way Baba, Baba Ramdev.

By | June 30, 2016

The image does not leave easily. It is imprinted. Baba leaving the ground in the dark night to a stage where his trump cards Ayurveda and Yoga find the biggest sponsor.

The images are a bit hazy, but the impressions are stark and clear. It is a strategic marketing move, that has been rarely analysed. There are companies worried at the uneven playing field. It is a Baba and his uncertainties and not MBAs that are dictating the game. They are forced to play a game where the rules are still being written.

Leveraging simple trust and faith in old Indian traditions and science is Baba’s empire. Building up to exploit the suspected modern processes as unhealthy, harmful and possibly adulterated. The open-chested, eyes squinting and the passionate Kapal Bharthi are an integrated part of Baba storytelling.

When a brand moves high on popularity, spoof and jokes also find their way. Rajnikant, Babujee, Alia Bhatt, Rahul Gandhi can take a deep breath of temporary relief. There is a new toy in the market. The jokes and spoofs will get back to their favourites but as of now it is the time of Patanjali.

The last tweet that I read before writing was from a friend: ‘What do u call a girl who falls on a hot tar road and gets burns? Patan-jali.’

There have been many jokes about ‘Putra Beejak, Patanjali Helmet, Patanjali Dal and Beer’

Jokes aside, brand also finds its naysayers.

There was unsubstantiated finger-pointing when Maggi was banned.

There is a huge question mark regarding Patanjali product quality, consistency and approval. Baba has been on TV defending the position.

Patanjali on a targeted Rs 5000 cr revenue talks of spending Rs 10,000 cr on Yoga Research, which is known to be a derived, research led complete science. Where is the money, honey?

It is rumoured that there are more than 300 products being manufactured and distributed under the brand name. Baba is on record in stating his intent to enter dairy and dairy products beyond the already available ones.  Keeping in sync with the new-age consumer and distribution demands, brand products are marketed through e-commerce sites, including patanjaliproducts.net

Patanjali as a brand has grown strong. It aims to work in six verticals: natural medicine, natural food, natural cosmetics, dairy products, cattle feed and natural manure, each of them a two-word umbrella covering a wide spectrum of possibilities.

The brand is a case of simple boundaries and well articulated position. It is one of few clearly defining its intent not to be in meat, liquor, non-vegetarian items, or things that may be known or considered harmful.

It has a well-defined clear target than many established corporate. Babajee does not intent fighting Zandu, Dabur, Hamdard. These are the domestic Indian companies that Babajee and gang will like to see grow. They want to fight international FMCG companies.

There is a section that believes that ‘World Yoga Day’ is a clever government-aided marketing lever for Patanjali. The reason why they believe is not tough to see. Patanjali product architecture is built around traditional knowledge and Yoga. Babajee, the default brand ambassador or the poster-boy is strongly associated with it. He was known and supports the new government, though at some times, he has mildly questioned current government efforts in bringing back black money. That sounded more of playful bantering than a strong opposition like Ramleela ground agitation.

So, when the brand gains strength, stands for a very polarised unconventional approach, a set of consumer and pseudo intelligent start taking potshots. Is it really a sign of brand having arrived?

A heightened focus and high consistency observed in behavior, promise or failure becomes the lever for spoofs. Nothing has changed. Only life of a spoof has reduced, which has nothing to do with decreasing technology cycle.

Social media in its own peculiar democratic way allows for unfounded discussions. It encourages wannabes to post amplified comments and share content. Nothing else but a new toy can rein it.

Beg, Borrow or steal, in addition to Like, share and tweet are today’s norms. These are picked up by the traditional media. Highly comic circus aping news channels and wanting to be in sync topical entertainment channels play to the gallery. Nowadays, the whatsapp phenomenon works as an independent catalyst to such content, helping Babajee further spread the message and reinforce its unique branding?

Meanwhile, Baba keeps writing new chapter. The back of the pack becomes the front of the pack. The internal stakeholder becomes the prime celebrity endorses. A chain of doctor-clinic-shops emerges. This is followed by brand’s shop-in-shops in bigger retail formats. The converted are reconverted to the faith. People running after modern amenities and pleasure take a u-turn to start endorsing Babajee products as a justified counter to their modern life-style.

On the other side, many are waiting for the brand to fail on quality and consistency parameters and its attempt to expand at an unbelievable speed, spreading itself thin, or so they believe. Most are surprised at the pace of growth and sudden creeping of a mysterious Baba on the corporate marketing world. For them, it is scarier than a Stephen King’s story.

It is debatable, if an IPO was to happen, how far it will help Babajee scale new heights. What is the really leverage able worth of the brand or is it just smelling the initial euphoria?

There are questions that remain unanswered. Why worms in Cadbury were such an issue, but insects in Patanjali Atta is not. When ‘Indian Samvad’ reported that samples of Patanjali’s desi cow ghee failed test because of added colour, the news did not travel far, and media silence in such cases is confusing. Is there a muffling of media or is there some deal?

Why women who are highly sensitive to the chemicals in cosmetic brands and possible associated risk, willingly accept Babajee offerings. Is it because of a predominant belief in goodness and no side effects of Ayurvedism. Don’t think (not sure) if any ASCI code is being violated.

The advertising of Panatjali is slowly getting aggressive. No longer are the plain island and banner sponsoring news. The Patanjali 3.0 advertising plans are already showing their new-found knowledge and marketing acumen. The product brand architecture is creating new synergy and is very contemporary in its appeal. The white coat debate, the honeybees on honey, the crisp grains and much more, makes for a very emotionally rational approach.

The brand clearly plays on the unhealthy aspect of other products. In an isolated case of Kacchi Ghani oil advertisement being withdrawn, Babajee justifies it with: “We just said that oil made through the chemical process is not good for people. And our Kacchi Ghani oil was made without any chemical process, and it is a healthy product.”

Babajee will never lie. He does not want political position. He is all for the benefit of the society. He will keep the cost low. He will never bleed people and fleece the common man. When you have such a strong belief supporting the brand, you can become complacent but that is something Baba is aware of. The learning of Lal Qila is not lost.

Meanwhile, the consumer is willingly believing in it. They swallow the decently camouflaged pill of selling products at no-profit, no-loss. Why not when the CEO of the company, Acharya Bal Krishna holding 94% of the stake is known for not taking a single rupee as salary!

The emergence of another quirky face on the brand is not lost. It is ego of the owner’s face or a strategic path to decrease the risk associated with a singularly focused franchise. Baba in the past is known to suffer from the same foot-in-the-mouth disease like Salman Khan; however, it seems to be under control.

So, what next, a chain of Yoga Gym chain, publishing with so many books and other information to distribute, performance in IPL or even the rumoured regional airline. It is anyone’s guess, as the mystic Baba always plays his cards close to his open naked chest.

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