Why I am fida about Baba Ramdev`s products

Baba  Ramdev maybe controversy’s child yet he has a huge fan following  not just in India, but almost all over the world. Columnist Sanjeev  Nayyar, recounts, why he, too, like million others is fida about  Patanjali products.

I  was introduced to Baba Ramdev's consumer goods about five years ago  when a close friend gifted me a Diwali hamper of Patanjali products.  I looked sarcastically at my friend as if to say, ‘you don’t like  me hence this hamper'.

Within  a few months I thanked him for introducing us to a whole new range of  products, be it coconut oil, shampoo, body lotion, balm or soap.

In  2010 there was no Patanjali outlet in our area. A Google search  showed that I needed to travel about 5 km to reach the nearest  outlet. The first time I entered the small outlet I was impressed by  the sheer range of products. Varieties of soaps in Indian fragrances  like mint-tulsi, mogra,  turmeric-sandal and multani  mitti; balm, cough tablets, hand wash, atta,  tooth brush, shampoos, eye drops, jams, ketchup and of course not to  forget the usual range of ayurveda-based nutritious products like  chawanprash, muraba and amla candy. There was a never ending stream of customers, 90 per cent of  whom were women.

The  products were not only packaged smartly, the prices were also  reasonable.

I  loved the mint-tulsi soap that costs Rs 24, it became a favourite  gifting item of mine, and also aloe vera gel and rose soaps, shampoo  (lathers well and is soft on the hair) and the pain balm (tiger balm  became history). A US-based friend liked the smell and feel of  Keshkanti shampoo so much that he asked for 12 bottles!

However,  not all products are equally good. I found the toothpaste too strong,  and the toothbrush bristles too hard. Honey is another item that I do  not fancy. Increasing demand for Patanjali products has resulted in  smaller outlets opening at almost every nook and corner of Mumbai.

Compared  to other ayurvedic products, Patanjali’s have fared better against  the MNCs.

Two  new products have caught my fancy. One, Marie biscuits made of wheat.  They are crisp, healthy and do not stick to my gums like the maida  biscuits. Two, noodles. They are lighter to eat and on the pocket,  tastier as compared to the legendary Maggi. I am, however, yet to try  three items -- the juices, masalas and Divya Peya, a brand of a herbal tea that contains a variety of  herbs and spices and is nicotine free.

It’s  quite amazing how Patanjali outlets dot the horizon even in small  towns. From Bomdila, half-way between Tezpur and Tawang in Arunachal  Pradesh, to Kishtwar in Jammu, Patanjali products are quite popular.

So  what makes Patanjali tick?

One: It's founder and brand ambassador. Millions worldwide have benefitted  from Baba Ramdev's yoga. Thus, his credibility is high. Usually  brands are first introduced and then trust is built. In this case it  is the opposite. First Baba Ramdev built trust, then the brand  followed.

Two: His rustic behaviour and inability to speak convent educated English  have endeared him to the masses and the middle-class alike.

Three: The controversy that surrounded Maggi noodles broke the implicit  trust that Indian consumers had in MNCs.

Four:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make  in India campaign has, though indirectly, urged consumers to buy goods made  for India. Patanjali stands to gain.

Five: When  faced with problems in life we tend to return to our roots. Similar  is the case during an economic slowdown. Our roots are the type of  products made by Patanjali.

Six: UPA's arrest of Ramdev and lathi-charge on a gathering of his  followers struck a chord with a large number of people in the belief  he was wronged.

Seven: The secularists find it difficult to target Baba Ramdev, an Arya  Samaji (Arya Samaj was  a reformist movement in Punjab founded  by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875) and a Yadav, both of whom enjoy  large support in North India.

Eight: An associate who runs a market research company said there has been a  surge in assignments from other reputed ayurvedic companies. It is a  tribute to Baba Ramdev who has rekindled demand for ayurvedic  products.

I  did a quick WhatsApp survey with friends across the country, on why  they use Patanjali's products. The answers are:

- It is based on Vedic wisdom and consumers know the efficacy of ingredients used.
- There is an increasing awareness of benefits of using natural ingredients.
- Has an image of being a non-profit, unlike MNCs.
- Demonstrated knowledge of ayurvedic and Vedic preparations so has credibility.
- Consumers tired of relaunches, want to try new products with desi fragrances, eg, mogra soap.
- Very good quality.

Deep  down Indians always knew about the effectiveness of our natural  plants. But there was no genuine delivery platform till now. Himalaya  Herbal did it but became expensive and caters to the high-end market.

Some  words of caution

Will  the quality of Patanjali products deteriorate with increasing  volumes? Two, now that Patanjali has started advertising in a big  way, would prices increase? Three, a friend asked if I had visited  the Patanjali manufacturing facility. She is willing to trust  Unilever products because it is a global brand but Patanjali...?  Four, by expressing an opinion on all issues, Ramdev runs the risk of  diluting his brand equity.

At  a recent Hindustan Unilever (my alma mater where I learnt work ethics  and skills) gathering, I urged finance colleagues to use Patanjali  products so they get to know about the competition. We paid a heavy  price for underestimating Nirma in the 1980s and cannot afford a  repeat with Patanjali today.

Sanjeev  Nayyar is an independent columnist and founder of www.esamskriti.com.  He had also worked with Hindustan Lever.

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