The spirits are rising in the Indian herbal and Ayurvedic products market.
Yoga guru Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved’s growing clout in the consumer-goods sector has left others drooling for that pie.
The Sri Sri Ayurveda Trust, the consumer-goods firm set up by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, now plans to launch 1,000 franchise stores under the brand Sri Sri Tattva, The Economic Times newspaper reported on August 22. It will sell herbal toothpaste, soaps, staples, spices, pickles, and juices, the newspaper said, quoting Sri Sri Ayurveda chief executive officer Tej Katpitia. Also in the works is an extended range of products spanning food and home-care categories.
“People have now accepted Ayurvedic products in their daily lives, and we believe our brand offerings are different compared to those of existing players,” The Economic Times quoted Katpitia as saying.
Spiritual awakening to soaps
Art of Living, founded in 1981, promotes meditation and yoga for overall well-being. Over the last two decades, Ravi Shankar has become a popular face on television in India and globally, and Art of Living is now worth Rs 234 crore (as of 2016).
In 2003, Art of Living set up Sri Sri Ayurveda and began selling Ayurvedic products under the Sri Sri brand, though it was limited in range and distribution then. Its retail footprint today includes modern trade and general trade, besides its e-commerce portal Srisritattva.com. Sri Sri Ayurveda’s products are also available on Amazon and Bigbasket.com. On its website, the company lists its health drink Ojasvita, herbal toothpaste Sudanta, ghee made of cow’s milk, and honey, among others as its highest-selling products.
However, in the last five years, India’s consumer-goods landscape has evolved dramatically, partly due to Patanjali’s spectacular rise and its ambition to make Ayurveda a mainstay of Indian households. Its revenue grew by a stunning 2,254% from financial year 2011-’12 to reach more than Rs 10,500 crore in the financial year 2017.
This, along with the growing consumer acceptance of herbal and Ayurvedic products, has pushed even consumer goods giants like Hindustan Unilever, Colgate, and L’oreal to explore the segment further.
Sri Sri Ayurveda sees itself as a natural fit. So, stronger distribution and more products apart, it is now spending more on marketing. In October 2016, it roped in badminton champion PV Sindhu to endorse Ojasvita.
However, it may have significant catching up to do. In 2016, Ramdev’s firm had over 10,000 dedicated stores alone. In 2015, it entered into a tie-up with retail king Kishore Biyani to sell its products through his Future Group’s Big Bazaar supermarket chains and other ventures.
Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight
Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.
Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.
In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.
One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.
Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.
Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.
It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.
Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.
The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.
The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.