market battle

Ramdev vs Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Ayurveda market prepares for a battle of the gurus

The Art of Living Foundation, plans to launch 1,000 franchise stores under the brand Sri Sri Tattva.

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.

Can Art of Living also master the art of selling?

this article first appeared on Quartz.

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