Patanjali is not here to threaten anyone – CEO

The Haridwar-based firm, which has focused primarily on Northern India so far, is set to venture out with a big bash to woo farmers and consumers in South India.

NEW DELHI: A ‘Made in India’ pair of jeans out of Khadi. Many still laugh and scoff at such an idea. But yoga instructor Baba Ramdev’s visions, this and many others, is for the Chief Executive Officer of the company he is associated with, one of the way to make Patanjali a global brand. All the while using and providing benefits to local sources, people and the nature of India.

This is not a ‘target’ for this fast emerging consumer goods and life style company, but a firmly held conviction.

Common man’s CEO, Acharya Balkrishna, take on MNCs riding on nature products and processes

Meet Acharya Balkrishna Chief Executive Officer of Patanjali. He does not wear any branded suit, but still appears as suave and smart to put forward any business proposition. At first sight, one could well pass him off as a just another local villager from this hill state (Uttrakhand).Acharya is at ease, even in his off white half shirt and dhoti, as he explains why he or Patanjali are not bothered about what his competitors say or do.

“Patanjali is not here to threaten anyone, but to turn effort and thought to nurture and develop the science that is present in our tradition, and spread it to the benefit of the masses… if people do not understand it, it is their folly,” Acharya Balkrishna told Express in an interview.

The journey to prominence

Launched in 1995 as Divya pharmacy to make ayurvedic drugs, the organisation that is today an `5,000 crore firm began by helping and treating people who had lost the hope to live, when modern medical science failed to cure their diseases. The pharmacy used traditional herbs and plants sourced from local farmers, blended with yoga, as medicine to cure diseases.

“We saw that farmers who grew many traditional fruits like Amla (Indian gooseberry) and aloe vera do not have a market or get a fair price. The effort to get them the price and market, and help the masses get help from nature to cure their pain was the genesis of Patanjali,” explains Balkrishna.

He has the conviction that the Indian farmer can be saved from the clutches of modern money lenders and encouraged to grow fruits, vegetables and  cotton — to not only survive but promote all that is Indian and scientific.

“Farmers should get a good price for their produce, consumers should get those products at lower cost, and importantly should believe in what our farmers produce — this was and remains the philosophy of Patanjali,” he points out.

Today, a journey that began with less than a hundred farmers has more than a lakh growing and supplying raw materials for Patanjali’s medicines. More had joined in after the firm expanded into fruit juices and other consumer beverages and products.

“Patanjali had given us assurance and also helped us with seeds and saplings, the financial benefit is there, but to see the product on TV and internet makes us proud,” says Mahinder Rawat, who owns two acres of farm land in Uttrakhand and has cultivated Amla for the last two years.

The young CEO of Patanjali has set a target for his team — cover ten lakh farmers within next few months.

One of the priorities of his team is to help farmers increase produce by teaching and sensitising them about multi-cropping. “The farmers can grow aloe vera and amla and herbs on the fringes of his/her field and still cultivate whatever they traditionally grow,” says Balkrishna.

But for the firm, it is important that more farmers join in so that they can meet the fast growing demand for its products both within the country, through its 5,000 stores, and catering to consumers abroad online.

With new products from segments like dairy and textiles, it is set to open up big employment opportunities and stir the market.

Patanjali, he says, has demonstrated this by creating direct and indirect employment to 15,000 people. Patanjali may soon invest around `1,600 crore in Noida for setting up a food processing plant around Diwali adding another 10,000 direct jobs.

“I strong believe, this will help the country and government to generate employment, not just in lakhs, but covering up to two per cent of India’s population,” he says

 
 

Southern Challenge

The firm that has focused primarily on Northern India till now, is all set to venture out with a big bash to woo farmers and consumers in South India.

“In the South, we had a problem of language as a mode of communication and local language media was not used as we did in North for the outreach. This, we will do now… the urban South knows us because they read and hear English media… we will now reach smaller towns and villages,” he said, explaining the delay till now in expanding businesses in the South.

Balkrishna says that the role of the local language media will be critical in this expansion.  A reason why they plan to dub audio visual programmes in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu to reach far flung markets.

Patanjali will soon initiate awareness programs through its workers at every district, thesil, block and village, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Kerala and Karnataka. Workers who, Acharya says, are present in large numbers in the south.

“We are very proud of them for the dedication and commitment.  People of south believe in us and our products, despite our delay in expanding stores and products,” says Balkrishna.

The company has launched a few clinics and stores in the region for now.

“But to make products available and organise the market plan is a strategy that will be soon put in place,” he said.

Harnessing Youth

Patanjali will also harness youth power that has already begun to see benefit in yoga and their products.

“Unfortunately MNCs see our people as mere consumers and India as a market…we consider our consumers as family and our sensitivity is towards achieving their welfare,” says Balkrishna.

He insists that, MNCs are paranoid about Patanjali’s success,  its products and processes, because it has shown, to other Indian companies in this segment, what it takes to become successful.

“We also assure customers with a brand ambassador (Baba Ramdev), who is committed to what he believes about the products,” says Balkrishna.

He defends vigorously against the questions raised by The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Patanjali’s products.

“The previous government tried to find fault and in fact it helped us… it turned out that negative publicity was good publicity for us… even today we are open to all tests and scrutiny that is applicable to others,” he said.

Future Plans

The thrust will be on the domestic market and produce, but the firm will soon come out with a strategy for international markets.

Patanjali has plans to set up four units in the Special Economic Zone at Vidarbha, where farmers have been struggling for years. This unit will export 100 per cent of its production.

“Focus will be to help the nation and its people first… but we want our products to create an impact in the international market… India knows this business much better than the MNCs in their own countries,” says Balkrishna with a conviction that should make a few top CEO go back to their drawing boards, war rooms and crisis teams. Acharya, however, is not in favour of listing Patanjali in the near future. “We have unnerved many even without listing… it is a matter pride for Indians,” he said.

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