How ‘evangelical’ Baba Ramdev changed the playing field for ayurveda

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Over the past two years, Dabur has been fighting a strong challenge to its leadership in ayurvedic products from Patanjali Ayurved, which, say market watchers, is poised to overtake it in the ayurveda category in the not-too-distant future. Dabur CEO Sunil Duggal concedes that Dabur may have missed a trick or two here.
“The playing field for ayurveda has expanded tremendously after the entry of Patanjali. The back-to-the-roots mindset means Indian and ayurvedic products are preferred by a significant mass of people,” he says.

“A corporate will always find it a bit hard to play this theme directly, to brand itself into a desi kind of company. In hindsight, we think we, too, could have done that, but it probably requires somebody evangelical like Baba Ramdev rather than a corporate. I do feel we missed something, but it is hard to decipher these things.”
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Patanjali has hit out at foreign multinationals with a “with us or against us” campaign, and while it has been relatively soft on Dabur, it has questioned the company’s pricing strategy. This is because one of the biggest strengths of Patanjali is the low prices of its products. Duggal says he does not wish to get into a direct fight with Patanjali but wants to cater to consumers who are more rational about their choices.
Patanjali, say experts, may have got everybody’s attention, but Dabur’s market penetration can still hold it in good stead against the upstart.
According to the Rural Establishment Survey conducted by Chrome Data Analytics that claims to cover over 200,000 villages with over 300 million consumers, 93 per cent rural households are aware of Patanjali but more than half, 56 per cent, do not know about at least 30 per cent of its products.
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The survey found that Dabur is still the most popular choice for chyawanprash, honey and hair oil. In the past three years, Dabur’s income has grown at a compounded annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 10.2 per cent, while net profit has grown at a CAGR of 16.7 per cent. This show Duggal has been up to the task of holding on to his own against Patanjali.
“Before Narendra Modi became prime minister, ayurveda was considered a dismal/archaic science. I would credit the current political establishment and Ramdev for changing this,” he says.
“But he is not the only one in town. We can actively participate by stressing the scientific aspects of ayurveda. This is something that will differentiate us from Baba Ramdev. Many people may not be swayed by emotions and want some rational underpinning to justify the choice of ayurvedic products.”