Published August 28, 2016 by vishalvkale

The rise of Patanjali cannot be explained by mere Marketing Factors; to further underscore my point, let me just quote a small observation : for the first time, I am seeing an FMCG Brand {or any other product, for that matter} being discussed in Social Media, Whatsapp forwards and discussions, personal discussions etc. Now this is absolutely unique; for a mere Brand to get so much traction as to become a talking point in such areas does call for comment as well as some pretty serious thinking and analysis on the part of both Academa as well as Corporates; it is {yet another} indicator of the seismic shift in the Indian Consumer that should have been spotted
The Indian Consumer Story is admittedly complex with deep differentiation and divisions that most corporate honchos love to parrot – and they are spot-on accurate. However, when trying to pin down the growth of Patanjali, one has to go beyond these narrow Segmentation & Positioning / 4Ps / Product Market approaches, and take a larger market overview before getting into the specifics of jargon and strategy. The reason for that is that while the inter-segment divisions and differences are indeed pertinent from a Marketing Standpoint, some aspects of consumer choice determinants transcend these divisions due to their emotive appeal and perceived closeness to the consumers’ hearts


The first and most important aspect is the India Story; the rising feeling, a fast-rising swell & tide  of nationalism combined with an urgent need to modernise several sectors and encourage investment is creating a climate of fast-rising acceptability of Indian Goods and Products gaining larger acceptance – across sectors & socio-econo-cultural divisions, spanning all the way from Telecom to FMCG / High Income to Low Income. This is happening in a market historically used to and comfortable with Indian Products and Brand Names. That is one aspect of the story that needs to be kept in mind. The impact of this is that it makes the consumer more amenable to experimentation with local products – which also fuels and enhances nationalist aspirations as well as gives a satisfaction.
The second aspect that needs consideration is, as some people have pointed out, Yoga; but, in my opinion, you have to add the Hindu Pride aspect in no small measure to this potpourri. There is a present and fast rising upsurge in Hindu Pride and community feeling  – I mean no negative connotations here. I refer to the rising need for the Sanaatani {Hindu} personality to seek solace in a long cultural history that is frankly unparalleled on this planet. There are other products on the health parameter, or Ayurved, or other such factors; none have come even close to the now-iconic status of Patanjali, the Brand. It is now high time that Brand Pundits gave Patanjali its due – it is now an Iconic Brand.
The third aspect, dutifully covered elsewhere, is the central figure at the core of it : Baba Ramdev, a man who is a cultural icon and a famous personality. This is one aspect that needs much greater attention : as marketers, you need to understand how and why this is so relevant. Baba Ramdev is not just a renouned Yog Guru, he is also a very well-known quasi-political personality with his activism around anti-corruption and The Jan Lokpal Bill. Both these topics hold emotional appeal of a very high degree with most Indians. The fourth though relatively minor aspect, is the name itself : Patanjali – which happens to have cultural as well as Religious connotations going back millennia


Thus, from the above rather lengthy preamble, it can be seen that the term Patanjali has some deep associations attached to it, ones that appeal to the mind at a very, very basic and deep-rooted cultural level : Indian, Sanaatani, Yog, Nationalist, Cultural Similarity, Activist, Anti-Corruption, Community Pride, Health, Ayurved, Sanskrut as well as History. A quick perusal of this list will easily clarify that it clearly has pan-Indian Appeal, across divides and segments – be they economic, geographic or demographic.
Patanjali lies at the confluence of several independent but important factors that come together at a cross-roads to create a definable, marketable opportunity; these factors – identified above – have together created a vacuum that needed to be filled; a definable desire that needed to be tapped. That is why Patanjali has scored so highly and at such a blinding pace. To be sure, the opportunity presented had to be identified, a working plan built, product lines identifed and created / manufactured, a distribution to be built, and all the rest of it. But the core reason cannot be these marketing aspects; we have to understand the core market and the core consumer that Patanjali is targeting.
For far too long, Academia and Corporates have focussed on the easily definable aspects of Brand Management; the time is ripe for a genuine effort to understand the many, many other aspects of Brands and what determines their equity, image, associations and personality with particular reference to India. For far too long, there has been a total absence of quality research in the public domain in the scenario of Brands in the Indian Context. The reality on the ground spanning innumerable product failures from abroad bears mute testimony to the difference between India and the West. Given India’s cultural difference from other nations, there is a felt need for a much better and improved understanding of the Indian Business Scenario that caters to Indian Realities.

Consumer Choice is not a simple either-or option, not even in simple repetitive purchase cycles as typified by the FMCG Sector, to say nothing of my core speciality Telecom. It is influenced by a series of factors, the listing of which is beyond the scope of my blog. Unless you pin-down each Brand in detail, as opposed to a superficial 4Ps approach, the risks of not getting a full understanding remain very high. This is not something we can afford in the modern ultra-competitive marketplace. From such a fundamental understanding will emerge the way-forward – which is the topic of the third article in this mini series, wherein I look at the feasbile competitive responses that can be adopted…

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