Baba in the boardroom

By Our Reporter

Yoga instructor-sanyasi turned entrepreneur Baba Ramdev will be in Australia this month

After bringing yoga into people’s drawing rooms, in 2006, Baba Ramdev decided to take his business to the boardroom. And take on the FMCG world. Enter Patanjali Ayurved. Enter the Yogi CEO.

“I am but an instrument of God. There’s nothing that I have done myself,” said Baba to a reporter who asked him the secret to his success. “I’ve always just aimed at grow more than 100 per cent!” he said.

The rather unconventional entrepreneur will be in Victoria in November at the Westgate Indoor Sports, Corner Grieve Parade, Altona North, Dohertys Road, VIC 3025 on Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December.

A quarter of a century ago, Baba Ramdev lived at the foot of the Himalayas, pledging to spend the rest of his life as a sanyasi, renouncing the material world.

Now 50 (at least that’s the belief since there are no records), Ramdev is still down to earth, dressed the same way he has been for years, the only difference being he now heads a company that makes more than 250 products, most of them best-sellers. Ramdev’s goal is still simple for his company, which is one of the fastest growing companies in Indian consumer goods—to match an ayurvedic item for every household need. He makes toothpaste from cloves, soap from almonds and saffron; and floor cleaner from the “natural disinfectant” cow urine. According to a Forbes report, Patanjali Ayurved generates annual revenue of $1.6 billion.

Ramdev once proclaimed that he will overtake multinational giants—“The ‘gate’ in Colgate will shut; Pantene will wet its pants, the lever of Unilever will break down, and the little Nestlé bird will fly away.”

Though everyone refers to Patanjali as Ramdev’s company, he’s not technically its owner or chief executive officer. He neither profits from it nor takes a salary. His net worth, he says, is zero. He calls himself merely the company’s brand ambassador. Acharya Balkrishna, who owns 98.6% of the company, is the 19th-richest man in India, with a net worth of $6.1 billion.

Ramdev says he runs Patanjali “not as a CEO runs a corporation, but as a guru runs an ashram”, referring to it as a spiritual organisation. “The biggest goal is to bring prestige to India,” he says.

Ramdev started to become a popular face in Indian households in 2002. The story goes that a religious TV station announced a new yoga program, which Ramdev wanted to host, but was passed up. He then bought 20 minutes on a rival channel, and was such a hit that he was hired to lead a morning show. He thus skyrocketed into becoming among the most prominent faces of yoga in the entire nation.

It was during this time that Ramdev began blaming India’s unhealthy bodies on foreign products, and stated that his “biggest goal is to bring prestige to India and Indian identity within the country and the world”, a journey that he believes begins from yoga, from ayurveda. Patanjali Ayurved.

There were controversies along the way, but they nowhere near harmed sales. Revenue surpassed $1 billion in 2017 itself. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an Indian trade organisation, has called Patanjali “the most disruptive force in the fast-moving consumer goods market”.

Ramdev has now floated plans for business lines in clothing, private security, animal feed, solar power, and restaurants. He also wants to export Patanjali products to the US, UK, and around the globe. “This earth, sun, and all of nature are doing their jobs without any expectation. So I am doing my job,” he says.


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