NEW DELHI: Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved has taken on its multinational rivals by comparing them to the East India Company in its latest advertising campaign, in line with the ‘swadeshi’ crusade of RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) against overseas companies.While the yoga guru has raised the swadeshi theme before, this is the first time it’s being used in Patanjali’s ads. The multimedia campaign, which started running ahead of Independence Day, can’t be accused of subtlety.
“Though we got political freedom 70 years back, economic freedom is still a dream,” the print ad reads. “The way East India Company enslaved and looted us, multinational companies are still doing the same by selling soap, shampoo, toothpaste, cream, powder and similar daily items at exorbitant price.”
SJM rolled out a protest against the new foreign direct investment (FDI) policy on August 9. It is of the opinion that allowing foreigners to engage in food processing and marketing of agricultural produce will kill off small shops and units.
The All India Food Processors’ Association (AIFPA), of which multinational companies (MNCs) such as Coca-Cola and Cadbury are members, said India is a free market open to everyone. “Every company whether MNC or homegrown has to operate in accordance (with regulations).
It is a free market and every company can sell depending upon the trust of the consumer,” said AIFPA President Sagar Kurade. “At the end, the consumer has to choose which product they believe in.”
India recently relaxed FDI norms to allow 100% investment in trading of food products made in India. The swadeshi sentiment is in the minority, said an industry veteran. “The mindset of distrust against MNCs has been in India for several decades. However, this is a marginal opinion in today’s India,” said Future Brands Managing Director Santosh Desai. “Baba Ramdev has been exploiting this theme for a long time although this might be the first time it has been used in its advertising campaign.”
Patanjali has been disseminating its message through all leading radio stations, newspapers and television networks, though it’s particular about the placement of its TV spots. “We are running the campaign for long hours during prime time,” Patanjali spokesperson SK Tijarawala said. “We telecast these ads during all shows which are not foreign, vulgar and violent.” Patanjali became the biggest television advertiser in the first week of August with the release of the campaign, according to data on the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India website. The campaign was telecast 21,923 times during this period.
With more than 350 products ranging from noodles and biscuits to shampoo and toothpaste, Patanjali’s success has shocked its rivals into acknowledging it as a serious contender in the fast-moving consumer goods market, and a scrappy one to boot. It recently threatened to file a suit against the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which has accused the company of publishing misleading and unfair ads hampering other brands and violating the advertising code of conduct.