What is the mystery of Patanjali?
Recently I attended a marketing conference. Most of the 'who is who' of marketing academics in India were there, and every meeting formal or informal finally lead to Patanjali.
There were many scholastic opinions shared. Some emphasized the celebrity endorsement effect of Baba Ramdev, the most visible, iconic brand ambassador.
Some argued that the emerging trend of patriotic fervor, some touched upon the emerging Hindu nationalism and Patanjali riding on the same trend that brought BJP to power .
Some pointed out the health and fitness concern and back to nature and natural being good and related the same to a global trend.
The political academic saw a hidden agenda and concerted right wing attempt and Government support and subsidy behind the success of Patanjali.
There were those who eloquently spoke on their go-to -market strategy and umbrella branding.
May be they are all right, but beyond all these , Patnajali is providing a compelling value-for-money proposition against the leading brands. In jams, they undercut Kissan by more than 50%, in pickles they are cheaper than even the local brand, in toothpaste, they undercut Dabur red, Dishwash bar is cheaper than Vim and Exo. In most consumer goods, they are priced significantly below the market leader, but offer similar quality. Honey is less priced than even Reliance store brands . Ghee is cheaper than local desi ghee.
My wife says, their tooth paste and dish-wash bar are superior to not only the other VFM offerings, but even better than the market leaders from two segments above. She swears by Patanjali tooth paste and dish-wash bar. But also says, not all Patanjali products are good or comparable.
Customers might experiment with a new brand when it is newly launched, novelty drives curiosity. Natural goodness is a powerful rational hook. Patriotism and Desi and Hindu imagery may drive adoption in some. But no customer would stay for ever unless they are able to deliver similar quality to the market leaders.
Imagery may allow a brand to command a premium, Emotional connect might create loyalty, but both these are insufficient in the case of consumer goods and food products which has an experience dimension. A toothpaste, has to taste good, it has to clean teeth and it has to make one feel fresh
A dish wash bar must not create a skin allergy, it has to clean the dishes and should be friendly to the skin. No amount of patriotism or natural or divine or Hindu imagery will make a customer tolerate an inferior product that would cause a skin rash.
This is where they are doing well now in some product categories, they offer superior value at lower price points. VFM is always the key to the baskets of middle class. Good old sound business logic.
This is where they will have a problem also. Aggressive , furious growth hides many deficiencies in supply chain, sales management, channel relationships, prudent financial management, careful recruitment and nurturing of talent. I am not even sure patanjali makes any money with the kind of growth frenzy that they have, may be that are just like Flipkart. Sooner or later, they will have to sit down, look at their supply chain, look at their channels and their brand management. They will need to consolidate, institute prudent systems and have capable people. If nestle and Cadbury can have contamination in their food products, if Johnson and Johnson can have questions posed about their manufacturing, Patanjali will also have. I just do not believe in super human or the infallible wisdom.
For example many of their food products use chemical preservatives just like the competitors. Once in a while, products one buy from shelves is post expiry date and spoiled. Some times packing is poor and there is leakage. These are just symptoms that point to the process deficiencies.
The sprint is won on different organizational abilities compared to the marathon. The business and marketing are marathon and not just a sprint.Any one can burn money and aggressively grow, but will they be able to keep the markets?
From the shock, their very capable competitors will wake up and then they have a game on their hands.
Some times I think Patanjali is like some of the Srilankan bowlers with a freak action. Soon the the competition will read them, and their supply chain will show the true colours
I wish Patanjali will not be flash in the pan. But they will introspect and consolidate and would succeed in the marathon as well as the sprint.