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Competition from Patanjali prompts FMCGs to hit back

The Rs 2,000-crore Patanjali, looking to grow its turnover two-and-a-half times in FY16

Viveat Susan Pinto & Arnab Dutta  |  Mumbai/ New Delhi 

Tycoon in saffron

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has begun his five-day meditation and yoga camp at the MMRDA Grounds at Bandra in Mumbai. Open to anyone, preparation for this began days before with volunteers distributing pamphlets in all adjoining areas.

In camps such as these, Ramdev is known to push products from Patanjali Ayurved, co-founded by him and Acharya Balkrishna. This camp has been no exception. Yoga sessions are interspersed with talks on healthy living and how Patanjali has a solution to every problem.

Watching Ramdev's moves are rival consumer goods companies. The Rs 2,000-crore Patanjali, looking to grow its turnover two-and-a-half times in FY16, is striking at the heart of their business, making its presence felt across categories.

The stiff competition has prompted most of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies to hit back. Consider what the country's largest FMCG company Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is doing: It has 'resurrected' its herbal brand Ayush, launching it online. A bunch of new products across haircare, skin care and pain balms have been launched on e-commerce platforms under Lever Ayush Therapy. The plan is to take the brand to general trade in the future. The firm is also expected to increase its 'natural' offerings, moving into newer categories such as health foods, oral care, lip care etc.

HUL's managing director and chief executive Sanjiv Mehta says, "What we find is that consumers' interest in natural/ayuvedic products is growing. It is one of the emerging trends now. As a consumer goods company, we have to respond to this, which is why Ayush, which existed in our portfolio, has now staged a comeback. We also acquired Indulekha to grow our presence in the value-added hair oil segment. We will continue to make investments in this area."

Companies that have been directly affected by Patanjali such as Dabur, Emami and Himalaya - all three operate in the herbal/naturals space - say they will buttress their portfolios, making their products relevant to consumers.

Harsh Agarwal, director of Emami, says he is open to acquisitions to strengthen his firm's position in the herbal space. "Ayurveda has been around for a long time. I don't see this as a new trend. But, the emergence of new players is happening right now. We welcome them and will continue to fortify our range with new variants, launches and acquisitions."


Emami had acquired hair oil brand Kesh King last year and was also in the race to acquire Indulekha before opting out. Agarwal says he is looking at new targets, some of them located in the south.

Industry source say herbal and non-herbal companies are now going back to the drawing board, looking at how they can incorporate natural ingredients when developing new products.

Godrej Consumer, for instance, has launched a neem-based mosquito coil; a creme hair colour that has coconut oil; and launched new variants under Godrej No 1, its naturals platform in soaps. Sunil Kataria, business head (India and Saarc region) at Godrej Consumer, says, "Our endeavour will be to fortify these products as we come up with new innovations in other categories."

Colgate, whose volume growth has taken a hit on account of Patanjali's Dant Kanti toothpaste, according to brokerage firm Credit Suisse, is aggressively advertising its active salt neem toothpaste, launched a few months ago.

This toothpaste, a variant of Colgate's Active Salt toothpaste, was made in India to address the herbal revolution, according to industry sources. Colgate is expected to come up with more such offerings as Patanjali's threatens to eat into its business.

Dabur, on the other hand, is introducing new Ayurvedic products targeting men, women, and children. Existing products such as Dabur Honey and Chawanprash are being pushed aggressively in the marketplace as Patanjali positions itself as a price warrior in these categories.

Himalaya - another herbal products company - recently launched its range of wellness products which aim to provide therapeutic solutions to consumers. Products ranging from anti-hairfall creams to pills for staying slim are part of this new initiative.



PREPARING TO PUT UP A FIGHT
  • HUL
    Company "resurrects" herbal brand, Ayush, launching it online. Plans to increase "natural" offerings
  • Emami
    Firm open to acquisitions for strengthening the company's position in the herbal space
  • Godrej Consumer
    Launches neem mosquito coil, a creme hair colour that has coconut oil, new variants in naturals soaps
  • Colgate
    Firm aggressively advertising its active salt neem toothpaste, as its volume was hit after Patanjali's Dant Kanti
  • Dabur
    Firm launching ayurvedic products. Pushing Dabur Honey and Chyawanprash aggressively
  • Himalaya
    Recently launched its range of wellness products which aim to provide therapeutic solutions to consumer

First Published: Mon, January 18 2016. 00:29 IST
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