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What's your advice to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as he takes on Patanjali?

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | August 25, 2017
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We posed this question to a few branding and marketing experts. Here's what they had to say.

Over the past year, Baba Ramdev and his company Patanjali Ayurved has been all over the news. But this time around, it is another spiritual guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living Foundation, who is in the news. Why? Because reportedly, he is about to launch 1000 Sri Sri Tattva retail stores across India by the end of 2017, making ayurvedic, organic, personal care and herbal products available to the people.

What would you advice Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as he takes on Patanjali?

Currently, Sri Sri Tattva's website offers products like groceries and staples, health drinks, organic staples and oil, personal care, health supplements and apparel for men and women.

As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Sri Sri Tattva takes Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved (a fairly new brand that's already giving stiff competition to well-established FMCG companies) head on, we asked our experts what they would advice the new comer.

Edited Excerpts

Rashmi Berry, chief marketing officer and managing partner, BrandStory Consult

Rashmi Berry Rashmi Berry

While the Patanjali brand has been, to a large extent, riding on the wave of Baba Ramdev's popularity. Sri Sri Tattva (SST) has so far, followed a more 'subtle' brand association with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This is a better strategy in the long term as it ensures the brand is not limited by the rising or falling popularity of its founder. It also allows more flexibility for the brand to build products, benefits and associations that are not eclipsed by the attributes of the founder. As the market for ayurvedic products matures, SST would need to provide its consumers with clear, compelling reasons for why their brand is better than not just Patanjali, but also HUL, ITC, Dabur and a growing number of strong, niche brands. While Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would continue to be a strong endorser for SST by virtue of his association, the brand needs to build relevant, motivating and differentiated reasons for preference; both for the umbrella brand as well as for the individual product brands.

Sharda Agarwal, a brand consultant and co-founder, Sepalika (a health website)

Sharda Agarwal Sharda Agarwal

Samit Sinha Samit Sinha

I would say Patanjali does a very multi-national bashing. As the whole world is anyway moving towards ayurveda and natural products, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ought to focus on how his products are beneficial to health rather than take the competition head on. My advice would be to steer clear of multi-national product bashing. Rather, highlight the wisdom that Ayurveda is based upon and on the genuineness of its natural products.

Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting

Patanjali because of its price point and mass appeal, appeals to the lower end of the market and that's where the mass market is. Baba Ramdev and his television persona add credibility to the brand; good distribution and deep penetration and pricing give them an edge. Also, there is a demand for ayurvedic products in the higher end of the market. I am not necessarily talking about the tip of the pyramid but about upper middle classes, who aren't particularly price conscious but more quality conscious. So my instinctive response to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would be to appeal to this class. What this will do is that at some point the ones who want an upgrade on Patanjali will look to Sri Sri Ayurveda, if its image, in terms of quality perception, is higher than that of Patanjali.

Shouvik Roy, senior partner at YAAP, a digital content company and a brand consultant

Shouvik Roy Shouvik Roy

Somewhere the pedigree and the efficacy of the products that Sri Sri Tattva is going to launch needs to substantiate and support the change that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is making through Ayurveda. Patanjali has had its share of hiccups before tasting success. SST will have to work hard to establish the credibility of their product so that they can make a mark. The good thing is that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has many more years behind him than his counterpart. But in SST's case, there is a certain level of premiumness that the brand can command. However, the brand must bear in mind that premiumness can be commanded by price only as long as he is able to establish the credibility of all the offerings. That would be my advice to him.

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