Janmashtami is a month away and temples are not allowed to distribute prasad as a precaution for Covid-19. But Panchamrit is a must on the occassion.
I am not a religious person but living in a small town like Dehradun, religion is not easy to avoid or ignore. And when you have a temple with a duly appointed priest in your residential complex and yours truly has been involved with the RWA (Residents' Welfare Association), you quickly have to understand the nuances of religious festivals, rituals and ceremonies.
It therefore was with great interest that I followed the launch of Amul Panchamrit and read/saw whatever I could lay my hands on about the launch. The brand, except for a video release, has been very quiet about the launch. And the various articles have betrayed an absence of understanding about the product. I also took my time to speak with some priests and some religious minded people. So first let’s understand the product better.
Yes, it’s made of five elements. But not just any of the five elements. The milk should be “kacha” not toned or half cream or processed. The sugar should be jaggery (gud) based and most critically the panchamrit is considered to be incomplete unless some water with which the idol is washed everyday is mixed into it. Now to the purists and from a hygiene viewpoint it may lead to some raised eyebrows but as a ritual just a sprinkling of the water is required. Otherwise, it’s not Panchamrit. The priests do not believe in its sanctity.
Then, as we know it’s a prasad, not a dish. It’s not about the taste but the belief. Interestingly, this is not a prasad given at all temples at all times. It’s a prasad which is mostly found in the temples of the Vishnu Avtars. So in Ram or Krishna temples. Not in the Shiv temples. And during Janmashtami it is a must, though it is also distributed on other occasions.
And because it’s not the usual prasad like peda or laddoo, it’s not a dish which is aspired to be made or eaten more often. Almost like the modak. I think that’s the reason Amul is banking on a B2B business model here, not B2C. And that’s why it has the small milk sachet type packets that one gets with a cup of tea. For temples to distribute to the devotees. The question is will the temples buy these?
Given the above context it will be an interesting scenario to watch. Will the hygiene factor score over the traditional way of making Panchamrit? Will the intrusion of packaged, branded goods in temples be accepted? Lot of the big temples already give out packed prasad. But it’s not outsourced. Usually it’s made in the temple premises or under the supervision of the temple authorities.
So, will the temple authorities be willing to buy and distribute prasad, which has been made by a third party without the temple having any control over either the ingredients or the end product? And of course there is also the question of the tradition of the idol water. That to my mind is critical as it allows the temple to claim some hold over the authenticity of the prasad. Not to mention some sort of a copyright too. A standardised prasad which can be given by a small local temple too will not sit well with the big temples that would want some difference associated with their prasad.
It’s an interesting and a tough one for Amul. Amul has a good history of B2B marketing with its butter, milk and also Amulya milk powder. And given the current scenario where temples are not allowed to distribute prasad, this is a great opportunity. With Janmashtami just a month away and the COVID situation not improving, the temples currently may have no other alternative but distribute packaged, branded panchamrit. In fact, it could be a great way for them to get the devotees in. And once the brand is accepted, it may just stay. So from a timing view point, Amul has got it bang on.
This by far is the most interesting and timely launch by Amul. Will it work long term? That’s the story to watch out for.
(The author is an ad-man turned consultant with three decades of industry experience under his belt.)