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Published on: March 8, 2021, 8:30 a.m.
Baidyanath's healthy approach
  • Sharma and son Ameve: immense knowledge of ayurvedic medicine; Photo: Sajal Bose

By Sajal Bose. Deputy Editor, Business India

Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, is a form of alternative healthcare that uses natural herbs. But the lack of scientific validation for ayurveda has discouraged the growth of the market. However, in recent years, as a holistic healing system, ayurveda has witnessed an evolution in the form of products and services, due to the rising awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and government initiatives leading to market growth. The guesstimated market for Indian ayurveda is Rs30,000 crore today, and this is expected to grow further by 15 per cent.

Creating awareness of the effectiveness of traditional medicine with the help of government support has now become essential. Despite several challenges, the century-old ayurveda group, Baidyanath, is a dominant player in the segment today, and has stayed relevant all along. “Our USP is the immense knowledge of classic ayurveda we have acquired over the century,” says Ram K Sharma 70, managing director, Baidyanath. “We also have to live up to the customer’s trust with our quality.” 

The ayurvedic market is driven by a variety of healthcare and personal care products and services. While personal care encompasses skincare, oral care, hair care, etc, the health care range includes medicines, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. The company has a strong network of herb growers and it sources only the purest herbs from indigenous locations in the country. 

From chyawanprash, ghee and herbal churnas to a wide range of women’s wellness products, the company covers a huge array of herbal and effective medicines, with an aim to provide relief as well as a cure to everyone, irrespective of age group. The company has over 700 products.

 Modern unit

Baidyanath reflects a mindset in which product manufacturing is accompanied by intensive research and investment. The company has set up its first WHO-certified unit in its existing Joka facility in West Bengal at an investment of Rs10 crore. The new state-of-the-art unit at Joka is the pride of the company, and has an automated production line with no human contact and fail-safe testing equipment. The unit is fitted with air humidity regulators, and entry and exit of personnel is strictly controlled. The 7,000-sq ft unit is expected to produce ayurvedic capsules, powder and tablets. 

“All our plants were previously GMP-certified; this is the first WHO-certified unit of the company primarily meant for the export-quality products. We have been flooded with export enquiries,” explains Ameve Sharma, Ram K. Sharma’s son and president, Baidyanath. An MBA from INSEAD, Ameve plans to replicate this unit for future upgradation of the company’s other manufacturing facilities. Baidyanath exports its lifestyle brand Goodcare to Europe, the US, Africa, Russia and the South Asian countries. It now plans to double its exports to 20 per cent of the company’s total revenue, from the 10 per cent at present.

The Baidyanath group has been specialising in ayurvedic medicines since 1917, when it was founded by Pandit Ram Dayal Joshi (R.K. Sharma’s father) and his brother Ram Narayan Sharma, a doctor, at Baidyanath Dham in Bihar (Now Jharkhand). Their vision was to provide readily available, effective ayurvedic medicines to the people of India. Fame and appreciation came Baidyanath’s way, when it played a crucial role during the malaria outbreak in the 1920s. This honour is forever etched in the mind of everyone associated with Baidyanath who strives to achieve the same level of excellence and set new standards.

The next generation of the Baidyanath family, Ram K. Sharma and his cousin Suresh Sharma, has grown the company in perfect sync with modern scientific research and ancient ayurveda scriptures at pan India levels, as also overseas markets. Realising the need to encourage research in herbal healthcare, the family set up the Pandit Ram Dayal Joshi Memorial Ayurvedic Research Institute in Patna. Every year, the institute honours the best publication on ayurveda with a cash award of Rs2 lakh. 

The Rs800 crore group has five GMP manufacturing facilities across India. While R.K. Sharma’s family runs three units, at Kolkata, Patna and Allahabad, his cousin Suresh Sharma manages the Jhansi and Nagpur units. Sharma did not reveal the details of the arrangement, citing it as an internal family understanding; however, he affirmed that the group maintains a single balance sheet. The headquarters of the group is in Kolkata and it employs 1,600 people.

Quality products

The upgradation of manufacturing facilities is a continuous process for the company; this begins with the careful selection of raw materials that are handled under the most hygienic conditions. All activities are regularly validated and calibrated and stringent parameters are followed before the products roll out from the manufacturing units. Qualified ayurvedic doctors, engineers and chemists manage the company’s R&D, on which the company spends one per cent of its revenue. “Not only in-house R&D; we also tie up with external laboratories for testing,” says Ameve. 

Baidyanath’s products reach some 800,000 retail outlets, including 3,000 franchises, through 10,000 distributors across the country. It owns 50 exclusive stores. The company also offers its products through its portal, as well as its digital healthcare supply chain. “Baidyanath is a credible ayurveda company with quality products,” says B.L. Mittal, chairman, Sastasundar. “In the eastern region, we sell its products faster than its peers.” 

Chyawanprash is the highest selling product of the company. Its other popular items include churans, Kabz-har, Atrh Plus, Vita Ex, Ashwagandha, Amla Hair Oil, Dant Manjan Lal, etc. Baidyanath competes with other biggies in the segment, such as Dabur, Patanjali and Himalaya, all of which have grown faster through diversification, while Baidyanath remained subdued.

Admitting the company’s low presence in FMCG products, Rana Banerjee, the new CEO of the company, explains: “Consumer’s needs, aspirations and requirements have evolved and this has led to fast-moving health goods (FMHG) becoming a flourishing market in India. This is our focus area now.” Baidyanath roped in Banerjee to strengthen its business and product portfolios. Banerjee, who had earlier worked with Dabur, has also initiated the development of new products (from five to 15) in the next six months’ time.

Baidyanath is on a hiring spree and the senior professional manager is being given the freedom to run the company. The family, Sharma points out, will, in the future, step back and be involved only in growth strategy and planning of the company. “We intend to effect this change in the next two years,” he explains.

The Covid pandemic brought a lot of opportunity for ayurveda companies, as health and wellness benefits became key issues for citizens. Baidyanath has introduced a whole new range of ayurvedic immunity boosters, such as Ayush Kwath Churna, Ayursh Kwath Tablets, Immun Guard, Giloy Churna, Giloy Ghan Bati and a hand sanitiser – all launched during the lockdown period.

“Baidyanath is one of the oldest ayurvedic companies in the country, with a wider range of ayurvedic products than any competitors,” says a senior manager with a large FMCG company. “Ayurveda is its core competence but, sadly, the company could not leverage its experience and its brand equity to improve growth. Its visibility in FMCG is, unfortunately, insignificant.” 

Talking about the growth, Ameve argues: “Our growth may not be spectacular, but we survive under any circumstances. Our investment goes into product development and supply chain and not on marketing.”

Ayurvedic science is not merely a traditional Indian form of medicine but a perennial naturopathic system of healthcare. Sharma thinks it is important to create first-class research facilities and that the government should provide funds for ayurveda doctors and practitioners, like China does for its own herbal system, to promote ancient medicine. 

Baidyanath is trying to create a model of professionalism, where it is likely to grow faster and be able to adopt some corporate sophistication. However, the challenge for the new generation is to keep the century-old family business united.

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