05 Apr 2018 16:15 IST

The road ahead for ayurvedic products

In February 2017, HUL relaunched the master brand Lever Ayush

Rising consumer awareness has boosted growth in the segment and further efforts will widen the user base

The past few years have witnessed a lot of action in the ayurvedic products category. With Patanjali Ayurved planning to double its ₹10,000-crore turnover in the next 12 months, other organisations in India are also increasing their spend on promotions and product development in this category.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an age-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Indian subcontinent.

According to Nielsen, the natural segment in India (which includes ayurveda) in the personal care category is around ₹18,500 crore. Some organisations that sell products in this category include HUL, Colgate and Dabur.

In February 2017, HUL relaunched the master brand Lever Ayush which makes a wide range of products such as toothpaste, soap, hand wash, shampoo and face-wash, in five south Indian States, and has been trying to expand a recently acquired Kerala-based brand Indulekha to the national level.

MNC giant Colgate prominently launched the Colgate Ved Shakti ayurvedic toothpaste, and Dabur revamped its portfolio to introduce ‘natural variants’ in its shampoo categories. Anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams are also expected to fuel market growth.

All this is not just an Indian phenomenon. According to Statistics MRC, the global market for ayurvedic products is expected to reach $9,791 million by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.2 per cent from 2015 to 2022. Not surprisingly, the drivers for this range from expanding global medical tourism to rising consumer awareness for ayurvedic products.

But is all really well with the ayurvedic market?

Validation

The initial perception of these products is that they are gentler and safer to use. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

In 2016, PM Modi, while addressing an international conference on the frontiers of yoga and AYUSH (an acronym for the Indian systems of medicine — Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) said: “Ayurveda must also apply the techniques and methods of modern science, to test and validate results, assure quality, and explain benefits.”

His statement implied that, sooner or later, consumers would demand ‘proof of working’, and that is not easily possible in Ayurveda, unlike in the case of allopathic / pharmaceutical products, which are generally a one-for-all, mass solution for various ailments.Ayurveda is customised for each individual body type and therefore the remedies cannot be shared by all with the same health problems.

Not adapting

For years, ayurveda had refrained from undertaking rigorous clinical research, based on the argument that the field is thousands of years old and has been in active use for centuries. In the process, ayurveda isolated itself from comparisons with other synthesised alternatives.

Earlier, consumers seldom asked questions about the ingredients, or demanded proof of the safety and efficacy of these products. Even when they did, the standard answer was that the formulation was from classical texts; hence, the consumers were never satisfied.

As a result, the number of people who used ayurvedic brands was limited to those following a family tradition or those who believed in the system. It is only recently that, as a result of more stringent guidelines, companies have started sharing product information and greater transparency has set in, which has led to an increase in faith in such products. And this has probably been a major contributing factor for the explosive growth in the use of ayurvedic products.

Way forward

Going forward, for this category to reach even greater heights, there are important aspects, such as product information dissemination, sharing of test results and persuading the influencer network, that need to be integrated if ayurvedic product manufacturers expect to gain market share from pharmaceutical companies.

Wary of side-effects, unlike in well-known cosmetics, dermatologists and hair-care specialists do not recognise ayurvedic products easily. So there is a lot of work that needs be done on this front as well.

The goodness of the ancient science of ayurveda must be harnessed for the wider public good, with efforts going far beyond what has been achieved until now. Finding partners among sociologists, anthropologists, modern physicians, cosmetologists and qualified ayurvedic experts in India as well as foreign countries would bring in fresh ideas, new ways of steering this category and propelling it towards new and successful frontiers.

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