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Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda gets fined but he remains India’s best known Baba as well as Lala

Nobody can point out the precise moment when Baba (ascetic) Ramdev made the transition to Lala (trader) Ramdev. When he graduated from being a humble yoga guru to the one-stop solution to every conceivable, or inconceivable, malady.

Sexual dysfunction. Vyakti ki shakti kam parna, as he puts it lyrically. Tick.

Hairfall, alopecia (a communicable disease, he claims) and baldness. Tick.

Can’t conceive. “When mata-behen have to go to pakhandis out of desperation,” he prophetically claimed. Shivlingi Putrajeevak, tick.

Think of a problem — diagnosed, undiagnosed, imagined, perceived, anything — Baba Ramdev had a solution for it. And soon he turned Patanjali into a global brand and himself into a tireless brand ambassador of everything Indian, its great heritage of healing diseases through roots, leaves, seeds and, well, anything that grows on this great land. So much so that an average Indian would start his morning with Patanjali toothpaste and end the day with natural contraceptives suggested by the venerable Baba.

Turns out, everything that is sold in saffron robes is not gold.

According to news reports, a Haridwar court has fined Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda for “misleading advertisements and misbranding.” Patanjali Ayurveda was fined Rs 11 lakh because the products being shown by the company as produced at its own units were in fact manufactured somewhere else.

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Details of the case are sketchy, and understandably so considering Baba’s clout and brand value. But, prima facie, it seems Patanjali Ayurveda was selling outsourced products as its own and lying about it.

Whether they failed on quality standards is not clear. According to The Indian Express, a case had been filed in 2012 by the District Food Safety Department after samples of mustard oil, salt, pineapple jam, besan and honey produced by Patanjali had failed quality tests at Rudrapur laboratory. The products were found to be in violation of Sections 52-53 of Food Security norms and Section 23.1 (5) of Food Safety and Standard (packaging and labelling) regulation.

But, in the past, questions have been raised about Patanjali’s claims and its products. In April this year, aata (flour) noodles (Swadeshi meets Chinese) sold by Patanjali were found to be sub-standard since they contained three times more ash than the acceptable limit. Before that, desi ghee sold by Patanjali was found to contain artificial colour.

Marketing is the art of selling someone a trip to hell but making it look like an all-expense paid vacation in Switzerland. Often, what people buy is based more on the trust they have in the person selling it, instead of the qualitative assessment of the product. So, it is indeed an ode to Ramdev that he has become both India’s best known Baba as well as Lala. It shows, Indians have implicit faith in him and the cures and products he hard sells.

The Indian mindset, of course, is primed to help any Baba turn into a marketing guru. In a country that believes — in some cases rightly so — our ancient wisdom and prescriptions were far more superior to borrowed medicines and lifestyle lessons, it is easier to sell cleverly incorporating swadeshi, vedic, Hindu, shuddh in the marketing campaign.

Also, Ramdev has positioned himself uniquely in the Indian mindset that is already conditioned to equate anything saffron with sacred. Though there have been several instances of religious leaders assimilating political power — of politics flowing from the seat of religion — Ramdev is perhaps the only instance of artha (money), dharma (religion in this case), kama (pursuit of power) and moksha (the nirvana he sells) coming together to produce a Baba who is both a Lala (trader) and a neta (politician). Ramdev is indeed unique, perhaps a symbol of our times where all margins have been blurred.

It is precisely because Ramdev wields so much power and influence that his company’s indictment for violations, breach of laws and marketing principles is a great tragedy. And a reminder that when gullible buyers shop in the marketplace of baba-bhakti and rashtrabhakti, they invariably return with what Kapil Sharma famously describes as Babaji ka thullu.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 17:16 IST

Report claims Ramdev invested in Nepal without government approval

Kathmandu: Yoga guru Ramdev has landed in a controversy in Nepal after a media report claimed that Patanjali Ayurved group invested more than Rs 150 crore in the country without official approval.

The Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act requires any foreign investor to get permission from the Investment Board Nepal or the Department of Industries before investing in Nepal. The report in Nepal’s largest selling newspaper Kantipur Daily said Ramdev failed to seek such mandatory permissions.

Ramdev. ReutersRamdev. Reuters

Ramdev. Reuters

Meanwhile, Ramdev has denied the allegations in a statement released on Monday, saying his company has not flouted any local law while conducting activities in Nepal.

The statement, signed by Ramdev, said the proposed investment from Patanjali Ayurved Limited will flow into Nepal only after completing all due legal process. According to Ramdev, Patanjali Yogapeeth of Nepal has not attracted any sort of investment from India.

“Entire investment in Patanjali Yogapeeth in Nepal has come from Upendra Mahato, a Nepalese businessman and his wife Samata. When we invest in the company in future which we plan to do, we will follow the prevalent laws of Nepal and take approval from the concerned government authorities,” reads the statement.

He said that proceeds from that company will not be distributed to the investor but “will be spent on philanthropic activities,” according to the statement. “I have devoted my entire life fighting corruption, black money and financial misappropriation, and I am committed to financial transparency. So, there is no possibility that I would be involved in any kind of illegal investment in Nepal,” Ramdev said.

Speaking at a press meet on 23 November, Ramdev had announced that he has invested Rs 150 crores in Ayurvedic factory in Nepal and is planning to further invest Rs 500 crore in the future. He had also announced to invest billions of rupees in Nepal to create 20,000 jobs in the country as by launching a new venture to produce organic medicine and other items.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari on 24 November inaugurated Ramdev’s Patanjali factory in southern Nepal’s Bara district which will produce organic medicine and other items. Minister for Agriculture Gaurishankar Chaudhary was also present on the occasion.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 14:35 IST

Assam forest dept files FIR against Patanjali Food Park after elephant’s death due to neglience

Ghoramari (Assam): The Assam Forest Department on Thursday filed an FIR against the builder of Patanjali Mega Herbal and Food Park in Sonitpur district for negligence in providing safety to wild elephants and digging pits at the construction site causing an elephant to die on Thursday.

Jasim Ahmed, Additional Conservator of Forest, West Sonitpur Forest Division, said the FIR was lodged at Salanibari police outpost under Tezpur police station.

He said the case was filed against the park’s builder, Uday Goswami, who is also the coordinator of the Patanjali Park at Ghoramari Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) complex.

There were more than 14 open pits and some of them were filled up with earth after Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma visited the site following the death of an adult female elephant on Thursday, said Ahmed.

Video of the elephant falling into the pit

Regarding Goswami’s assurance of erecting a low-voltage solar-powered fence at the site, the Forest official said such a fence needed to be checked by the specialists of the Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) before being erected.

The forest minister instructed the builder to keep half of the over-200-acre land free from construction through which the elephants could move.

On Wednesday morning, a calf ran out of an elephant herd towards the construction site, followed by its mother and another male elephant calf which was later rescued from the pit and sent to the wildlife rescue centre at Kaziranga.

The foundation stone of the Rs 1,300-crore Patanjali Mega Herbal and Food Park was laid on November 6 by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the presence of Patanjali founder and yoga guru Ramdev, Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries Babul Supriyo and state Industries Minister Chandramohan Patowary among others.

Dilip Nath, member of Aranya Surakha Samittee, Sonitpur, told PTI that the place was known to be an elephant zone often frequented by the pachyderms from the nearby forest.

Meanwhile, state Congress spokesman Apurba Bhattacharya claimed that as the area was an elephant corridor and used by the animals for giving birth to their calves, the previous Congress administration in the state had not allowed the government land to be given to anyone.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 22:05 IST

PM Modi facing threat to life after demonetisation: Ramdev

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lauding government’s decision to demonetize high value bank notes, yoga guru Ramdev today said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing threat to his life from drug mafia, terrorists and other economic offenders in the wake of this “historic” move.Ramdev also urged people to cooperate with the government and bear the pain for a few days and said the whole exercise would ultimately improve the country’s economy.”By demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes, Modi has dealt a severe blow to corruption, black money, terrorism and fake currency business…Fake notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations were being printed in Pakistan and circulated in India. Phasing out these notes has destroyed the terrorists. “Due to this move, Modi is now facing threat to life from drug mafia, terrorists and also from those committing economic offences,” Ramdev told reporters on his arrival at the city airport.He was here to attend 50th birthday celebrations of religious leader Shasht Peethadhishwar Goswami 108 Shree Dwarkeshlalji Maharaj. Replying to a query, he said that even the business of his company, Patanjali Ayurved, has been hit following demonetization. “But people should cooperate with the Centre in this endeavour to clean up the system,” he said. “Some people are blaming the government as they are facing difficulties because of the sudden move. But it is going to improve the country’s overall economic condition. It will raise the growth rate of the economy, control inflation and bring down the prices of essential commodities, which will ultimately make people’s lives better,” he said.”Instead of blaming, I urge people to cooperate with the government in this endeavour to clean up the system. When there is a war, soldiers face many hardships and starve for weeks. Cannot we, for the welfare of the nation, endure these hardships for a few days?” he asked. He also welcomed the decision to ban the cooperative banks from exchanging or depositing the now-defunct high denomination currency. “But the black money hoarders will devise some new strategy to stash their illegal wealth,” he said.On a query about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanding a roll back of demonetization, the yoga guru said, “Her (Mamata’s) revolt will not get support from the people of the country. People will rebel against her and other political parties that are against the demonetization move.”

Nestle India counters Ramdev’s charges, reaffirms ‘Indianness’

New Delhi: Unfazed by yoga guru Ramdev-led Patanjali’s anti-MNC campaign, Nestle India today said its commitment to India will be “unwavering” with a history of over 104 years of presence in the country and described itself as “99.9 percent” Indian.

File photo. Image courtesy: AFPFile photo. Image courtesy: AFP

File photo. Image courtesy: AFP

“We have been in India for 104 years, 99.9 percent of my company is Indian starting with me… I am proud of this heritage that we have in this country and proud of what the company has done in this country,” Nestle India Chairman and Managing Director Suresh Narayanan told PTI.

Stating that the company’s consumers, suppliers, vendors, partners and shareholders are all Indians, he said: “My contribution to taxes and salaries are all to Indians and therefore I am at a loss to understand as what else must I be doing to be called as Indian.”

He was responding to a query on how the company views allegations by Patanjali through various advertisements that just like the way “East India Company enslaved and looted us, multinational companies are still doing the same by selling soap, shampoo, toothpaste, cream, powder and similar daily items at exorbitant price”.

Narayanan further said: “So, while the statements are read also by my board both India and globally in Switzerland, we do not change our views simply because of the rhetoric.”

Choosing not to get into a slanging match, he said: “Irrespective of what people might say, they have their points of view, I respect their point of view. Nestle’s purpose and value will be unwavering and its commitment to this country would also be unwavering.”

Reiterating that the “bond and relationship” with India built over the course of a century “are rock-solid”, he said “the dignity and respect that we command as an entity is something we are grateful for and we would always be grateful”.

Citing the example of the Maggi crisis, Narayanan said not even once that during the entire crisis, the company had a single incident of unrest.

Even though Nestle India shut down five factories for five months due to the ban on Maggi, it did not have a single problem at any of the plants, he added.

“No distributor left us or supplier left us and no shareholder betrayed us and that tells you that they are happy dealing with us as a company and they are happy with the trust and relationship that we have established these years,” Narayanan said further.

“If all these remain with me and I do not change my behaviour, then why should I be worried what people might say or think about my antecedents.”

On whether Nestle India will foray into ayurvedic FMCG products, which is fast becoming popular, he replied in the negative.

“The difference for Nestle is Nestle looks for nutrition and does not look at the origin or the source of the nutrition. This is a company involved in science, technology and R&D in nutrition,” he explained.

According to Narayanan, Nestle India’s aim is to make efficacious products and it does extensive trials to ensure the items are sustainable and stable and give the right kind of nutrition as far as consumers are concerned.

“I do not see our strategy changing from a primacy of nutrition, science, technology and wellness to a primacy which needs to say that something from this stream of medicine simply because it’s nice one to use. That as a company, we do not have that philosophy,” Narayanan clarified.

Digvijay Singh gets bail in 2012 case of derogatory remarks against Baba Ramdev

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Vaishali district court on Wednesday granted bail to Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh in a four-year-old case of making alleged derogatory remarks against yoga guru Ramdev. Chief Judicial Magistrate 14 of Fast Track Court in Vaishali Sanjay Kumar granted bail to Singh in the case filed in 2012.BJP district leader Ajit Kumar, dealing in Ramdev’s ‘Patanjali’ products, had registered the complaint against Singh for making alleged derogatory remarks against the yoga guru. The Congress General Secretary was present in the court on Wednesday.After hearing both sides, the court granted bail to Singh on condition of two sureties of Rs 5,000 each.Emerging out of the court, the Congress leader made a scathing attack on the yoga guru accusing him of being a man of “criminal mentality”. He told reporters that the CBI was conducting probe against him in several cases.

Forbes India rich list takeaways: Stormy debut of Acharya Balkrishna at 48 spot, Flipkart’s Bansals fall off

Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, with a net worth of $22.7 billion, tops the Forbes magazines’ India rich list for 2016, followed by Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries at a distant second with a net worth of $16.9 billion.

The third in the list is the Hinduja family. The brothers, Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok, who control the group, has a networth of $15.2 billion.

Bansals-FlipkartBansals-Flipkart

Binny Bansal (left) and Sachin Bansal of Flipkart

The others in the top 10 are Azim Premji of Wipro ($15 billion), Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji Group ($13.9 billion), Lakshmi Mittal of ArcelorMittal ($12.5 billion), the Godrej family of the Godrej group ($12.4 billion), Shiv Nadar of HCL Technologies ($11.4 billion); Kumar Mangalam Birla of the Aditya Birla group ($8.8 billion); and Cyrus Poonawalla of Serum Institute of India ($8.6 billion).

The list of the top 100 rich people in India, an annual list compiled by the magazine, is arrived at by calculating the value of their shareholding and other financial details available publicly.

There are no surprises in the list this year at the top level, but towards the bottom there are a few interesting names and trends.

Here are five takeaways from the list:

1) Acharya Balkrsihna debuts: Balkrishna, who holds about 97 percent stake in Patanjali Ayurveda and has a net worth of $2.5 billion, has debuted in the list at 48th spot. This is the second time he has figured in a rich list in as many weeks. Earlier this month, Balkrishna was at the 26th spot in Hurun’s India rich list for 2016, which estimated his net worth at Rs 25,000 crore. While controversial yoga guru Baba Ramdev is the face of Patanjali Ayurved, founded in 2006, Balkrishna is the one who runs the company. The company, which first sold ayurvedic products, has recently diversified into fast moving consumer goods and gives a run for the money for the multinational giants like Unilever and Colgate Palmolive.

2) $1.25 billion threshold: The threshold for entering the top 100 welathy Indians has hit a record of $1.25 billion, says the magazine. Last year, the cut off was at $1.1 billion and had 10 people belwo the $1.25 billion. The rise in the “entry price”, as the magazine calls is it, is indication of the rising wealth of the wealthy.

3) 6 new entrants: There are six new entrants in the list this year. After Balkrishna, the notable among them are the brothers Divyank and Bhavin Turakhia. They have a net worth of $1.3 billion. They last year sold their company Media.net to a Chinese consortium for $900 million, which has propelled them into the list.In a recent interview to Firstpost, Bhavin said he is now focusing on biotechnology, which he thinks will be the next business opportunity globally. His brother Divyank is focussing on online advertising. “Our goal is not to make money, attain success or fame. We are focused on making a difference in people’s lives – our employees and customers. Money in our scheme of things is irrelevant as that is not our goal,” he had said. (http://www.firstpost.com/business/never-give-up-take-risks-hire-best-talent-business-lessons-from-bhavin-turakhia-2997564.html)

4) Flipkart Bansals fall off: There are 13 dropouts this year. The notable among them is Flipkart’s Scachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (not related). Both the entrepreneurs had made their grand entry into the list last year, which also pointed to the digital storm that is taking over the country’s businesses. However, over the last one year, their company witnessed a slew of valuation mark downs from about $15 billion to $9 billion, which reduced the value of their holding.

5) 8 returnees: As many as eight have returned to the list this year due to the rise in the stock market last year. The notables among them are Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon and Tulsi Tanti of Suzlon.

6) Govt policy boost: The Narendra Modi government’s focus on business friendliness is a much discussed and debated fact. A few of the business men who figure in the list have majorly benefitted from the government’s policies. The key among them are Benu Gopal Bangur of Shree Cement and Ashwin Dani of Asian Paints. “The government’s infrastructure push and housing-for-all policy boosted cement and paint fortunes,” notes the magazine. Bangur has catapulted into the top 20 for the first with a fortune of $5.9 billion and is at 14th spot. He witnessed his welath rise by $2 billion and Dani by more than $1 billion due to the rise in the prices of their shares.

7) 4 women in the list: There are five women in the list. They are Savitri Jindal (rank 19, $5.3 billion); Vinod Rai Gupta of Havells (rank 46, $2.5 billion); Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon (rank 65, $1.83 billion); and Leena Tewari who chiars privately held pharma company USV India (rank 79, $1.6 billion).

21st of every month to be celebrated as Yoga Day in Maharashtra: Minister

Maharashtra government has decided to celebrate the 21st day of every month as Yoga day across all schools, colleges and universities in the state.State School and Higher Education minister Vinod Tawde had recently held a meeting with yoga institutions like Shri Shri Ravishankar’s Art of Living, Ramdev Baba’s Patanjali Yog Samiti, Samarth Vyayam Mandir Bharat Swabhiman Nyas and others to moot various ways to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21 on a grand scale at district levels.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In the meeting it has also been decided that 21st of every month will be celebrated as Yoga day across all schools, colleges and universities of Maharashtra,” he said.It is also decided that every district will have to set up a Yoga Day committee at their levels to plan ‘Yoga Mahostav’ (Yoga Festival) every year in between January 12-21 and a separate committee at the state level will monitor and coordinate with these committees, the minister said.Schools, colleges, technical and medical colleges in the state will help promote and disseminate yoga at district levels for these 10 days during the festival, Tawde said.He also appealed to yoga institutions to help in the promotion and dissemination of Yoga therapy.”Swami Vivekanand’s birth anniversary, January 12, is celebrated as Yuvak Din (Youth Day) in the country. So during 10 days from January 12 to 21, all schools and colleges will have to organise Yoga Festival aiming to spread Yoga therapy in 40,000 villages across the state,” Tawde said.

Ayush ministry raises curtains on international yoga day, stresses on the science behind yoga

Mass yoga demonstration in Chandigarh, an expected turnout of 25,000 to 30,000 people, seven points for demonstration of yoga across Delhi, and multiple events on various scales planned for the rest of the country and the world; the Ministry of Ayush officially raised the curtain on the massive events planned for the upcoming International Day of Yoga (IDY) 2016, held on June 21. The plans were revealed on Wednesday at a conference dedicated to the scientific research proving health benefits of yoga, chaired by the Minister for Ayush, Shripad Yesso Naik, and other ministry officials.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yoga has also found an honourable mention in the joint US-India statement issued on June 7, during PM Modi’s trip to the US, where leaders of both countries recognised yoga’s importance in curving the rising threat of Non-Communicable Disease.Preceding the June 21 celebrations, there will be a Chandigarh yoga festival from June 10-12, where Baba Ramdev will hold the concluding session; post IDY there will be a two-day international conference on yoga held by the ministry. The Ministry of external affairs has been working with UN members, and 173 Indian missions abroad have drafted plans for yoga day celebrations; celebrities from different countries are being roped in to take part; 100 RWAs each in “metropolitan” cities will be trained in yoga; industry bodies such as CII, ASSOCHAM, Ficci, PHD Chamber of Commerce, have been requested to encourage their members to participate.However, the ministry doesn’t want to sound too ambitious. “We set two world records last year, we’re not looking at records this year,” said Ajit Sharan, Secretary, Ayush.The conference for the press, however, was to give a serious push to the “large number of inter-disciplinary researches in different fields”, as the minister said. Secretary, Ayush, Ajit Sharan too assured the audience that the panellists he introduced were the “top experts in the country”. These included Dr Shirley Telles, Director of the Patanjali Research Foundation, Dr SC Manchanda a cardiologist associated with AIIMS and Ganga Ram, Dr Usha Kiran, a Brahma Kumari member with AIIMS’ Department of Cardiac-Anaesthesia and Dr HR Nagendra, Chancellor, S-VYASA University.Dr Narayan is also the head of the expert committee created for the IDY 2016.Here were efforts to combine the science with the “spirituality” of yoga, rather than “religiosity”. However, while fielding questions Naik said that yoga without om was incomplete, and they were talking to those “opposed” to om being chanted.However, during her presentation Dr Tell is said that whether one chants “Om or Ave Maria”, the act of deep breathing and prolonged exhalation helped the body relax. Tellis also spoke at length of yoga’s uses in cooing with mental illnesses, whether among stressed out students, overworked school teachers with low salaries, army men who had to stay “alert and relaxed”, and survivors of natural disasters suffering from PTSD. Some of her studies are based in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and floods in Bihar. Dr Manchanda spoke of his work on reversing heart disease through yoga that he said has gained acceptance over by cardiologists communities in the West.There was much emphasis on these studies and bodies of research being conducted along with premier American universities — Harvard and UCLA found mentions in various presentations — and Manchanda pointed out that recent research had gained legitimacy as it was fine through randomised control trials.

Include yoga modules in Physiotherapy courses: UGC to varsities

The University Grants Commission on Thursday asked Central Universities to include modules of yoga teaching and training in their Bachelor’s and Master’s courses in Physiotherapy.In a communication to Vice Chancellors today, UGC secretary Jaspal S Sandhu referred to a a letter received from the Union HRD ministry seeking inclusion of yoga in Bachelors and Masters of Physiotherapy courses from the forthcoming academic session. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Last week Joint Secretary in HRD ministry Ishita Roy had written to the UGC secretary in this regard and also informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has desired that the possibility of giving preference to candidates with requisite knowledge of yoga, should be explored.
ALSO READ India inks historic pact with WHO to promote yoga, Ayurveda The Modi government also wants Universities to explore the possibility of a giving preference to candidates who have a certain level of expertise in yoga for admission to the Bachelor’s course in Physiotherapy. Earlier, a government appointed committee on Yoga Education in Universities, headed by HR Nagendra, who is also considered to be the Prime Minister’s yoga guru, had recommended yoga syllabus for a 4 year Bachelor’s course and a 2 year Masters course in physiotherapy. The committee had made several recommendations related to setting up of Yoga departments in Universities. Significantly, it had also recommended that expertise of Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth, S-VYASA Yoga University headed by Nagendra and some other institutes could be used for setting up of these departments.

After bonhomie with Lalu Prasad, Ramdev meets Mulayam Singh, Akhilesh Yadav

Yoga guru Ramdev on Sunday met ruling Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav here days after meeting RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
ALSO READ Lalu models for Ramdev’s Patanjali cream, says people are jealous of yoga guru’s success Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was also present during the meeting, SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said, adding that the Yoga guru lauded the work undertaken by the state government. He appreciated certain welfare and development schemes being undertaken in the state, Chaudhary claimed, describing the meeting as a courtesy call. Ramdev was in the state capital to meet Sahara chief Subrata Roy, who lost his mother recently.

‘Oral history’: Four things you can learn about India through a tube of toothpaste

Baba Ramdev’s call for “deshbhakt” Indians to choose his Dant Kanti toothpaste raises an intriguing question.

How much do patriots know about dental health in India? Probably very little. Many people think dentists are boring and consider toothpaste banal.

Think again. From the ironies of history to the marketing tactics of today, dentistry and its discontents offer some compelling lessons. Oral hygiene also provides vital clues to economic and gender disparities. Here are four things you can learn about India through a tube of toothpaste.

1. ICE CREAM IS A CATALYST

India’s history of modern dentistry springs from a curious fact. It is intimately connected with ice cream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

India’s history of modern dentistry begins with a curious fact

Rewind to 1909, and follow the steps of Rafiuddin Ahmed. Seeking an education in the United States, this restless young man from Bengal talks his way onto an Italian ship bound for New York. After making contact with Irish activists at the NYC office of Friends of Freedom for India, he aims for a degree in dentistry at the State University of Iowa – mostly because the fees are cheaper and he can find plenty of part-time work. One summer, a friend invites him to work at an ice cream plant and soda fountain at a luxury resort at Spirit Lake, Iowa.

That creamy apprenticeship proves crucial. When Dr Ahmed finally graduates, heads home, and sets up a dental practice in Calcutta in 1920, he also launches an ice cream parlour. Dr Ahmed calls it “New York Soda Fountain,” possibly in homage to the iconic chain of Schrafft’s — where pretty Irish waitresses caught the eye of their compatriots at the Friends of Freedom for India. The idea was to funnel ice cream profits into subsidies for India’s first dental college, which takes off in Dr Ahmed’s private chambers.

Located in the teeming Dharmatala area, New York Soda Fountain quickly finds fans among middle class Bengalis. Bearers wear white uniforms. Vanilla and mango flavours are popular. Sometimes Dr Ahmed himself scoops ice cream at the counter, and supervises the vendors in Howrah and Sealdah stations.

“Boozers really liked that ice cream soda. It covered the bad odour of country liquor,” recalls novelist Supriyo Chowdhury.

Was it all a case of sophisticated backward integration? In other words, did Dr Ahmed know that the refined sugar in ice cream could cause cavities, and thus help his dental practice to flourish?

Nothing of the kind, responds his family. “That didn’t strike him at all. Now, we know that ice cream and cold drinks cause cavities. Had he known, he would have done things differently,” says Dr Zarina Aliya, a dental surgeon in Baruipur and granddaughter of Dr Ahmed.

“This was a time of entrepreneurship,” she adds. “He was a very self-made man. He wanted every citizen to get good dental treatment. Dentistry was chiefly for the rich and famous in those days.”

Dr Ahmed’s name adorns the biggest government college of dentistry in Kolkata, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has decreed free treatment for all. But the wholesome nature of New York Soda Fountain curdled in the 1960s, long after Dr Ahmed turned it over to new owners. (He passed away in 1965.) It became a rendezvous site for prostitutes and traders, as well as a louche hang-out for many artists, such as Ganesh Pyne and Shuvaprasanna Bhattacharya.

“It was a great meeting point. New York Soda Fountain was the center of our time,” says Bhattacharya, who cooled his heels there from 1965 to 1979. By that time, the place had phased out ice cream and emphasised snacks like fish fry. Then it closed down. Today, the space is occupied by a mattress store. Its name, “Foam Junction,” still bears a trace of that bubbly ice cream soda.

Among multinationals, Hindustan Unilever Limited stands out for its continuing fondness for the toothpaste and ice cream combo. According to Euromonitor International, HUL’s Close-up and Signal figure among the top four toothpaste brands in India. At the same time, Unilever is flogging Kwality Wall’s ice cream and Cornetto, along with the more patrician Magnum ice cream.

2. RURAL MARKETING REQUIRES SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT

One day in Orissa, villagers came upon a giant fake tooth displayed in an open field. Two teams were assembled. One was given shields and assigned to protect the tooth. The other team pelted the tooth with little white balls, seeking to overwhelm the defense. The skirmish ended with a friendly group photo, swiftly enlarged into a billboard. “This village is Calci-Locked!” said the sign. The digital smiles masked a silent message: No Trespassing on Colgate Turf.

In India, Colgate is trying hard to shield its whopping 54 percent market share. Last year, to counter a Dabur surge in Orissa, rural marketers from Mumbai-based Anugrah Madison implemented this surreal campaign, which recently won a Silver Medal from the Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI). Colgate “wanted to go very aggressive in terms of reaching out to consumers,” explains Prashant Mandke, head of the rural marketing firm. Extending to some 400 villages, the initiative also included a mobile phone twist. Winners received a 20-rupee top-up if they answered questions correctly about Colgate through IVR, an automated voice recording.

Aural recall packs more punch than the written word.

“SMS is not the answer. The answer is IVR, as they are able to listen to something,” says RMAI president Sanjay Kaul. Alternatively, call centers staffed with dentists proved unprofitable and unworkable due to the high volume of calls, says Girish Chaturvedi at netCORE, a communications and marketing firm.

But most analysts argue that low-cost phone tactics alone will not sway the masses — whatever product is on offer. “If you start with mobile, it would not work. Indian consumers are more prone to like face-to- face interaction. People like to touch the product,” says Abhishek A, assistant professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

That’s why marketing teams are still buzzing around India, actively engaging consumers in quizzes, magic shows, railway car surveys, and giveaways at religious gatherings. Follow-up comes via phone. “Activation is creating the need. Mobile is establishing the brand,” chants Chaturvedi.

3. STRONG ATTACHMENT TO TRADITION CAN BEDEVIL OR BENEFIT MODERN BRANDS

James Wynbrandt makes an important point at the start of his entertaining book, The Excruciating History of Dentistry. “As civilisation arose, differences in diets of the wealthy and poor were evidenced in the state of their teeth. Typically, the richer the individual, the poorer their oral health, as decay made inroads in the human mouth,” Wynbrandt writes.

India was no exception. In poor rural areas, the traditionally low intake of refined sugars and the protective qualities of neem enhanced bright smiles. The custom of chewing a neem twig survives in many places today, despite the onslaught of mass-produced brushes and toothpaste. “It’s a very good agent for binding gums with teeth. This is the knowledge that has been passed down for generations,” notes IIMA assistant professor Abhishek. In devotional stories and songs, Radha invites Krishna to clean his teeth with a twig.

“It’s tasty. It’s cheaper,” says 30 year old Shiv Prasad, a Bihari who earns Rs 6,500 per month at the Alliance Jute Mill in Jagatdal, West Bengal. He buys seven twigs for three rupees from Upinder, a 75-year- old Bihari who chops neem twigs in front of the mill’s blue gate. A dense crowd of men jostle for their twigs. “Poor people don’t have the money to buy Colgate,” says Upinder.

According to RMAI, some 250 million Indians do not use toothpaste. “The deeper you go in the market, the higher the resistance to change,” notes Ankur Bisen, senior vice president at Technopak. Some families prefer ash made of burned rice husks, cow dung, or other ingredients, both for cleaning the teeth and applying a lingering gum massage. While the abrasive twigs and ash can harm tooth enamel or make gums bleed, the same holds for overly vigorous encounters with a toothbrush. “More harm is done every day, with people not aware of the particular way of brushing,” says Dr Barin Roy, a senior dentist in Kolkata who applied his talents to ministers and poets alike.

In the global context, India’s per capita consumption of toothpaste is “pathetically low,” as described by one industry veteran. According to Euromonitor International, India consumes just a quarter of the toothpaste used per capita in Brazil, and just half of that in China. Nielsen India reports that urban per capita toothpaste consumption stands at 270 grams, compared to 85 grams in rural areas.

But diets are changing. Sugary biscuits, colas, syrups, ice cream, and other dental enemies are vigorously marching through villages, having triumphed in Indian cities. Meanwhile, city travel and overseas migration have also spurred adoption of mass-produced toothbrush and toothpaste back in the village, says Anju Joseph, chief operating officer at Quantum Qualitative Research.

Still, the twig carries a certain element of style, especially for the male population — much like a rapper’s toothpick.

“Have you noticed that guys like to walk around the village and chew on twigs? You can’t do that with a mouth full of foam,” says Kolkata-based author Rimi Chatterjee.

4. WOMEN REQUIRE MORE FREEDOM AND CAPITAL TO PRACTICE THEIR PROFESSION

The Indian Dental Association (IDA) has some surprising statistics up its sleeve. According to Dr Ashok Dhoble, secretary general of the IDA, 80-90 percent of recent dental graduates are women.

The number of dental colleges in India has tripled over the last decade, now topping 300. But out of India’s 25,000 dental students who pass out each year, only about 10,000 people choose to practice dentistry, says Dr Alias Thomas, former IDA president.

Many women graduates face considerable pressure to renounce a dental career and focus on their spouses and children. The steep costs of setting up a high-tech solo practice, combined with the low salaries offered in a group practice, also serve as twin disincentives. Surely, Dr Ahmed would mourn this turn of events. It’s a great loss in human resources.

Meanwhile, less than 20 percent of India’s 1 lakh 25,000 trained dentists are practicing in the countryside. That leaves considerable room for quacks.

Only 4 percent of the Indian population visited a trained dentist last year. But that figure wouldn’t bother Baba Ramdev, who does not seem fond of men in white coats. Ditto for purveyors of Dant Kanti. “All the dental problems have been solved with this. You need not go to the dentist,” advises Sadashiva Johari, manager of Patanjali Chikitsalaya in Bangalore’s HSR Layout.

Margot Cohen is a writer from New York. Her interest in India follows previous reporting stints in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

MSG for equality: Gurmeet Ram Rahim favours entry of women into all religious places

Dera Sacha Sauda sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh today favoured entry of women into religious places where it is banned. “Male cannot exist without women, so why discriminate. A boy or girl are both borne by the mother in her womb. Why selectively disallow women,” the Dera chief said. He also took a dig on yoga guru Ramdev who had recently said he “slammed the gate on Colgate” and “doubled the turnover” on Patanjali products. “It is a buyer-driven market. In the end the customer chooses what he uses and whom he slams the gate on,” the Dera chief said.

Lalu models for Ramdev’s Patanjali cream, says people are jealous of yoga guru’s success

An unlikely bonhomie was seen between yoga guru Ramdev and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav on Wednesday morning. While Ramdev demonstrated Patanjali brand gold cream by dabbing it on Lalu’s face, the former Bihar CM lavishly praised the yoga guru’s products. Lalu had invited Ramdev for a yoga session, according to reports but it became a promotion for Patanjali products. Ramdev tweeted that he gifted Patanjali products to Lalu Prasad Yadav. He rubbed gold cream on Yadav’s forehead and claimed that skin glows like gold after using the product. Lalu on his part endorsed Patanjali soaps and was quoted saying by NDTV: “In normal soaps, there is excess soda, but not Ramdev’s soap. It will keep the skin healthy”. He also said that the soaps had milk from his cows!<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lalu added that he is a permanent brand ambassador of Patanjali. He also accused people of hatching a conspiracy against Ramdev as they were jealous of the yoga guru. Lalu and Ramdev haven’t enjoyed the best of the relationships in the past and last year the former Bihar CM took a jibe saying, “Ramdev said he will do yogasan in Ramlila Maidan. When the police came, he did kudasan” . Ramdev is widely perceived to be close to BJP, and Lalu is known to be a staunch opponent of the saffron party. But despite their ideological differences, it seems like Lalu is clearly bowled over by Patanjali products. Patanjali Ayurved reported a turnover of Rs 5000 crore in the last fiscal. It is planning to invest Rs 1150 crore in this financial year to set up six processing unit. and aims to double its turnover this year.

Crowd funding: Why its dangers outweigh the potential benefits in India

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seems to be more convinced about the need for P2P (peer to peer) crowd sourcing borrowings model unlike market regulator, Sebi, which seems to have reservations about the model. At least, that’s the impression one gets going by the clarity with which, the RBI, has spoken on the issue in its recent discussion paper.

The 2014 Sebi discussion paper on crowd sourcing of equity discusses the pros and cons of the model, between the need for an additional source of finance and the possible misuse of this platform by money launderers.

Image courtesy: IbnliveImage courtesy: Ibnlive

Image courtesy: News 18

The Sebi’s reservations on the equity part of crowd funding is understandable. The country, has before it, the examples of two yoga guru Baba Ramdev and spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravishanker. As Somasekar Sundaresan puts it in this () Business Standard edit piece these Gurus first won the mind share of their followers before winning market share.

Indeed if you win the confidence of your followers, the rest-including the crowd sourcing of your fund requirements—becomes easy. But the catch lies precisely here. Are the beholden if not benighted followers aware whether the financial contributions made by them to Patanjali and Sri Sri Ayurved are debts or equity?

The Sebi paper highlights a problem in this regard—there is a limit of 200 subscribers to private placements. One wonders if the two ayurved chains would breach this limit in case what they have sourced is equity. The point is while angel investors, private equity and venture finance are all well regulated, crowd sourcing remains in the realm of the unknown as far as India is concerned.

There is an additional danger in this Indian context—-the trust and confidence commanded by spiritual leaders can be misused by others. For example, there is an apprehension that the Sumeru group controlled by Sri Sri Ravishanker’s nephew is making the maximum by riding piggyback on the guru’s popularity by just about supplying everything ranging from products to software for Sri Sri Ayurved in what could be viewed as a case of conflict of interest.

The market share seems to be a good idea but it could also amount to browbeating the followers into financing willy-nilly. And apart from this, the danger of money laundering also lurks given the fact that a shark may become a part of the crowd and escape scrutiny. This danger is there for both debt (RBI) and equity (SEBI) forms of crowd.

The P2P model contemplated by the RBI sets store by the marketplace template, the one the Industries and Commerce Ministry endorsed a month ago for e-commerce. Portals bringing lenders and borrowers together are currently estimated to be between 20 and 30. RBI wants these and other wannbe facilitators to have a minimum net worth of Rs 2 crore besides meeting the ‘fit and proper’ person criteria.

Since the facilitators are not permitting to accept deposits and lend but only act as online brokers for fees, they have been spared of the burden of provisioning, capital adequacy etc, and rightly so. Yet, warning bells are sounding which can be ignored only at our own peril. Ezubao, a Chinese portal became insolvent running what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme in an unregulated environment.

The point is crowd sourcing is not what the doctor has ordered for a financial system that is entirely mainstream but considerably interwoven with black money seeking laundering. Both the RBI (lending) and the SEBI (equity in the anvil) will have to contend with this danger.

While China and South Korea might pay a price for turning a blind eye, Israel and Japan have sternly put their foot down to crowd funding (mis)adventure. Probably, the interest of the lenders weighed with these two countries more. In India, apart from the money laundering concerns, the other concern is will our online lenders who simply have to go by the intermediary role of the facilitator’s portal in terms of appraisal of the borrower, his credit worthiness and collection be hurt?

The RBI must join the SEBI in putting off crowd funding till India is ready for the model. The RBI seems to feel the country is ready and in fact badly needs a P2P lending model because the banking, NBFC and microfinance sectors all put together are unable to meet the gargantuan (in aggregate) financial requirements of the SME sector. In other words, according to it, there is a void which P2P online aggregators can fulfill. But it seems to have ignored the two concerns highlighted in this article.

Meanwhile those who have mobilized equity through crowd sourcing must be asked to keep the funds as unsecured loans unless they are donations. Private placement norms must be strictly asked to be adhered to; else money returned.

Baba Ramdev’s food park gets 24X7 CISF cover

Paramilitary force CISF has started providing full-time security cover to yoga guru Ramdev’s food park in Haridwar and deployed close to three dozen armed commandos at the facility. Officials said a contingent of 34 commandos, under the charge of an Assistant Commandant-rank officer, took charge at the facility on March 22 following Union Home Ministry’s order for 24X7 security deployment early this year.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Such security cover has so far been extended by the Centre to only a handful of private entities such as Infosys. Senior officials said Patanjali Food and Herbal Park Private Limited has provided the logistics, including barracks for accommodating the personnel as part of the “fully paid” deployment. Officials had earlier said expenditure on security deployment at the multi-acre food park was estimated at around Rs 40 lakh per annum and all logistical facilities like barracks, armoury and vehicles will be provided for by the “client”.A contingent of the Central Industrial Security Force had been deployed at the facility in the middle of last year for “temporary” security duty after protests erupted there and, early this year, the Home Ministry ordered “permanent” deployment of the force in view of potential security threats to it. Full-time CISF cover is accorded by the central government very sparingly to the private sector and it is eighth such deployment. The paramilitary was first mandated for such task in the private sector in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
ALSO READ Complaint against Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali product filed in Rajasthan courtRamdev, a yoga exponent who has set up a business empire worth thousands of crores of rupees in personal care and food products sector, is himself a ‘Z’ category protectee of central paramilitary forces.The sophisticated weapons-toting CISF commando squad has been deployed on a ‘quick reaction team’ pattern which entails stationing them at vantage positions in the facility. The teams react like they would in the wake of any terrorist attack or sabotage. The routine entry to and exit from the facility will be regulated by the staff and private security hired by Patanjali.
ALSO READ Patanjali to invest Rs 1,000 crore in 2016; focus on expansion, e-commerce, exports: Ramdev BabaA security and intelligence audit had earlier found that the food park faced threat as it was visited by tourists, both foreign and domestic, and was vulnerable from the point of view of local law and order disturbances as witnessed in June last year.CISF was tasked to secure private sector entities after the government brought an amendment to the Act post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The other seven concerns in the private sector guarded by the CISF are Electronics City Bengaluru, Infosys campuses in Bengaluru, Mysore and Pune, Reliance Refinery and Petrochemicals in Jamnagar, Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd project executed by the Tata group in Mundra and the Tata Steel project based in Odisha’s Kalinganagar.

Uttarakhand crisis: Baba Ramdev cries foul; advises Sonia, Rahul Gandhi to take stock of situation

Rubbishing all allegations levelled against him by the Congress, yoga guru Baba Ramdev on Friday said that he has nothing to do with the ongoing political crisis in Uttarakhand, adding that if he had to challenge the grand old party then he would do it openly.Ramdev told ANI that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi should not blame him for their incompetence while advising the mother-son duo to bring the present political instability in the hilly state under control.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I have nothing to do with the political crisis which the Congress is suffering in Uttarakhand. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should take stock of the situation in Uttarakhand and control it. I have never done anything under cover or behind anyone’s back, I have always been blatant in my speech and open about my endeavour. If I want to stand against Congress or challenge it, I will do it openly,” he said.”Anyway I have withdrawn myself from politics. Currently, I am concentrating on promoting yoga and ayurveda. The Congress should behave sensibly, neither should they provoke me uselessly nor they should level false allegations against me,” he added.The yoga guru categorically stated that he did not believe in politics of revenge.”As far as the cases on Patanjali are concerned, they are presently in court and no political can do anything in that. I have full trust in the judiciary of the country. I have never done anything wrong. So, why will anything wrong happen to me? Patanjali cases have nothing to do with the ongoing political crisis in the country,” he said.Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress president Kishore Upadhyay on Thursday dragged Ramdev and accused him of hatching a conspiracy jointly with BJP leadership to topple the state government in Uttarakhand.The Congress alleged that the yoga guru and BJP chief Amit Shah had chalked a plot together to dislodge the state government and the rebellion against Harish Rawat by the party’s MLAs was a result of the same strategy. Upadhyay had also claimed that that he had enough evidence to substantiate his allegations.

Blast in Meghalaya leaves at least two dead

He said the Superintendent of Police was supervising the operations at the site. According to the IG, GNLA cadre Ajan Ch Momin alias Jimmy, who is in charge of Williamnagar “command”, sent his cadres to trigger the IED blast.
A manhunt has been launched to nab the culprits, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

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