Deciphering Patanjali’s disruptive marketing and media strategy

Patanjali has emerged as India’s fastest growing FMCG company. In the last 18 months, it has seen phenomenal growth and has been among the top five advertisers for quite some time. In a special session at the recently concluded ad:tech conference in Gurugram last week, the spotlight was on Patanjali’s disruptive marketing and media strategy, as well as how the company has used mobile gaming to reach out to its digital consumers. 

Rohit Sharma, Founder & CEO, POKKT, engaged Avinash Kumar, Head of Marketing, Patanjali, in a fireside chat, where the two discussed a wide range of topics, including marketing innovations being done at Patanjali, adaption of digital tools by marketers, how brands are embracing mobile in their overall marketing plans and how they look at gaming as a genre. The two also dwelled on whether niche is becoming mainstream in digital. 

According to Avinash Kumar, “For every big idea there is a place, and the first thing that one needs to do is to identify that idea. For long, here has been a perception that anything Indian is of substandard quality. Keeping this thought in mind, Baba Ramdev came up with the solution of making a product that is word class and then put a price to it which is very affordable. This is a product with no rich-poor divide. My driver and I use the same toothpaste.” 

Speaking about Patanjali’s revenue growth, Kumar informed that in 2011 and 2012, Patanjali had garnered Rs 456 crore in revenues, the following year he revenues had gone up to Rs 1,000 crore and Rs 2,000 crore in 2015. In 2016, the revenues had touched Rs 5,000 crore. “Till the time we reached Rs 2,000 crore, we had not spent a single rupee on advertisements. I joined Patanjali on November 2, 2015, and till that time we never used to come on TV. So, we started with that and on November 16 we came up with a campaign. Within four and a half months, we made primary sales of Rs 2,200 crore.” 

He stressed that building trust has always been an important factor for Patanjali, which has clicked with the consumers. Having Baba Ramdev as the brand ambassador has further grown that trust. “If you look at our campaigns, we don’t have any fancy brand ambassadors. We convey information about our products and this information differentiates between what you have already used and what you don’t use,” Kumar added. Another factor that has contributed to Patanjali’s growth has been understanding the Indian buying cycle. 

The marketing muscle 

Kumar said that at Patanjali, instead of discussing about what Hindustan Unilever or other brands were doing, the focus remains on how to expand the Patanjali brand. The biggest worry is keeping up with the consumer demand. Citing the example of Patanjali’s Dant Kanti Toothpaste, Kumar said that in November 2015, 6 lakh tubes of Dant Kanti Toothpaste used to be everyday, whereas the per day demand was 11 lakh tubes, hence the shortfall was 5 lakh tubes. “By January 2016, we started producing 15 lakh tubes and today we produce 50 lakh tubes every day, and yet we still can’t fulfill the demand. We produce almost 6,000 tons of shampoo everyday; in 2015 when I had joined, the production was 800 tons. We are in the process of setting up three new plants in different places,” he added. 

Speaking about HUL, Kumar remarked that their topline was not increasing, even as there was pressure from the parent company to increase their bottomline. “So, they don’t reduce the price, but smartly reduce the quantity and that goes unnoticed. At Patanjali, we don’t give schemes but increase the quantity at the same price as we know that our products have the power and people don’t not buy them because we have some scheme,” he affirmed. 

On digital media as a platform 

Kumar further said that Patanjali does not spend crores on advertisements. “That is the belief of the competition and they do benchmarking of what price they have paid for advertising. When we started with advertising, we spent Rs 600 crore for making Rs 5,000 crore, which is not very great. We spent 33 per cent of the figure that the industry was quoting. We have something called ‘local intelligence’ and it is something you can gather only when you connect with your customers directly,” he pointed out. 

He further said that there are brands that have been present in the market for 30 years or more, whereas Patanjali entered the market only four years ago. But in this short span, the company has realised that with growing consumer demand, there is a need to find out innovative ways and means to disseminate its intelligence. 

While remarking that digital is for the intelligent people and also has a lot of challenges, Kumar added, “If you look at the connections, 90 per cent of them are from top eight cities only. If you clearly take a look at Patanjali’s products, they say ‘Made in Bharat’. We are talking about Bharat. Bharat includes India, but India does not include Bharat. India is mostly comprises people who use smartphones, people who speak English and people who are conversant with technology. What I understood was that engineers have a different set of problems and a different set of choices, they are so much into the product that they forget what feature is important for the product. You want your customer to be technology-centric, while you yourself are not customer-centric when you are going digital. That is why we have not got into digital.” 

Not a lot of people have approached Patanjali to start a digital campaign; Rohit Sharma and his team at POKKT were the first to approach the brand. Sharing his experiences, Sharma said, “At Patanjali, you are dealing with two people – Aacharya ji and Baba Ramdev – who have been brought up on traditional media. So, they have a better understanding of TV and newspapers. According to them, not much would be achieved through digital. We started our first video campaign on September 1, 2016, which was for Patanjali’s child care range and high-end cosmetics. The results that we are getting have been very encouraging.”


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