In recent decades, the dependence on established medical disciplines has begun to be challenged. There is the oft-quoted dictum that healthcare sector tends to illness rather than health. Another saying goes that some of the food you eat keeps you in good health, but most of what you eat keeps your doctor in good health. With a gap emerging between wellness-seekers and the healthcare sector, so-called “alternative” options are stepping in.
Some of these alternatives actually existed as well-structured and well-documented traditional medical practices for thousands of years before the introduction of more recent Western medical disciplines. This includes India’s Siddha system and Ayurved (literally, “science of life”), which certainly don’t deserve being relegated to an “alternative” footnote. Ayurved is also said to have influenced medicine in China over a millennium ago, through the translation of Indian medical texts into Chinese.
Other than these, there are also more recent inventions riding the “wellness” buzzword. These may draw from the traditional systems and texts, or be built upon new pharmaceutical or nutraceutical formulations. Broader wellness regimens – much like Ayurved and Siddha – blend two or more elements from the following basket: food choices and restrictions, minerals, extracts and supplements, physical exercise and perhaps some form of meditative practices. Wellness, thus, is often characterised by a mix-and-match based on individual choices and conveniences, spiked with celebrity influences.
A key premise driving the wellness sector is that modern medicine depends too heavily on attacking specific issues with single chemicals (drugs) or combinations of single chemicals that are either isolated or synthesised in laboratories, and that it ignores the diversity and complexity of factors contributing to health and well-being. The second major premise for many wellness practitioners (though not all!) is that, provided the right conditions, the body can heal itself. For the consumer the reasons for the surge in demand for traditional wellness solutions include escalating costs of conventional health care, the adverse effects of allopathic drugs, and increasing lifestyle disorders.
After food, wellness has turned into possibly one of the largest consumer industries on the planet. Global pharmaceutical sales are estimated at over US$ 1.1 trillion. In contrast, according to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness market dwarfs this, estimated at US$ 3.7 trillion (2015). This figure includes a vast range of services such as beauty and anti-ageing, nutrition and weight loss, wellness tourism, fitness and mind-body, preventative and personalized medicine, wellness lifestyle real estate, spa industry, thermal/mineral springs, and workplace wellness. Within this, the so-called “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” is estimated to be about US$200 billion.
There are several reasons why “complementary and alternative medicine” sales are not yet larger. Rooted in economically backward countries such as India, these have been seen as outdated, less effective and even unscientific. In India, the home of Siddha and Ayurved, apart from individual practitioners, several companies such as Baidyanath, Dabur, Himalaya and others were active in the market for decades, but were usually seen as stodgy and products of need, and usually limited to people of the older generations and rural populations. In the West they typically attracted a fringe customer base, or were a last resort for patients who did not find a solution for their specific problem in modern allopathy and hospitals.
However, through the 1970s Ayurved gained in prominence in the West, riding on the New Age movement. Gradually, in recent decades proponents turned to modern production techniques, slick packaging and up-to-date marketing, and even local cultivation in the West of medicinal plants taken from India.
As wellness demonstrated an increasingly profitable vector in the West, Indian entrepreneurs, too, have taken note of this opportunity. Perhaps Shahnaz Husain was one of the earliest movers in the beauty segment, followed by Biotique in the early-1990s that developed a brand driven not just by a specific need but by desire and an approach that was distinctly anti-commodity, the characteristics of any successful brand. Others followed, including FMCG companies such as the multinational giant Unilever. The last decade-and-a-half has also brought the phenomenon called Patanjali, a brand that began with Ayurvedic products and grew into an FMCG and packaged food-empire faster than any other brand before! While a few giants have emerged, the market is still evolving, allowing other brands to develop, whether as standalone names or as extensions of spiritual and holistic healing foundations, such as Sri Sri Tattva, Isha Arogya and others.
An absolutely critical driver of this growth in the Indian market now is the generation that has grown up during the last 25-30 years. It is a class that is driven by choice and modern consumerism, but that also wishes to reconnect with its spiritual and cultural roots. This group is aware of global trends but takes pride in home-grown successes. It is comfortable blending global branded sportswear with yoga or using an Indian ayurvedic treatment alongside an international beauty product.
Of course, there is a faddish dimension to the wellness phenomenon, and it is open to exploitation by poor or ineffective products, non-standard and unscientific treatments, entirely outrageous efficacy claims, and price-gouging.
To remain on course and strengthen, the wellness movement will need structured scientific assessment and development at a larger scale, a move that will need both industry and government to work closely together. Traditional texts would need to be recast in modern scientific frameworks, supported by robust testing and validation. Education needs to be strengthened, as does the use of technology.
However the industry and the government move, from the consumer’s point-of-view the juggernaut is now rolling.
(An edited version of this piece was published in Brand Wagon, Financial Express.)
Written By Deepti Govind
Bengaluru: Reebok India Co. launched its seventh exclusive brand store in Bengaluru on Monday evening and plans to add five more over the next year in the city, a top executive said. Bengaluru, along with Mumbai and Delhi, have been identified as priority markets by Reebok, owned by German sports shoe maker Adidas AG, as part of its efforts to revive sales and profitability in India.
Written By Sulekha Nair
Many experts feel by giving the startup sector the required boost and making the entrepreneurs’ life easier, Modi will be able to meet his election promise
With less than two years to go for the next general election, the government’s report card has become too unpleasant with failures at multiple levels. The economic situation is so bad that State Bank of India in a recent report pointed out that slowdown that is now experienced is real and not technical. Many economists have called for more public spending to arrest the slide.
Clearly, the biggest blot on the government as of now is the miserable failure in keeping the promise to create millions of jobs. According to Mahesh Vyas of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, about 1.5 million jobswere lost during January-April 2017.
The estimated total employment during the period was 405 million compared to 406.5 million during the preceding four months, September-December 2017.
You need not look elsewhere for the reasons for this grim situation. It is the government’s own policies – especially the demonetisation and a hasty rollout of goods and services tax. Both have broken the back of the small and medium enterprises, which form the biggest employers in the country.
This shoddy record on jobs is likely to come back to haunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he returns to the people seeking votes in 2019. And the fear of a backlash is palpable in the party. That is precisely the reason why the government is now planning a stimulus package for the economy.
When the government announces the stimulus, one sector that is looking up for a handholding is the startup sector, which has been facing a lot of pain-points despite the government’s Startup India, Digital India programmes. Analysts feel this sector, which has potential to create jobs, needs to get more than a mere dekko from the package, said analyst.
Startups solve many problems that the big companies are loathe to and are also job creators. The environment has not been ‘friendly’ despite the claims to the contrary, observed industry experts.
Startups deserve a lot more than what has been given so far, said Devanghsu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a consulting firm focused on retail and consumer products sectors. He says the best stimulus package the government could offer is to create an environment in which it is easy to do business. The number of compliances required to run a business is humongous.
“How do you expect a startup that is running with minimal staff to find the time and resource to finish this lengthy process? A disproportionate time, money and resources are spent to get all the compliances. This only affect companies that want to remain compliant though,” he remarks.
A recent NITI Aayog report said the average time taken to incorporate a company in the country is 118 days. This is against the claims that this has now been reduced to less than a week.
Another issue is not only starting up but also about shutting down. Startups find that even after they have shut shop, there are detailed processes that takes a couple of years before they can shut down.
Harish HV, Partner, India Leadership Team, Grant Thornton India LLP, wants the government’s package to make it easier for startups to shut down so that they can work on a new idea and startup again. “Do you know how difficult it is to shut down a business and start up again? Many big businesses did that before becoming the huge companies that they are now,” he said, adding that bankruptcy is not the best way to do it.
Many experts say that by giving the startup sector the required boost and making the entrepreneurs’ life easier, Modi will be able to meet his election promise.
The country is not short of labour, says Ashish Kohli, CEO, SME Finance at Anand Rathi Global Finance Ltd. “The government should come with reforms that give work if only as volunteers in government NGOs so that people can contribute,” he said. He says reforms package announcements and what happens on the ground are two different things.
“The government should take away the unnecessary laws that make it difficult for startups and SMEs to function. You have the bankruptcy law, the debt tribunals and NCLT. But who will educate small entrepreneurs about them? This is a country where the Mallyas will run away taking huge loans from banks while the small entrepreneurs find it difficult to get loans.”
The government’s ease of doing business has been anything but that for entrepreneurs. A few of them even told Firstpost on condition of anonymity about the difficulties they face when they try to log in online or talk about the various compliances that take away their time and energy. All these when they have left their comfortable jobs only to pursue their business ideas. Though taxation has been simplified, there are a few states in the country where warehouses and logistics are still taxed separately, they said.
The government should consider giving incentives to products that are made in India, said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst, founder and CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group, a global strategy and transformation research, advisory and consulting group.
“Excise duty makes products expensive. Subsidies around excise duty is crucial,” he said. With manufacturing sluggish, giving subsidies and incentives to products made in India would help manufacturing and startups, he said.
While the government has not yet revealed which all sectors are likely to get the boost from the government, clearly expectations are soaring. Finance minister Arun Jaitley and the prime minister will have to do a fine balancing act to do minimum justice.
Written By Maria Thomas
A number of Asian countries are well known for their obsession with stationery, but India, for the most part, has not been one of them.
While notebooks and other paper products of every shape, size, and colour are widely available for cheap, they’re a far cry from the sumptuous, stylish options on offer in countries such as South Korea or Japan, where locals are known to line up to purchase meticulously crafted notebooks.
Written By Kavya Kothiyal, Reghu Balakrishnan
Mumbai: PremjiInvest, the family investment arm of Wipro chairman and billionaire Azim Premji, is in talks to acquire a 10-15% stake in Wildcraft India Pvt. Ltd, a Bengaluru-based adventure equipment and outdoor gear firm, said two people familiar with the development.