From clothing brands and accessories to standalone stores, spiritual gurus are foraying into the material world and how
India’s fashion retail category, which was worth 52 billion euros in 2017, is slated to reach 85 billion euros by the end of CY 2022, according to Technopak Advisors. This has piqued the interest of not only the large international labels, but also — quite ironically — of some of India’s spiritual gurus who have already launched their own apparel brands.
In June 2018, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s FMCG brand Sri Sri Tattva forayed into the fashion and clothing category under the Byogi label. It offers a range of yoga wear, ethnic and casual wear. In November this year, Baba Ramdev launched his apparel store Patanjali Paridhan that houses its sportswear brand Livfit, menswear brand Sanskar and womenswear brand Aastha. Meanwhile, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation runs Isha Shoppe online that sells clothing products, mostly ethnic and yoga wear, jewellery and accessories.
“We want to expand our offerings, both in the casual and ethnic wear portfolio,” says Arvind Varchaswi, MD, Sri Sri Tattva group. The brand is available online in India, the US, in parts of Australia, and in the UAE in partnership with Al Maya chain. In India, the group has opened a store in Bengaluru and intends to roll out standalone Byogi franchise outlets across India. “We will open stores across the country so that people can step in and experience our products.”
Present in 35 countries, the brand’s target audience is “anyone and everyone who likes to wear comfortable clothing”. “Sri Sri Tattva is a mass market brand, so we will always have authentic and affordable offerings for men, women and children,” Varchaswi adds.
While launching its Paridhan store in the national capital, Patanjali revealed its plan to roll out 100 Patanjali Paridhan stores (500-2,000 sq ft each) by March 31, 2019, and another 400 by March 2020.
The Haridwar-headquartered group promoted its jeans by riding on the affordability factor — jeans priced at around Rs 500 as against international labels that sell for upwards of Rs 5,000 in malls.
With all of them eyeing the fashion retail space, is the competition set to intensify? Devangshu Dutta, founder and chief executive, Third Eyesight, does not think so. “Each brand needs its handwriting to evolve in a way that resonates with its target customer. While there may be some overlapping customer segment between Byogi, Paridhan and Isha Shoppe, they don’t compete with each other head on, as there is enough room for growth in the market and their product mixes can be distinct from each other.” Classifying them together would be akin to considering, for instance, Benetton, Levi’s and Jack & Jones as identical, he explains.
‘Not so natural’ extension
The idea of spiritual gurus, who are known to live a spartan life, associating with fashion and lifestyle, may sound far-fetched. While it may not be a natural extension of their personalities, brand consultant Samit Sinha of Alchemist Brand Consulting, says they are counting on their vast popularity among their followers. “Baba Ramdev has a mass appeal compared to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sadhguru. Getting into apparel or fashion is not relevant and, therefore, the only way they can succeed is by pricing products incredibly attractively. Apart from yoga outfits and yoga accessories, nothing else is a natural fit,” adds Sinha.
Varchaswi says Byogi will not launch jeans but stick to “comfortable clothing”. The ‘yogi’ image of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he believes, will benefit the brand. “What does yogi mean? It means someone who is comfortable in each and every situation, and that is what Byogi stands for — comfortable clothing,” he says.
Harminder Sahni, founder and MD, Wazir Advisors, makes an interesting comment. “Most companies first have a product, after which they create a brand and then find a celebrity to endorse it. In Patanjali’s case, first there was a celebrity (Baba Ramdev), then the brand was created and eventually the product range was launched.” He is certain that Patanjali has an edge over the other two, but despite that, it may be difficult for the company to sustain its own success.
However, the opportunity is huge. “Penetration of readymade clothing in India, after all, is still only 20-25%,” Sahni says.