Linking to the wellness carnival of the International Yoga Day (IDY) on June 21, many yoga studios are opening up both in India and globally.
By Neha Gupta & Varsha Jain
Linking to the wellness carnival of the International Yoga Day (IDY) on June 21, many yoga studios are opening up both in India and globally. India is the second-largest exporter of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) products with permission of 100% FDI therein. But the government is yet to fully utilise the trade potential in yoga industry, which exists in both services and manufacturing. Trends suggest a growth in cross-border movement of yoga professionals (teachers, practitioners, trainers, instructors), which can be referred to as the ‘software’ part of yoga. Another growing segment is trade in yoga accessories, dealing with the ‘hardware’ part of yoga (technically considered to be part of sports goods sector).
As estimated by the ‘2016 Yoga in America Study’, the US continues to lead with the rise in number of yoga practitioners from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36.7 million in 2016. Over the same period, the spending by such professionals on yoga classes, clothing, equipment and accessories has increased by $6.1 billion ($16.8 billion during 2016). Conversely, Asia is leading in wellness trips, where China and India are the top countries, adding over 12 million and 17 million trips, respectively, during 2015-17, as per the Global Wellness Economy Monitor 2018. Till December 2016, India had trained and certified 799 yoga professionals as reported by the ministry of AYUSH. Certification can lead to formalisation of the industry, but the gap is wide enough to call for greater intervention on the part of the government for continuing its yoga heritage.
So, where India is placed in terms of trade of yoga services and equipment, as compared to the US, Europe and East Asia? The government has been opening centres in such regions to promote cultural exchange on yoga, music, dance, etc. For example, India and Japan committed to liberalisation, under the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2011, across all services modes to cover provisions relating to movements of teachers and contractual service providers in the field of yoga, among others. In July 2018, under India-Korea CEPA, both the countries agreed on certain terms related to export of yoga from India—Indian trainers/teachers/instructors to be sent to Korea for imparting lessons or providing guidance to Korean hospitals, etc, and instructors as well as Indian yoga institutes allowed to set up centres in South Korea (in exchange of Korea’s similar initiative in the field of taekwondo). Having said that, it is crucial to verify whether India’s yoga institutes are investing enough abroad to capture maximum gains?
With growing need for yoga services mainly post-IDY, the demand of and spending on accessories has risen. Broadly, yoga accessories are the tools that support yoga, such as mats, bricks, blocks, clothes and other equipment. However, more clarity on definition, scope and coverage of the same is required. Several foreign brands, too, have introduced special yoga mats, and various manufactures are shifting to recyclable, renewable or eco-friendly sources for making such equipment. The identification of exact product codes for yoga accessories is a big hindrance to a detailed study on the trade potential in this industry. For instance, the Sports Goods Export Promotion Council does not provide separate product codes for yoga mats, yoga straps, etc.
In its Foreign Trade Policy Statement 2017 Mid-Term Review, the government emphasised on using branding/marketing campaign to facilitate exports “of commodities and services in which India has traditional strengths, such as handicrafts and yoga.” As the craze for yoga techniques and accessories is rising, along with export of yoga professionals’ services, this is the right time to strike a chord and reap the potential economic benefits from the industry. Better and separate data reporting can be pursued in terms of demand for yoga mats, bricks, clothes, etc, and information about the number of yoga professionals going from India to other countries. The challenge, though, remains for researchers and policymakers to verify the accuracy of data and information available on private websites with official government sources. Nevertheless, investment in promoting yoga exports and value addition under Make in India can support growth of concerned manufacturers and give the country a required export boost.
Gupta is fellow and Jain is research assistant, ICRIER. Views are personal