Mass Customization:
The Success Story of Baba Ramdev


By

Mrinalini Pandey
Faculty
Department of Management Studies
Indian School of Mines University
Dhanbad
 


Abstract

Human beings are governed by ideas and beliefs. Consumers of this day no longer buy merchandise and services but experiences. Mass Customization is the new paradigm that replaces old ideology of market segmentation; an idea which is no longer found suitable for today's turbulent markets, changing customer needs and growing product variety. Mass customization proactively manages product variety in the environment of rapidly evolving markets, products and services. This study attempts to study the reasons which have lead to the phenomenal success of Baba Ramdev's marketing strategy of Mass customization and that also in an era of high individual customization.

Introduction

"Faith is a continuation of reason"
William Adam, British Businessman Navigator

The dictum of Mass Customization is "Aham Brahamasmi"; meaning that I am omnipresent and omnipotent. Catering to the needs of all, irrespective of gender, age, caste, creed, culture, religion, nationality the potion of mass customization is believed to work wonders. Companies choose from mainly three value disciplines to frame their value propositions: product leadership, operational excellence, and customer intimacy. The product leadership discipline leads to the `best product' value proposition-an assertion that the company's products have the greatest performance impact or experiential impact for its customers. The operational excellence discipline leads to the `best total cost' bid- an assertion that the combination of the company's prices, product reliability, and hassle-free service is matchless. The customer familiarity discipline leads to the `best total solution' scheme an assertion that the company helps its customers identify their exact problem and the best solution, and then takes charge of implementing it. Baba Ramdev addresses all the three value disciplines and he has developed a unique blend of Ayurveda and Vedic philosophy to cater to create value for his customers.

Mass Customization and Marketing Mix Elements: An Evaluation

In order to know exactly the reason for success of Baba Ramdev, it is imperative to throw some light on the marketing mix rudiments. To be a successful marketer it is important that all the marketing mix elements have to be fine tuned to support and strengthen brand personality.

Product: Introducing the Value Discipline

The society in which we live today is a brand- obsessed society. Name a product or service and the brands relating to them are inestimable so many that cannot be counted on fingers. Thus, creating, developing, implementing and maintaining successful brands are frequently at the heart of marketing strategy. (McEnally,M . and Chernatony,L. de 1999) Successful branding requires a strategic perspective (de Chernatony 1998) whereby strong brand concepts are presented and communicated to target segments resulting in favorable brand images which reflect the brand's identity (Gardner and Levy 1955, Reynolds and Gutman 1984, Kapferer 1997). This brand of Baba Ramdev has a universal appeal, is sharing and collaborative, and the customers range hail from all age groups and regions. This Brand is a result of consistent hard work and carefully and meticulously followed strategy.

The service that Baba Ramdev is selling is the product. To deliver quality service, it is essential to understand customers' expectations. To assess the quality of service, customers compare their expectations with perceptions of the service providers' performance. Hence it becomes vital for the service providers' to understand and meet consumers' needs and wants. Customer expectations of service can be of two types; desired service and adequate service. Desired service is the service that a customer desires and expects to get. Whereas an adequate service is one which is the minimal level of service which a customer is willing to accept based on his perception of service acceptability.

The service that is being provided by Baba Ramdev is well orchestrating with the desired service expectations.  Patanjali Yogpeeth, a multi-million rupee venture, Ramdev's dream project, set as a rival to World Health Organization only on the basis of sound service that it boasts of providing. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust in Haridwar, Uttaranchal is armed with all the latest and most sophisticated gadgets sees a regular stream of devotees who wait to be called by a doctor in the Out Patient Department (OPD). There are forty doctors in the OPD who deal with 2,000 people every day. Some days the dispensary sells medicines worth Rs. 3,000 a minute. And again this can only be possible if the waiting tie is reduced by quality service. The ambiance of Patanjali Yogpeeth is world class. Constructed in almost 100 acres; it has been designed to have buildings, car parks, and a landscape to rival the best of Delhi's housing projects. All the value proposition can be said to be a hard work and the result of determination of this one man army.

To add to this we know that looking good is everyman's dream. In the era when cosmetic surgery is the order of the day; getting good looks by just adjusting the way one inhales and exhales is something everyone would prefer doing. With his deep-seated credence that we all are a part of beauty conscious world, Swamiji's unique contribution has been in helping ordinary people solve their problems and lead a healthy life through the practice of simple breathing exercises. The product "pranayama" is well suited for all irrespective of class, creed, culture and hence this success.

Package For various Diseases

Swami Ramdev's Divya Medicines are claimed to be one hundred percent natural, made from potent herbs available in the Himalayas and no or very little side effects. They have proven extremely effective for combating all forms of sickness and disease. Along with these medicines, Swamiji recommends patients to also adopt the practice of Pranayama, which will strengthen the immune system and quicken the healing process. Ramdev Baba opines that Pranayama Yoga is the complete Ancient Indian Therapy, which is a Medical Science in itself that cures any Physical or Mental medical condition completely, without any side effects. Swami Ramdev has proved and declared on Indian & International TV Channels, "Pranayama Yoga is the complete natural cure for all Physical and Mental Ailments". But if medicines are required they are also available and these packages of medicines are available at a very low cost. The medicines can cure all the diseases from a simple cold to cancer. In a bid to promote Ayurveda, Ramdev's Trust has tied up with 600 qualified Ayurvedic practitioners who are offering treatment to masses for a variety of diseases, some of them termed incurable by the modern system.

Customer Management: USP

Creating a "Disease Free Society - Medicines Free World", Swamiji's cherished dream. He has been daily declaring on Indian TV Channels, since the year 2002 that Patients of so called incurable diseases like Diabetes, AIDS, and Cancer should immediately start practicing rhythmic control of breath for complete cure without medicines. It is claimed that after extensive research of the valuable effects of Pranayama Yoga during last numerous years, on millions of people in India, it has been proved now that proper Breathing Technique's practice can cure all diseases completely without medicines or surgery. And this is the unique selling proposition of Baba Ramdev.

Apart from this the customer is managed well and they eventually become brand evangelists. Yoga guru Baba Ramdev is working towards making yoga a mass movement in the country. He claims to have trained 35,000 persons that are well equipped to hold yoga classes in different parts of the country. In the first phase of next five years, his target is to train one lakh instructors, who could impart yoga training to one crore people so that they could stay away from diseases and avoidable medication through practice of yoga. To train the yoga instructors, Pitanjali Yog Ashram has set up 535 branches and 15 more centers are in the process of being established. This is again working towards creating a new USP wherein any requirement of the customers can be catered to without delay.

Pricing Strategy

Developing an effective pricing strategy remains the most important and difficult part of the marketing process. For instance, a nominal 1 per cent increase in price realization will boost net income by 6.40 per cent for Coca-Cola and 28.70 per cent for Philips. The price-positioning and the value-delivery mechanisms should be done with one rule in mind: the performance of the product, or the value associated with it should always be higher than the price. For instance, a company that has either a product or a service whose performance or value is medium would do well to follow a low-cost pricing strategy.

Well in tune with this, Baba Ramdev's potion of Pranayama is cheap. He urges people not to lose hope or suffer and depend on expensive treatments.  Indian Pranayama Yoga is there to help treat all the
ailments completely without costly medicines, operations or surgery.

It is amazing, but it is claimed to be true that this is the cheapest and the only complete cure to most of the so called incurable diseases like Diabetes, Cancer, HIV & AIDS too.

Promotional Strategy

Edwin L. Artzt quoting the chairman and CEO of P& G has likened advertising to exercising saying that "Think of advertising and promotion as exercise and recreation. Advertising is exercise. It's something you need and it provides long-term benefits, but it's awfully easy to either cut or postpone because there's no immediate penalty for not exercising.... When you want your brand to be fit, it's got to exercise regularly."  And here's a situation when exercising in itself becomes the object of promotion.                                                                                           

It is a well established fact that advertising affects consumers. The literature on advertising has traditionally emphasized the persuasive nature of advertising: its purpose is to alter consumers' tastes for established brand names or company reputations ( Bagwell, 2007, Dixit and Norman, 1978). But there is a difference in opinion and Stigler and Becker (1977) and Becker and Murphy (1993) argue that advertising is part of consumers' preferences in the same way as goods and that there are complementarities between advertising and goods. Hence, a more-advertised good is ceteris paribus preferred over a less-advertised good. Whatever be the case, Baba Ramdev has hit both the opinions as he is advertising and at the same time not advertising. Baba Ramdev's live yoga classes became a passion.

And it all began in the year 2002 when Sanskar television channel started airing Baba Ramdev's yogic classes; overnight, Baba Ramdev became a sensation he had hundreds of followers who morphed into thousands. Then Sanskar channel's rival Astha channel signed him. In two years time he was a hit and with him also the channel benefited. His TV shows have the largest TRP. Today, he is one of the biggest draws on Indian television. He can be seen not only on religious channels like Aastha, but also news and features channels like India TV and Sahara One. Millions around the country follow his programmes religiously and use ayurvedic medicines prescribed by him.

There was an eight-month waiting period before one could see Ramdev, he was being booked that far ahead by television channels for his live yoga classes each morning. His yoga sessions were beamed live into 170 countries (Bijay Simha, 2007)

Also, Baba Ramdev's pack one DVD, two Video CDs written three books on Yoga,  Pranayama Herbal Remedies and Magazines  are available. This set of four promotional material with a Research Oriented Monthly Magazine of Yog, Spiritualism, Ayurveda, Culture And Tradition-Yog Sandesh available in 5 languages can do much to lure customers. Even healthy people are following his Yoga Pranayama regimen, as available in his DVDs, VCDs, Books & magazines etc., to keep fit.

It is a well established fact that; "brands set the product and the producer of that product apart from the competition". There are special though very obvious facts that this Brand has also mass customized itself to satiate all and thus have made a distinct place for itself. In an era when the marketers are faced with the challenge of getting their message heard by consumers who are hard to find and even harder to influence, this Brand has worked wonders and all because of its all inclusive image.

Epilogue:

"Two words sum up today's consumer market: unlimited choice. Over the past decade, companies have rushed to steal market share by creating an unending stream of new products to meet the desires of consumers. How can companies create awareness of their products? One thing is certain: Mass marketing no longer works. Marketers are no longer able to reach a "mass market." Even if they could, there is no longer a "one-product-fits-all" mentality that would appeal to consumers." This is what people and even marketers thought, but Baba Ramdev has on the contrary proved these claims to be wrong. All he has done is got the pulse of the basic needs of people which is not only limited to food, clothing and shelter but also includes a healthy life style, and has managed to fine tune his offerings  to suit the needs of all. He has mastered the art of mass customization and practices the art dexterously so much so that each individual feels that he is talking to him individually. But the one question that remains is so far so good, but will it last the course?

References:

1. Chernatony, Leslie de (1998), "Developing on effective brand strategy. In C. Egan and M. Thomas (ed), The Chartered Institute of Marketing Handbook of Strategic Marketing, Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann

2. Coal Capital under Baba Spell, HT: Dhanbad-Bokaro Live, Hindustan Times, 30th March 2007, pg 1

3. Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by Michael E. Porter, Free Press, 1998 (1985)

4. Datta Damayanti(2007), 'The Karma Chameleon', India today,1 October, 2007, pg79-81

5. Gardner, Burleigh B. and Sidney J. Levy (1955), "The Product and the Brand." Harvard Business Review, 33, (March-April), 33-9.

6. Golf Ground turns into a Fortress', HT: Dhanbad-Bokaro Live, Hindustan Times, 30th March 2007, pg 1

7. Kapferer, Jean-Noel (1997), Strategic Brand Management: Creating and Sustaining Brand Equity Long Term, Kogan Page, London.

8. Kumar Anil, (2007), 'Baba Rains Blessings As Doc Yields To Yoga Salve' HT: Dhn-bokaro live,Hindustan Times, 31st  March 2007, pg 1

9. McEnally, M and Chernatony, L. de (1999) "The Evolving Nature of Branding: Consumer and Managerial Considerations", Academy of Marketing Science Review Volume 1999 No. 02 Available: http://www.amsreview.org/articles/mcenally02-1999.pdf accessed on 23.05-08.

10. Pranayam pierces jail bars HT: Dhn-bokaro live, Hindustan Times, 31st  March 2007, pg 1

11. Ramdev Swami(2007), 'Imagine The India That Can Be', HT: Dhn-bokaro live,Hindustan Times, 9 th October  2007, pg 1-2

12. Reynolds, Thomas J. and Jonathan Gutman (1984), "Advertising as Image Management", Journal of Advertising Research, 24, (February-March), 27-38.
 


Mrinalini Pandey
Faculty
Department of Management Studies
Indian School of Mines University
Dhanbad
 

Source: E-mail June 18, 2008

           

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