Is Pantanjali better than Maggi

The yoga group

If something does not suit him, Baba Ramdev threatens a hunger strike to the bitter end: When India's most famous yoga guru once fasted against corruption, he only accepted a glass of juice after nine days. He was already in the hospital by then.

The Swiss food company Nestlé now has to wrestle with this tough opponent - at an inopportune time. Because the image of the Swiss has been scratched; Nestlé has only recently been allowed to sell its Maggi noodles again in India. The Indian food authority had previously banned hundreds of millions of packages from the market because of excessively high lead values.

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Ramdev wants to take advantage of this weakness. When he's not talking about breathing techniques, he's now promoting his new passion: a supposedly super healthy competing product to Nestlé pasta. Shortly after the sales start, he promises to be producing the pasta in six other factories soon.

It's easy to underestimate

The 50-year-old guru looks like you would imagine a yoga guru: he has long hair, a shaggy beard and always walks around in a saffron-colored robe. The web is full of GIFs and videos making fun of him. He is not exactly popular with many modern, urban Indians in particular: This is due, for example, to the fact that he once promised that he could "cure homosexuality" within six months.

But international competition shouldn't underestimate him. The guru is well received by conservative Indians from the provinces. The company Patanjali Ayurved, founded by him and his confidante Acharya Balkrishna, is one of the fastest growing consumer goods manufacturers in India, according to the market research company CLSA. Ramdev, who preaches abstinence, has no shares in the company, but is the omnipresent brand ambassador.

From guru to manager

Ramdev comes from a poor background; his parents toil in the fields in the state of Haryana. He only attended school up to eighth grade, then he preferred to focus on yoga and Hinduism. He made his breakthrough with a yoga show on television. Millions zapped away from soap operas, preferring to imitate his breathing exercises and figures.

With his growing popularity, he built a small empire: his foundation now includes hospitals, spas and hundreds of yoga centers. He lets himself be driven to his appearances in a fat SUV, and sometimes he also takes the private jet.

In interviews with business newspapers, he sounds more like a manager than a yoga teacher. His competitors cannot expect spiritual gentleness from him. Global corporations, he says, will "soon look like dwarves" to his company.

For him, setting up his own company is part of the fight against capitalism: if Nestlé and / or Unilever should distribute around 25 percent of their profits to the poor, Patanjali Ayurved will cease operations immediately, Ramdev promised recently. He is also part of the nationalist Swadeshi movement, which envisions a completely self-sufficient India: “Be Indian,” he once shouted to his followers. “Speaks Indian languages, wears Indian clothes and drinks Indian drinks.” It is fitting that his company will soon cover all of his everyday products: Indian detergents, Indian cornflakes and now Indian instant noodles.

Special trucks to deliver Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Noodles!

- Aye Vee (@ vyasaayush09) November 16, 2015

Patanjali Aryuved's products are often a little cheaper than those of the competition. But the most important sales guarantor is himself: During the yoga sessions, he and his disciples repeatedly praise the company's products as particularly natural, healthy and Indian. CLSA's market researchers estimate that Patanjali Aryuved will reach around 200 million Indians in this way.

At the same time, Ramdev has an excellent political network. He gets on wonderfully with the polarizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and he knows the leadership of the ruling BJP party. That could also help him to resolve a somewhat bizarre dispute with the Indian Food Inspectorate: The officials accuse him of not even having a license to sell instant noodles. Ramdev refers to his pasta license and is self-confident: "There must be a misunderstanding on your part."