The “unpaid brand ambassador of Patanjali”, and the spiritual yoga guru for millions, Baba Ramdev’s name has been popping up in the media every now and then since half a decade be it for healthcare, Ayurveda, politics or Yoga. The man who renounced the world and became an ascetic three decades ago, is first a sadhu, then a Yoga guru and now a business tycoon. Baba Ramdev has preached Yoga and made it reach crores of Indians.
More than 600 products by Patanjali are being sold in the world’s market. The concept of Patanjali’s affordable products that are made in India are wooing the Indian crowds, creating a tough competition for other brands that have been in the market for years. The turnover of the company in this year has been two thousand crores.
Situated in Haridwar-Kankhal on a 150-acre plot, Patanjali manufactures scores of products. Several plants, factories, research and development units are built on this land. A ‘Patanjali hospital’, a ‘Patanjali food and herbal park’, a University campus among other things are a part of his ’empire’.
Baba Ramdev got the support of his guru Acharya Balkrishnaji for Patanjali. Being in the same gurukul, Baba Ramdev was keen on learning more about Yoga while Acharya Balkrishnaji was keen on researching and gaining knowledge about ancient herbs that had healing properties. In 1993, when they were together in Kankhal ashram, they first began by making Ayurvedic medicines and established a trust. On the other hand, Baba Ramdev began spreading awareness about Yoga. In a span of five years, Ayurveda and Yoga both had gained wings.
Starting from Gujarat, Baba Ramdev began conducting Yoga shibirs all over the country. Channels like ‘Aastha’ and ‘Sanskaar’ aided in increasing Baba Ramdev’s popularity among the people. Baba Ramdev’s Kapalbharati, Anulom-Vilom and other Yoga asanas caught the minds of people like fire. People who came to learn and practice Yoga at his shibirs were from all walks of life. The sales of Ayurvedic medicines that they made also increased as his popularity soared. His medicines and herbal food products began selling in the market like hot cakes. This increased demand and led to the formation of ‘Patanjali Food and Herbal Products’ in 2007. Acharya Balkrishna is the Chairman and Managing Director of the company while Baba Ramdev holds no post.
In an interview with Cocktail Zindagi, Baba Ramdev talks about his life, revealing a lot of things that you might not know. Arriving in a cavalcade of cars, Baba Ramdev steps out of a Range Rover dressed in orange. He is surrounded by 8-10 bodyguards (Baba Ramdev has the Z-category of security, so before he arrived at a posh building in Bandra, a lot of policemen were positioned there). We heard the sounds of his wooden slippers as he walks towards the elevator, hastily.
When we meet Baba Ramdev we see his fatigue on the face but even then his eyes express a lot. “Namaste”, he says as we begin our conversation.
Cocktail Zindagi: A lot of people know many things about you as a lot has been published about you in the media. A TV serial is also being made on your life. Tell us something about your life that you have not told anyone else yet…
Baba Ramdev: My life is an open book and I have never hidden anything from anyone. I was born in a farmer family, to illiterate parents. I don’t remember the names of relatives now. I have struggled and faced a lot of obstacles in my life. I have not grown up dreaming. But yes, since I was a child, I wanted to become an ascetic. It was very clear to me even at that young age. Then I didn’t know how to walk on the path of renunciation, but I knew my aim.
I completed my education in a government school by lending books from others. I had one friend named Ramanand but apart from that I didn’t have friends my age, all the friends I had were at least 10-12 years elder to me. In my childhood, there were no forms of entertainments in villages. We didn’t have theatres or televisions. There were 2-3 radios in the entire village that was hard for us to understand as our language was different. One thing we enjoyed doing was playing games like kabaddi, kushti, volleyball, long jump and running. And all the villagers naturally knew how to swim. These are the only things I remember about my childhood. I have gone through every kind of struggle in life.
CZ: When did you start learning Yoga? When did you realise that you wanted to spread awareness about the practice of Yoga in the world?
BR: I was 9-years-old when I first began learning Yoga in my village’s gurukul. Back then, I didn’t have the slightest idea that I will teach Yoga in the world. In 1992-93 when I visited Surat, I realised that humanity has a lot to benefit from Yoga. The way mankind is progressing now, if it does not learn to take care of itself, it will not only cause a problem to a person’s future but also harm the country’s future at large.
CZ: The awareness you are creating about Yoga has spread across the globe. A lot of celebrities are also doing Yoga with you. How did this become possible?
BR: There are two kinds of people in the society. The first kind, who want to get in touch with the influential and famous people so that they also become a celebrity. And the second kind, who are only interested in their work, have love and sincerity towards it. Every celebrity who has come so far has come on their now, we have not invited them. We do not think that if we teach them even we will get famous. Since childhood, I have only focused on one thing – doing my work. I kept working and whatever I got is a byproduct of it. We never had a strategy or a plan, we focused on our deeds whose consequences are always decided. Without expecting to reap fruits, I have worked. I wished the best for everyone but never had any selfish interests. That is what it means to be an ascetic.
CZ: The awareness for Yoga has increased drastically. Your contribution to it is massive. Are you satisfied with the results?
BR: The awareness has increased but only 10% of improvement has happened. 90% of people have become aware. For any goal in life, for any resolution three things are important. One, is awareness, second is practice, third is nature. We have brought in awareness and a lot of people have begun practising. But there is still time for it to become nature. It will take thousands of years for Yoga to become a person’s nature. But yes I am satisfied, there is no question of dissatisfaction.
CZ: What do you think about going back to our roots and using Indian made products, valuing our resources?
BR: We have had the Swadesi revolution 100 years ago but 200 years before that, the idea was taking shape in the minds of the people. We have read about the incidents that happened in 1905-1906. We began fighting for our independence, burnt foreign clothes and turned towards our own country to gain independence, walking on the path that was shown to us by Mahatma Gandhi. That journey that began back then will be completed by 25% by 2025. We have a 50-year plan. Several multi-national companies have earned from us and are still earning from our country. I am going to live for a 100 years as I am mentally and physically fit. I am not going to get old. So until I am alive I want to work towards making this country self-dependent.
There will always be a section of people who have no love for their nation and do not care about its future. But 90% of people are patriotic and proud of India’s culture. People won’t get trapped into the trap of foreign goods, you’ll see…
CZ: When will the golden age come for India, then?
BR: I think that this is the golden age for us. Some people used to believe that India was called “sone ki chidiya”, 200 years ago. But I think that today everything is perfect – education, human resources, science and technology and innovation. We have a huge potential of talent. If that talent is tapped correctly, we can make the country richer. I believe that the future of India is bright. I want to see a beautiful combination of richness, purity and spirituality in India which will be beyond the imagination of the world. I wish to play a role in making this reality. Many people think that I should take responsibility for growing the country in that way. a lot of people have in various political, administrative and social capacities have taken the responsibility to grow the country. I have taken the responsibility of spirituality. In the next 50 years, I want to pass on my knowledge to more than 1 crore children and then leave the world. I am working to infuse the knowledge of science into the great Vedas and spread it. I want to do Gauseva. There is a lot of work I want to do.
CZ: What are your thoughts about the use of foreign languages in India that is increasing day after day?
BR: It is the aim of my life to take India ahead in the fields of education, health, agriculture and research. Steps to bring about the Indianisation of education are also going on. Ever since Narendra Modi’s government has come to power, I am doing continuous efforts along with Narendra Modiji, Amit Shahji, Javdekarji to make an Education Board in India.
CZ: Talking about politics, what do you think, who will win the upcoming elections?
BR: If I am to convey my thoughts about politicians, then I feel that India’s government should be in the hands of good and honest leaders. There is a mantra in the Vedas, “Ma Vaste Naish”. People who are like thieves, cheats, frauds and corrupted people should not govern the nation. If that happens then it will be a shameful thing for India. That is not suitable for the people of any country.
CZ: What is your daily schedule like?
BR: I wake up at 4 in the morning and perform Yoga until 8 am. From then on until 9-10 pm, sometimes till midnight, I do Karmayoga. What else will the life of a sadhu be like?
CZ: What is the secret behind the success of Patanjali?
BR: Trust is the biggest thing. If the people do not trust a brand then it cannot stay in the market for long. To make a ‘brand name’ in the market it takes 5-10-15 years. It is their journey of struggle and hard work. Without the faith of people in the brand, a brand cannot survive.
People trust the products of Patanjali and we are working endlessly to ensure that the trust is maintained. To ensure the authenticity of the products, there is a need for a system, process and distribution but more than that we need a team. All of these elements are the reason for Patanjali’s success.
When we were going to start Patanjali, 25 years ago, we didn’t have money for its registration. At that time, Surat’s Jivrajbhai Patel trusted us and gave us 25,000 rupees without asking any questions. We will always remember this trust, his love for us. If we hadn’t got the support of 25,000 rupees then maybe Patanjali wouldn’t have been born. I have always had love and respect for Gujarat and Gujaratis.
CZ: The youth of our country have passion and dedication. Not as a ‘baba’ but as a business tycoon, what tips do you have for them?
BR: I am the son of a poor farmer and I nor am I educated a lot. I didn’t understand the ways of the world as a child when I grew up in my village. But if despite all these negative aspects, I am able to give jobs to more than one lakh people, then the youth of India can do wonders as they have everything that I did not. They have education, ways to accomplish their dreams and what not. The only thing they need to understand is to keep the betterment of India and Indians in their minds as they move ahead in life. I’ll like to tell them that if the country will move forward, they will too.
Struggle is the synonym of success. Living a fun-filled, self-centric life might be an attraction in youth but walking down that path will lead to destruction. Struggle and achieve, achieve and struggle…keep focusing on your deeds, you will then be able to touch the ninth cloud.
Photos: Ramakant Munde