If you think you would sense a spiritual aura around Baba Ramdev, you will be disappointed. What you can’t miss, however, is the sheer drive and enthusiasm the man exudes while interacting with you. Addressed as Babaji, Swami ji, or Maharaj ji, Baba Ramdev – who brought yoga to people’s drawing rooms and made it easy and approachable -- is ready to take on the biggies of the FMCG world with his Patanjali products.
Try giving him credit for it, however, and he denies having anything to do with it. “I am but an instrument of God. There’s nothing that I have done myself,” he says, enigmatically. He doesn’t hide his grit to excel at what he does, however, and takes visible pride in saying he has always given 100 per cent to everything he has done. “These big companies go through such sham exercises of meeting up and talking about how they can grow at 2 per cent or 7 per cent. Look at us, our aim is to grow at more than 100 per cent!” he chuckles.
With a ready smile, quick wit and impeccable Hindi, while also translating difficult Hindi words in English, it’s easy to see why Baba Ramdev is a darling of the masses. His down-to-earth nature beats all sorts of arrogance that is the tool of many entrepreneurs and business moguls. There are no airs, no steely gaze or a dependence on expensive watches – not even an ordinary one, actually – glittering finger rings, pens, or sharp clothing. In fact, the two saffron-coloured cotton cloths he wears don’t even have a hemming around the edges! Shoes? Not for Baba Ramdev, no. Just your good old wooden khadau clickety-clacking as he patiently moves around the verandah letting the photographer make him pose for pictures.
The showman in him can’t stay put for too long either, and he removes the cloth that covers his torso to pose in some of his favourite – and most popular – yogasanas for the camera, leaving our photographer and the creative director delighted. And then there are the few who intervene, coming to him seeking his blessings, asking timidly to pose beside him for selfies. Considering it all a day’s work, Baba Ramdev slaps the person’s back hard – twice – and then poses for the selfie, returning to the conversation without breaking his stream of thoughts.
For Baba, there are no compromises, and no half measures. Talking about Patanjali’s 250-plus product portfolio, he repeats his commitment to never manufacture anything that is unhealthy. “So no alternative to the popular aerated drinks?” I ask. “None whatsoever! And I’ve also read the rubbish people are posting on Facebook saying, Babaji, Mallya’s run away. So can we please have desi daaru (country liquor) from Patanjali now? None of that, no!” he says, guffawing with laughter as others join in.
Just 50 years old, the world’s an oyster for Baba at present. The journey has been more than promising so far, and there’s so much more that Patanjali can achieve in Baba Ramdev’s lifetime. Already, he has covered more milestone than many can’t in a lifetime. “I’ve always put my whole and soul into everything that I do. In the beginning, I had only my body and mind to invest. Today, I have so much more,” he says.
It couldn’t have been easy, surely? “Who said it was, or is? Only one who does nothing faces no problems. Problems and challenges are as true as night and day, life and death,” says Baba philosophically, adding how you need to stay focused and chip away until you find a way.
And what about internal strife, differences of opinion within the organization? “None of that either,” claims Baba Ramdev, commenting on how important it is to have different opinions and to respect them. “What binds us together at Patanjali is how we have a oneness of heart and mind – how connected we are spiritually,” he adds.
If there’s just one lesson an entrepreneur should take from Baba Ramdev, this could be the one.