With wellness on everyone’s mind and yoga moving beyond being a lifestyle choice, the sector offers plenty of business opportunities to the discerning entrepreneur.
Yoga — India’s ancient, holistic approach to keep the body and mind “active, energetic, and positive” — has seen a transformation over the last couple of decades. In the 1990s, it was limited to adults practising it in parks and homes, but a few years later Surya Namaskar captured the early morning TV slot, with multiple yogis guiding the audience on different yoga asanas. Soon, it caught the fancy of celebs and the common folk – in India and abroad.
But the last few years have seen an unprecedented boom for yoga and its practitioners.
One doesn’t need to look further than turned-entrepreneur and businessman Baba Ramdev, who can be credited as one of pioneers to start a pan-India commoditisation model of yoga by selling daily-use items through his brand Patanjali.
June 21, apart from being the longest day in the year, has been designated as International Yoga Day by the United Nations. The yoga phenomenon has moved to the global stage, with the US market alone pegged at $17 billion.
With increased awareness about wellness and health-related activities, this sector poses great investment opportunities, be in the areas of setting up specialised treatment centres, spas, and rejuvenation treatments or Ayurveda drug manufacturing (nutraceuticals, food supplements, cosmetics and rejuvenates).
India is the world’s second largest exporter of medicinal plants after China, and both the countries together produce more than 70 percent of the total global demand for herbal products.
According to the WHO, the global herbal market is estimated to reach about $5 trillion by 2050 from the current level of Rs 620 crore.
The Indian domestic market of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) is estimated to be Rs 500 crore, while exports amount to Rs 200 crore. Wellness services alone comprise 40 percent of the market. The AYUSH sector is dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises, accounting for more than 80 percent of the enterprises.
The government has set up a dedicated Department of AYUSH to provide impetus to these ancient healthcare systems, and opportunities for investment, education and research, health services, and training in the AYUSH sector.
India's medical tourism sector, estimated to be worth Rs 300 crore in 2015, is projected to grow to Rs 700-800 crore by 2020.
In 2017-2018, AYUSH exports amounted to Rs 3,211 crore. According to the department, the biggest markets for Indian herbal products are Western Europe, Russia, USA, Kazakhstan, UAE, Nepal, Ukraine, Japan, Philippines, and Kenya.
With 100 percent FDI okayed in the AYUSH sector, the products market is worth about Rs 40 billion, with over-the-counter products such as digestives, health food, and pain balms constituting almost 75 percent of the segment. India has 9,000 units engaged in the manufacture of AYUSH drugs.
With the government’s thrust and the global acceptance and recognition of yoga, multiple startups are commodifying the experience and building their business.
We list down five such enterprises:
While brands such as Manduka and Jade Yoga are green, India found its first eco-friendly, innovative and completely homegrown product in Juru Mats in 2015. Juru is a portmanteau of ‘ju’te and natural ‘ru’bber, both indigenous Indian resources.
“We noticed that Juru's biggest strength was its network of yogis, and understanding their needs. This was made possible by reaching out to them offline and online. We first launched our e-commerce website, tied up with more like-minded retail partners, and also worked on building our online presence in social media and through our blog,” says Pooja Borker, the Founder.
Juru also offers five kinds of cork mats; these have an excellent grip - no matter how much you sweat. They are odourless, and have a natural earthy smell. The antimicrobial feature ensures they remain odourless even after a hot yoga session. The Juru travel and meditation mat is light, foldable, and reversible with two unique surfaces.
In the last 12 months, Chennai-based Juru Mats has grown with positive month-on-month revenues. With over 4,000 users, they have clocked close to Rs 50 lakh in revenue so far, with just yoga mats and other props.
To take on energy drinks and cold-pressed organic drinks, Nayana Kanthraj and her husband Deepak Ugrappa founded Yoga Jal in 2017. Bengaluru-based startup, Yoga Jal has a unique blend of herbs that contain natural preservatives to retain active ingredients. The drinks do not have any refined sugar and artificial colouring, and only contain 8-10 percent sulphur-free sugar.
“Our USP is herbs-only, and one can consume the juices without diluting. Yoga is to help balance the body and soul, and the idea was to give people something to consume that helps them strike the perfect balance, just like yoga does,” Nayana says.
Yoga Jal has sold over 8,000 bottles last year; in December alone, they sold more than 2,800 bottles. The drinks are already available at online stores Pinhealth Groups, Medlife, Itiha, PlaceOfOrigin and will soon be available on Flipkart. They also won the TiE Entrepreneur Award in 2016.
This Bengaluru-based startup which offers crunchy and wholesome on-the go energy snack bars made from natural ingredients, was started in August 2014 by sisters Suhasini and Anindita Sampat Kumar.
All the ingredients for the Yoga Bars are sourced from different parts of the country. Suhasini adds that unlike other players in the market, including RiteBite and Nature’s Value, they do not add corn starch, additives or added vitamins. However, this means the shelf life of the bars is only three months.
Yoga Bars targets the market demographic of 25 to 35-year olds, who lead a reasonably active, busy lifestyle, and have a higher concern for their health and well being.
With a growing number of people practising yoga, the apparel space, popularly known as yoga wear, is picking up. The market for active wear is valued at a little over $13 billion. Riding this new wave and adding panache to yoga wear is Forever Yoga.
Started by Amit Chand, Sivabalan, and Kshama Menon, Forever Yoga was established with the idea of creating yoga wear that doesn’t make one feel conscious while performing asanas. Forever Yoga claims to showcase a range tested by yoga practitioners at high-end academies across the country.
“Our product range is inspired by current fashion trends, which are comfortable yet very stylish and casual. Our range is not just for yoga but also becomes a part of the lifestyle wardrobe and we call it ‘wear your yoga’,” Amit says.
Forever Yoga feels they are different from other brands as their apparel designs are based on loose silhouettes. They say they are not focused on sportswear but only on comfort yoga wear. Presently, Forever Yoga is based out of Bengaluru and sells through an ecommerce channel.
To give yoga its due in its birthplace, Akshar started the globally renowned Akshar Power Yoga Centre, based in Bengaluru. Akshar says yoga is India's property but we started valuing it after the yoga industry in the US packaged it for the masses.
“How can a mother leave her child with someone else to nurture him?” he asks. “So far, we knew only about the yoga alliance in the US. But yoga is our knowledge. Why should an alliance in the US certify our teachers?” he asks.
Born Amit, he chose to give up his given name and take sanyas. Today, Akshar says he is a born yogi. Understanding the demands of the day, he has modified yoga to cater to an urban consumer’s everyday needs. Most classes at Akshar Power Yoga strive towards meeting this unending demand to shed weight. He also gives training to aspiring yoga teachers from around the world.