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Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Baba Ramdev biopic on Sony will showcase Patanjali brand

Sony will make its money from selling ad spots; biopic is the latest in Patanjali's offensive against large packaged consumer goods companies

New Delhi: It’s the kind of branded content deal that any global consumer products company would give an arm (and perhaps a leg) for: on 1 May, Sony Entertainment Television will telecast Yog Yatra, a 90-minute biopic on the life of Baba Ramdev, his efforts to popularize yoga, and the rationale for the founding of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd.

It gets better.

Patanjali Yogpeeth, Ramdev’s trust that funded the movie, will not have to pay the channel anything. Marketers say such deals usually cost between 50 lakh and 1 crore. Sony will make its money from selling ad spots.

“Yes, we are releasing it soon and it’ll be aired on Sony and Sony HD. We have given Sony rights for one-time telecast. We are not paying Sony anything, nor is Sony paying Patanjali. Whatever advertising revenue Sony generates stays with it. Our aim is to get more and more people to watch this motivational film which will also increase awareness about Patanjali," says Acharya Balkrishna, chairman, Patanjali Ayurved.

It gets even better.

Patanjali has struck similar deals with other networks, such as Zee, and is in talks with even more, including some regional ones that will release dubbed versions (the film is being dubbed in 13 languages).

The biopic is the latest in Patanjali’s offensive against large packaged consumer goods companies.

Between January and March, Patanjali doubled its advertising across TV channels, according to data from television viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. All Patanjali commercials feature Ramdev and his aide Acharya Balakrishna. During the period, advertisement insertions by Patanjali were 20% higher than those by the next most advertised brand on TV, Cadbury.

Between November and March, Patanjali planned to spend 360 crore for advertising, Mint reported on 3 December.

Analysts see Patanjali as a potential challenger to established packaged goods companies such as Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd and Nestlé India Ltd that compete in India’s 3.2 trillion-a-year consumer packaged goods market.

Ramdev has not been coy about airing his ambitions— to make Patanjali larger than HUL. “Colgate will be below Patanjali by this year, and in three years, we will overtake Unilever," Ramdev said at a press conference in Bengaluru in March.

In a January report, brokerage IIFL Capital estimated that Patanjali’s sales would increase to 20,000 crore by 2019-20. HUL ended 2014-15 with standalone revenue of 30,805.62 crore. An 8 April report by Edelweiss Securities Ltd estimates that HUL’s revenue for 2015-16 will be 31,901.21 crore.

On Tuesday, Ramdev said at a press conference in Delhi that Patanjali ended 2015-16 with 5,000 crore in revenue.

The main feature

Sony Entertainment has already started putting out teasers for Yog Yatra.

“The feature film tells the story of Baba Ramdev, his life and how he aims to transform the life of every individual through yoga and ayurveda. It’s a story that will motivate everybody," says Kaveta Chaudhry, the writer and director of Yog Yatra. The film is produced by Chaudhry’s Kaniveri Films.

Chaudhry, a former TV actor best known for her role as a young police officer in 1980s TV serial Udaan (it also starred Shekhar Kapur), was initially commissioned to make a movie on Patanjali, the brand. She decided to focus on the Baba Ramdev story, however; it took her about a year to complete Yog Yatra.

“This film is a one-time thing which will be telecast on Sony soon. We have not decided on the time but most probably it will be a morning show," says an executive at Sony Pictures Network, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The film starts with Baba Ramdev’s childhood as the son of an impoverished farmer in Haryana and his battle against paralysis. Ramdev and Balakrishna play themselves in the movie that has a few musical numbers and also talks about the former’s ability to heal people with ayurvedic medicines and yoga. The second half of the movie chronicles the ongoing journey of Patanjali Ayurved that makes and markets shampoos, toothpaste, biscuits, noodles, juices, rice, wheat, honey and ghee.

An analyst said a movie is a smart way to market, especially in this case.

“Baba Ramdev is trying to market ideas or themes, not just products. Here, he is making money by selling Ayurveda as an idea. A feature film makes sense rather than ads on every product the company produces," said Sachin Bobade, an analyst at HDFC Securities.

Had Patanjali bought the time, it would have had to pay a bit.

For a film such as this one, the channel could have charged between 50 lakh and 1 crore, depending on the time-slot, says Roopak Saluja, founder and CEO of The 120 Media Collective and Sooperfly, a marketing firm.

As things go, Patanjali will have to pay nothing.

“This sounds like a smart plan that would essentially glorify Baba Ramdev as a god-like figure to woo consumers," adds Saluja.

Besides the biopic, Patanjali has also made a four-part documentary on the journey of Patanjali Ayurved over the past 21 years.

The company has plans to release CDs and DVDs of the documentary and the biopic soon; they will be circulated in India and outside, said a person aware of the development.

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