"Whatever I have got has been a by-product of this -wealth, name, fame or an empire which many claim I have built. Let me reiterate, none of this is mine. If power gets attached to me as a by-product, I will never use it for anything wrong," Ramdev.
From yoga to activism to business, Baba Ramdev shares with TOI his company Patanjali's plans to turn cow protection into a viable business. He talks of his dream world-class university project and rapport with PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
How interested are you in politics?
I have no interest. I simply want the country to have good rulers, a stable political system. I have no political ambitions.
Do you plan to contest elections?
I will never contest elections.I will stand by this till my last breath. If I wanted to join politics, I could have formed a party with over a hundred prominent politicians supporting me.
Do you see yourself more in the role of a raj guru?
Whatever I have done till now is serve the people. Whatever I have got has been a by-product of this -wealth, name, fame or an empire which many claim I have built. Let me reiterate, none of this is mine. If power gets attached to me as a by-product, I will never use it for anything wrong. The PM is extremely dear to me but I have never misused our relationship for my benefit.
You say you're not satisfied with the Centre's steps to bring back black money stashed abroad...
More efforts could have been made... This is not a criticism. It is everybody's expectation.
How do you rate Narendra Modi's tenure as PM till now?
I have stopped giving ratings. It unnecessarily fuels controversy (laughs). One must tell the truth -if a sanyasi will not tell the truth, who else will? But it should not harm the nation. I will say a few things about Modiji. A leader should do three things for the country -ensure internal and external security, develop and execute good policies, and maintain good relations with other countries. Modiji is doing well in all these areas. He works 18 hours a day. We should let him continue the work he is doing.
You have no constructive suggestions for the government...
If there is any , I will give it directly (laughs). When Modiji listens to me, Amit Shah listens to me, why should I go about giving suggestions here and there? When the government listens to you, why create noise on the road?
Have you given any advice recently?
I keep on giving advice whenever asked.
You've supported, been part of Anna Hazare's movement, do you feel Arvind Kejriwal lived up to expectations?
I avoid political questions nowadays. I'm focused on yoga, ayurveda, vedic education and service. I'll raise issues of a political nature whenever a big crisis faces the nation. When things are going well, why do it? In case of a crisis, I'll definitely stand up for the country .
Your views on gau rakshak vigilantism?
Mere sloganeering won't accomplish gau raksha. There are people doing good work in this area.They should be encouraged. If the government can spend crores on teerth yatras and Haj, why can't it spend on cow protection? There should be a gaushala policy at the state and central level, and research in this field. We are already doing it. We have allocated Rs 500 crore for this and will spend more if required. As far as the practical applications of gau raksha are concerned, we have products like gau-nyle, a substitute for phenyle. We are starting a dairy with a capacity of 10 lakh litres of milk daily. If people use cow-related products, it will lead to cow protection.As far as technology to enable this is concerned, we are working on it through breed selection, embryo transplantation and semen selection to improve the quality of cows. Those spreading terror in the name of gau raksha should be stopped. That is necessary.
How do you think such elements can be stopped?
The idea should be inculcated that the cow is beyond religion.People should realise that the cow, Gita, Vedas, Ram and Krishna were there before religion came into the world. No religion is beyond 2,500 years old. People should not associate the icons that were before this time with any religion.
Till recently, you taught people yoga, advised them to lead a minimalist lifestyle. Now you sell everything, from toothpaste to noodles? Isn't that a turnaround -from yoga to 'bhoga' (consumption)?
Whatever is associated with the materialistic world is bhoga in some form. Bhoga literally means bhojan (food). We offer bhoga to god, it does not have a negative connotation. At Patanjali we work for satvik bhoga, not tamsic or rajsik.Some joke that Baba Ramdev will get into beer or wine. That kind of bhoga we will never offer people.Our objective is to offer good quality products, not for our profit but with the objective of seva (service).Patanjali Ayurveda is perhaps the only company in the world that has announced that its profit will not be the property of any individual but based on the principle: prosperity for charity . Acharya Balkrishna owns 97% stake in the company . He has declared he will not take even one rupee from the company's profits. This is satvik seva.
Patanjali stores are almost everywhere. Your key to success?
Transparency , accountability and responsibility . MNCs have huge advertising budgets and get big celebrities by paying them crores of rupees. I stand in front of the camera and talk about our products. People know I am responsible for the quality of the product.They have been seeing me for 20-25 years, fighting huge battles. They know Baba Ramdev sleeps on the floor and doesn't want anything for himself. Would an MNC CEO stand in front of the camera and take responsibility for his products?
People have faith in our brand. The technology we use is no less than that of our competitors, perhaps better. That's why Patanjali is bigger than MNC brands operating in the country . Soon, we'll take Patanjali to greater heights across the world. Our vision is to plough back the profits into charity , especially education. I want 80% of our profits to go into education.
Which segments of education?
We focus on some core things -health and positive thinking through yoga, Ayurveda, propagating Vedic education and culture with the best of modern education so we build the character of the country's youth. These can be accomplished only if we are self-reliant and confident. We don't expect government to give us resources. Neither do we expect people to donate thousands of crores for this. The extremely rich here are miserly. We don't expect much from them. We have started Acharyakulams -schools that provide a blend of Vedic and modern education to boys and girls. Soon, these schools will become a benchmark for world-class education. I have been working for a Vedic education board which, I am hopeful, will be set up within 2-3 months. This will facilitate education till class XII. Beyond that, I want world class university education in our country . Currently, not even one Indian university is among the world's top 100. That is why, we want to set up a university -its name could either be Vedic University or Aryavrat. It will aim to be among the world's top 100. Its faculty will be top-notch, will impart cutting-edge science and tech education. It will also have Vedic education. That will be its USP.
Some business analysts predict your annual turnover will touch Rs 20,000 crore by 2020 but you claim Patanjali is eyeing sales of Rs 50,000 crore in the next few years...
Business analysts are not looking at the bigger picture. We are setting up eight mega projects and around 50 small ones in the next couple of years. Sales are expected to cross Rs 50,000 crore from the mega projects alone. People ask me how. I tell them India has unlimited potential, but it's unrecognised. MNCs are trying to tap this. But why should money go out of the country? Are we any less at brand building or marketing? Today, Patanjali's brand value is more than Unilever's.
Many say Baba Ramdev is in a hurry to enter too many businesses. How will you ensure quality?
If a housewife is careless while cooking, it can cause food poisoning in her family. But food cooked for 10,000 can be eaten safely if it's hygienic. Our entire process -from raw material procurement to finished good -is done through a world-class infrastructure. Some 200 scientists work at Patanjali. They ensure quality.We also conduct animal and human trials. Patanjali Research Institute laboratories and our central lab compete with the best in the country. In our purchasing department, there is no corruption. If we claim we put Kashmiri kesar or swarna bhasma (gold ash) in a product, rest assured these are being used. Come and check. We have responsible people who ensure quality. I take responsibility for quality as Patanjali's brand ambassador.
Is Patanjali a one-man show?
If decisions are being taken by me or Acharya Balkrishna, that doesn't imply a one-man show. If 100 people become chaudhary and take decisions, nothing will ever get done. You will then call it a policy paralysis. Having said that, I am also not the decision maker.We are only god's instruments -for the benefit of people. If people want to criticise, let them do so every day . This will enable us to put our version before people.
One rarely hears about others who have made the brand a success... We have professionals from Unilever, P&G and Colgate and many top scientists. Many were working elsewhere for a package of over Rs 1 crore. They took salary cuts to join us. I have never hidden names of those working with us. Our sales head is Balram Singh Khushwaha, supply chain head is Sanjeev Khanna. Operations head is Sant Bahadur Singh. They come from all communities, religions and castes. Today, 1 lakh people get regular employment and 1 crore are indirectly employed with Patanjali. Our effort is to employ 5 crore directly and give indirect benefits to another 5 crore.
Is there a succession plan?
Our organisation will never be run by a family . We have a team of yogis -more than 500. My guru Acharya Pradyumn has trained them like I was trained. We'll train at least 5,000 such yogis so that the future of Patanjali is secure.
What do you do in your spare time?
I don't get much spare time. I've never watched a movie. I watch TV news at times, for 15 to 30 minutes.
What is your day like?
I usually rise before 4 AM. By 4.30 AM, I am at my daily yoga session. I meditate for two hours. At least four to five hours are spent on Patanjali Ayurveda, another four to five in interacting with people.I eat very light - anjeer or a juice for breakfast, light vegetables for lunch and dinner. For 18 years, I lived only on milk and fruits. I've started taking other food now.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want to be remembered as Baba Ramdev. A person wears many hats. I am a farmer, yogi, teacher, public speaker, activist, economist, vaidya... there are so many things I do simultaneously . But at the core, I am a karma yogi sanyasi.