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Inside Patanjali: Here’s what life is like in Baba Ramdev’s company

Walk into any high-powered corporation in India, and the picture is the same. You will see a glass-and-chrome office filled mostly with men in suits and ties or, at their most casual, shirts and dark trousers; meetings are usually held around a glossy table, with a screen for a PowerPoint presentation or a white board in the background; professional HR teams manage salary raises, hires and exits.

But what is life like in a company that’s run by a sadhu?

Patanjali Ayurved Limited is India’s fastest growing FMCG company. In May 2017, the company announced that it had doubled revenues in just a year to over Rs 10,000 crore, becoming India’s second largest consumer goods company, second only to Hindustan UnileverBSE -1.57 %. In a single year, Baba Ramdev’s company has leapfrogged past giant companies such as ITCBSE 0.90 %, Nestle, Godrej, DaburBSE -0.26 % and Tata. So Patanjali is certainly a corporate high performer.

Like any other big FMCG company, Patanjali may have an impressive food park, stretching across acres and acres of land, with state-of-the art machinery imported from around the world, and the factory floor may be governed by intricately detailed standard operating procedures with workers in hair nets and gloves. Yet, I discovered, while working on my book on Ramdev, some fascinating facts that showed a very different culture of work, one that’s completely unique in Indian corporate life.

No Mean Feet
The first — feet-touching. When the saffron dhoti- and shawl-clad Ramdev enters the complex, workers abandon their posts, rush out and queue up to touch his feet. The same treatment is given to Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev’s short and stocky, white-robed deputy who notionally owns 96% of Patanjali’s shares, and Ram Bharat, Ramdev’s tall, strapping and mustachioed brother who manages the company’s monies.

While it is ordinary for people to touch the feet of a sanyasi like Ramdev as a mark of respect, it certainly isn’t the regular practice in an ashram to revere a brahmachari like Balkrishna or a householder like Ram Bharat.
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