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3 Apr, 2024 11:08

Indian yoga guru’s company under fire for misleading ads

The Supreme Court earlier asked Baba Ramdev’s company Patanjali to stop dismissing modern medicine in its ads
Indian yoga guru’s company under fire for misleading ads

A company co-founded by a popular yoga guru has been found by India’s top court to have persisted with “misleading” advertising in the country’s dynamic medicine market.

The court is hearing a plea from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) alleging a smear campaign by Patanjali Ayurved, co-founded by yoga guru Baba Ramdev, against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine in general. The Supreme Court of India, in its latest hearing on the case on Tuesday, questioned why the company continued its marketing campaigns despite an order to desist issued last November.

In February, the court issued a contempt notice to Ramdev and Patanjali’s managing director Acharya Balkrishna for violating its order – and prohibited the company from advertising its medicine until further notice. The top court also questioned why the federal government “chose to keep its eyes shut” despite Patanjali claiming that modern medicine offered no protection against Covid-19, according to NDTV.

On Tuesday, the two-judge bench also noted that India’s Ministry of Ayush, which oversees the promotion of traditional medicine, had not acted after Patanjali’s “shocking” ads called the validity of modern medicine into question. The yoga guru’s company has been under constant scrutiny for its marketing campaigns.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramdev triggered a public outcry by suggesting that yoga and remedies sourced from natural ingredients could cure the virus. Last November, the court warned Patanjali against publishing “false and misleading advertisements.” It also noted that it would consider imposing fines of up to 10 million rupees ($120,000) against each product that the company falsely claimed was able to cure diseases.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court censured the company for persisting with its misleading advertisements despite prior warnings. In its defense, the firm claimed that its media unit was unaware of the court ruling. Although the company apologized for the oversight, the apex court dismissed it as mere ‘lip service’ and ordered Patanjali to file an affidavit ‘in a proper manner’ within a week.

Previously, Ramdev had challenged the allegations against his company and accused a “group of doctors” of conspiring against his firm. After last year’s verdict against his company, the guru claimed that some doctors have formed a group that “continuously does propaganda against yoga, Ayurveda.”

Headquartered in Haridwar, a Hindu pilgrimage site in Uttarakhand state, Patanjali manufactures a wide range of products including cosmetics, Ayurvedic medicine, personal care, and food. Marketing case studies often cite the company as a domestic brand that could challenge the hegemony of multinational companies in the consumer market with its ‘herbal’ and ‘natural’ appeal.

According to reports, the company has an annual turnover of around $4 billion. Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev’s business partner, who owns a majority stake, has a personal fortune worth $3.8 billion. Ramdev’s assets are valued at around $191 million.

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