India's thriving Ayurvedic Congress

India’s Ayurvedic Congress offered a glimpse into the “technical expertise and focus” of the sub-continent’s natural-health industry.

One would have expected a first trip to India in late 2011 to fully prepare me for the second trip in late 2012. But, if anything, this second trip was even more impactful.

While I could better filter out the sights, smells and sounds, at every turn, I continued to be impressed with the developing economy and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the warmth and patience that is a core part of life there, despite the frenetic pace and bustling crowds.

On our second annual visit, our Engredea Market Quickstart faculty was set to make presentations in both Mumbai and Hyderabad, following which I was to participate as a speaker at the 5th World Ayurvedic Congress, in Bhopal, India. Pharmexcil, our local partner, had also arranged that we would be part of a ‘buyer:seller meet’ associated with the Congress, representing the United States.

Approximately 18 other countries were represented, typically with manufacturers or distributors of drugs or supplements. While the entire India synopsis and learning, including our brush with the core of the world’s Ayurvedic community will also be part of a future article, here I’ll focus mostly on the Ayurvedic Congress itself.

The Congress, supported by Pharmexcil and the Department of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), is held every other year at various venues around the country, with attendance hovering between 5,000 and 7,000 people. We ourselves (New Hope Standards Director Steve Taormina and I) landed early Friday morning at the small regional airport in Bhopal, India.

Bhopal, as you will recall, is infamous for the Union Carbide disaster of 1984, and we arrived a few days after the 28th anniversary of the tragedy. We did not really know what to expect after navigating the teeming populations in Mumbai, Hyderabad and even Delhi. Bhopal, at least during our trip, was quite quiet, even serene, by India standards.

Inside the venue

Not so at the venue though. We were able to observe the opening ceremonies with dignitaries and teachers from the Ayurvedic community around the world present - an absolute delight. Our own Congress presentation, in the middle of the Congress’ GMP symposium, was well attended by scientists, officials and industry representatives.

We’ve delivered similar presentations around the globe and I continue to be amazed at the level of interaction in India specifically. The nutraceutical approach one finds, combined with the 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic tradition, allows for superior dialogue on science, regulations, and the drug versus supplement paradigm for claims and compliance. India, it is clear, has only begun to scratch the surface of the contribution it will ultimately make to health solutions globally – be it ingredient supply or new validation of ancient Ayurvedic principles. Turmeric and ashwaganda are two more recent examples – there will be more.

The Congress was divided up into sub-disciplines, many based on target tissue or organ, others based on educational levels. Sessions ran for four days in total, and engagement was high. The Expo itself had approximately 130 participating companies, in addition to local and regional government and educational institute stands. Some of these, like Himalaya, Dauber and Organic India, are already domestic and international successes. The former two were characterized for me currently as ‘quarter companies’ – that is, publicly traded companies requiring new products every quarter to support stock price stability and growth.

This is in contrast to the privately held companies, which while not averse to new product development, were on a much slower cycle. Several of these private companies have annual sales in the $50-$150 million range, and many of these are seriously thinking about if not executing a North American strategy and approach.

One of the unique aspects of the Expo was the sampling opportunity. While Natural Products Expo West is a sampling fiesta, it is mostly food and beverage products, not supplements. Here, various herbs and mixtures were sampled including two unique product formats – the first a paste, and the second an alcoholic tonic.

The Ayurvedic difference

Most Ayurvedic companies have two parts to their product line – a general list of core products that most companies provide, like multi’s, and then a list of proprietary branded products. One of the products offered by multiple suppliers is Chyavanprash, a jam-like spread containing between 25 and 80 different ingredients including amla and ashwaganda. Many companies also feature several alcoholic tinctures with herbs. This is produced using an ‘in production’ controlled fermentation process that generates a ‘wine’ at about 9-10% alcohol. The ones I tasted were invigorating and generally non-medicinal in flavor. As Ayurvedic principles do not rely on ingestion alone, there were also hundreds of topical products offered and available for sampling.

All in all, the environment was not so different from the excitement at a North American Expo. The broad use of and wide array of product offerings, professionally prepared, suggests more potential than is currently being realized elsewhere in the world. I expect that combining this opportunity with an emerging modern science base will lead to a significant increase in both coverage and consumption of Ayurvedic-based products in the years to come.

Applying technical expertise and focus has led to Indian domination of the generic drug industry. Were similar focus to be applied to our industry, the nutraceutical mindset and capability that already exists would lead not necessarily to actual dominance, but certainly a five-plus fold multiplication of current sales.

India by the numbers

149.5: Amount, in billions, in the estimated global nutraceutical market.
93: Percentage of that market total in the US, Europe and Japan.
2.5: Amount, in billions, in the estimated nutraceutical market in India.
20: Percent annual growth of the India market.
5: Amount, in billions, of the estimated India market by 2015, says one source.

Len Monheit is executive director of Engredea / Nutrition Business Journal.

Note: To access all the market intel you’ll need to get started on your business venture in India, check out the exclusive, 27-page Nutrition Business Journal / Engredea monograph: An Exporter’s Guide for the Nutraceuticals Market in India. The report covers regulations, IP protection, product and ingredient trends, sales channels , consumer trends, distribution and supply chain challenges and opportunities, import/export considerations, case studies, future opportunities and more.

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