Unstoppable at home, Ramdev’s Patanjali gets a reality check in Nepal

Subtotal recall.
Subtotal recall.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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As a bare-chested Ramdev performed stretches and contortions on International Yoga Day, his ayurvedic company found itself in a tight corner in a foreign market.

On June 21, Nepal’s department of drug administration issued a public notice asking Patanjali Ayurved to recall six medicinal products because of their “substandard quality,” the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.

The products—all of which are medicinal powders—failed microbial tests used to detect bacteria, yeast, or mould, among other toxins. Nepal’s local drug authority has urged retailers and shops not to stock these products, produced in the company’s Uttarakhand facility, with immediate effect. An email query sent to Patanjali seeking clarity on the product recall remained unanswered.

This isn’t the first time that Patanjali’s products have come under scrutiny. They have failed laboratory tests earlier in India and the company was accused of misbranding. In April, the Indian defence ministry’s canteen stores departments, a network of 3,900 stores servicing the Indian military forces, suspended sales of Patanjali’s amla (gooseberry) juice after the product was declared unfit for consumption by a local food-testing lab. Nonetheless, Patanjali has been going strong with a turnover of Rs10,561 crore in the financial year 2017, all the while rattling its domestic competitors, including some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies.

However, the latest round of quality trouble could hurt its plan to expand its footprint in foreign markets. Ramdev even recently made public his plans to take Patanjali to countries like China and Pakistan, while expanding its distribution in Bangladesh, Nepal, and some middle-eastern countries.

Ramdev has big ambitions for Patanjali in Nepal. In 2016, the company promised investments worth billions of rupees to the Himalayan country to bolster its presence there, while also promising more jobs. It now has a manufacturing unit there making medicines and other herbal products. But clearly, quality remains a concern.