In the light of the recent event of suspension of Patanjali Ayurved’s amla juice by the armed forces’ canteen stores department following a laboratory report declaring it unfit for consumption, brand experts think it’s a serious allegation against the brand and that Patanjali should come out clean and take remedial actions.
N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA opines that the FMCG major should opt for a complete quality check to address the issue. “Patanjali has always been product first. Now when they say that Patanjali’s first product, amla juice, is not fit for consumption, it is an extremely serious allegation against the brand. And, it should be dealt with utmost seriousness. Patanjali should overhaul their entire quality setup because people have placed their trust in them. They should focus on quality more than growth. They have to really shake up everything and relook their processes,” he adds.
Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-Comm agrees: “I think it’s a warning signal for the brand. They need to take it seriously and come out clean in terms of what remedial actions they are proposing and try to address it.” Sridhar warns that the competitors can blow up the issue indirectly and use it to their advantage. “This is indicative of the fact that they do not conform to standards. You don’t know how the competition will react,” he adds.
Harish Bijoor, Brand Consultant and Founder Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., advises the brand to be careful. “Brands that are consumption oriented need to be careful about such incidents. Yes, it does create a scar on the brand, but fortunately, scars have a way for vanishing,” he says.
However, one of the marketing experts thinks otherwise. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he says he does not believe that the brand’s image will be affected. Yet, acknowledging the issue is necessary to salvage the situation. “In this instance, I don’t think Patanjali is going to have any impact. It is strong and vibrant. Generally, brands are built on the minds and hearts of consumers. They have full faith and credibility. But, someone from their (Patanjali’s) end should come and clarify. They should not remain silent. They need to test out the sample again, not from the same lab. The best thing is to be transparent about the situation,” he suggests.
The product happens to be one of Patanjali Ayurved’s first launches, before it started manufacturing other products. According to media reports, the batch was tested at the Central Food Lab in Kolkata and Patanjali has withdrawn amla juice from all Army canteens.
In the past as well, the Rs 5,000-crore Patanjali Ayurved has been pulled up by regulators over its claims. It has been questioned for selling noodles without the relevant licences. Last year, FSSAI directed its Central Licensing Authority to issue a show-cause notice to Patanjali over its edible-oil advertisements that were allegedly misleading. However, this time, it is the Army which has made the claim, which both Sridhar and Chandramouli find is a serious issue.
Chandramouli adds, “This really casts a doubt even for the best of Patanjali’s endorsements as the Army does not take this call too often.”
Sridhar raises another important point about Army canteen stores that serve customers including personnel of the Army, Navy and the Air Force as well as former staff and their families: “The Army pulling up Patanjali is definitely a matter of concern because canteen stores are an important customer for many brands because of better pricing and its dependence by Armymen and former Armymen. If the reason why this brand is suspended by the Army extends to other customers, then it’s a bigger problem. Also, if there’s a safety issue or non-conformity to certain prescribed standards, then anyone can object to it.”
The armed forces department reportedly caters to around 120 lakh consumers.
From the brand’s perspective, Chandramouli concludes, “Patanjali must mean quality. If the quality drops, the consumers will drop the brand like a hot potato.”