How Ministry of AYUSH used 'soul communication' as a marketing strategy to promote yoga

PN Ranjit Kumar, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of AYUSH, says out of the Rs. 42 cr allocated by the Ministry for promotion of yoga, almost 45% of it has been the marketing expenditure

by Nafisa Shaheen
Published - Sep 20, 2019 8:57 AM Updated: Sep 20, 2019 2:40 PM

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Yoga Day Modi

The revival of public interest in Yoga in the country in the last four-five years has been phenomenal and visible in virtually every town and village. The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has been instrumental in making this happen. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the unofficial brand ambassador of Yoga, this relatively ‘young’ Ministry will be completing 5 years of existence on November 2019, and these five years will be distinguished by its role of being the central facilitator of the global revival of Yoga. The observation of the International Day of Yoga (IDY), beginning in 2015 and sanctioned by the United Nations at the behest of Prime Minister Modi has been the turning point in this revival.

P.N. Ranjit Kumar, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of AYUSH shared the Ministry’s approach on marketing Yoga and taking it global and the increasing marketing spends on Yoga.

According to Kumar, Rs. 42 crores were allocated by the Ministry for the fiscal year 2019 for promotion of Yoga (including the observation of IDY), almost 45% of it has been the marketing expenditure.

Talking about how the Ministry has been successful in popularising Yoga and reaffirming the presence Yoga in the country and worldwide, Kumar said, ”The Ministry’s role is just that of a facilitator for the propagation of Yoga. The main trigger for the current revival is the observation of International Day of Yoga, which started in 2015. So, the Ministry has been trying over the years to use that occasion to mobilise public interest in Yoga”.

He added, “the advice given to the Ministry was to be prudent with ad-spends on Yoga. Incredulous as it may sound, with this advice we turned to Mahatma Gandhi, who we believe is a true genius in mass communication, for inspiration. We found the Mahatma’s way of “soul communication” was most suited for taking Yoga to the common people. The practice of Yoga is rewarding for the individual. Capitalising on rewards of Yoga has been the primary focus of the Ministry’s communication efforts. We did a tremendous amount of homework in identifying numerous categories of stake-holders for the propagation of Yoga and reached out to them with tailor-made Standard Operation Procedures (SOP). The stake-holder groups included village Panchayats, schools, industry bodies, government bodies and social enterprises. Face-to-face interactions were the main mode for reaching out to them, and hundreds of meetings were held. We also used social media, radio, narrow-casting and even the postal network to connect with stake-holders after carefully considering the utility of each medium for our purpose”.

Moving to another area, as the Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology have recently inked a pact to collaborate with each other for digitisation of the AYUSH sector, how quintessential has it become to go digital in this age and time and how beneficial will it be for spreading of healthcare in the country?

“It is a great step in the induction of IT in the AYUSH sector. The greatest transforming force in our times is IT and through this collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, AYUSH can revamp every silo of Healthcare, bring each silo on a platform of growth and bridge the digital divide”, replied Kumar.

The 'Modi factor' also has been a key element in the tremendous revamping of Yoga in India. Kumar underlined the fact that the association of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with this activity has been central to its success, as he has been and continues to be the star propagator of Yoga along with various celebrities and eminent personalities in the country.

On being asked on the importance of social media in today’s time, he said that the source of information is important for the credibility of content, and in this regard, social media has been a boon to the Ministry in reaching out to the public with messages on Yoga and other AYUSH systems, while retaining the authenticity of the source. He emphasized that the Ministry’s objective is to inspire certain positive behavioural changes, which will lead to outcomes in preventive and promotive health care. He added the Ministry is open to using various marketing channels like print, outdoor, electronic etc. in a prudent way to achieve this while maintaining the preference for social media and interpersonal interactions.

Kumar also gave an insight that 10% of the Health and Wellness centres coming up under the Ayushman Bharat scheme will be operationalised under the AYUSH Ministry, leading to a tremendous increase in the access to AYUSH healthcare to the public.

The Joint Secretary gave a sneak-peak of the future plans of the Ministry. Starting with the partnership of AYUSH with the IT Ministry,  to the opening of 12,500 AYUSH Health and Wellness centres in the country, the Ministry aims diligently to spread the message of the benefits of Yoga and AYUSH healthcare in the country through stakeholders and various media channels.

Concluding, Kumar said, ”AYUSH has a role in the prevention of diseases, and promotion of health and propagation of Yoga is integral to this”.

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