65-year old Arya Vaidya Pharmacy shows how a traditional
business can adapt to modern marketing techniques to leverage
on its inherent strengths.
How does an Ayurvedic pharmaceutical company expand? By
leveraging its strengths, of course. The Coimbatore-based,
65-year-old Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) group is doing
just that, by developing its over-the-counter (OTC) product
portfolio, introducing a new range of food products, expanding
its services sector and signing collaboration agreements
with overseas and Indian companies to market its products
items like jams, biscuits and herbal ketchup would join
the group''s portfolio of 500 products, which includes
Ayurvedic medicines and OTC products like herbal shampoo,
baby oil, soaps, pain balm and others.
Rs25-crore group''s flagship company is the Arya Vaidya
Pharmacy (Coimbatore) Limited. Companies under the group
umbrella manufacture and market OTC products. It also
has trusts that run a college, conduct research, get into
R&D tie-ups, and do other activities. Group outfit
Heal Ayurveda Pharmacy Limited manufactures and markets
products like soaps, shampoos and pain balm, under the
a small way, the group has already entered the food business
with its innovative chyawanaprash biscuits. Traditionally,
chyawanaprash is a mixture of several herbs in
a paste form. It was an American who first wondered whether
the paste could be made into biscuits, and AVP agreed
to implement the concept.
is also looking to sign more collaboration and franchise
agreements in India and abroad, for its products and services.
In the healthcare sector, AVP has agreements with the
Apollo Hospitals chain and the Sadhu Vaswani hospital
in Pune, to operate their ayurvedic treatment wings. A
similar tie up has been entered into with the Indo-American
Centre, which is putting up a 60-bed hospital in Hyderabad.
the hospitality sector, AVP has signed up with the Taj
group of hotels (nine hotels in eight cities), Sterling
Holiday Resorts (two resorts), Club Mahindra (one resort)
and some other hotels, to offer services like Ayurvedic
treatments and massages.
the fast moving consumer goods sector, AVP has placed
its seal of approval on Hindustan Lever''s Ayush
brand of products. It also provides the medical expertise
to man the Ayush clinics. There are 13 Ayush centres in
from the obvious financial returns, the logic behind these
tie-ups with hotels, resorts and others is to popularise
Ayurveda through the collaborators'' promotion campaigns
and to convert their clients to traditional healing ways.
In addition, the centres also double up as points of sale
for AVP''s OTC products.
group is also looking outside India. While talks are on
to start franchisee centres in Muscat and Africa, AVP
wants to expand its presence in the Gulf, Malaysia and
Singapore. Managing director P R Krishna Kumar says that
AVP gets over 10 enquiries a day for setting up centres
food venture is altogether different. Here, it is a question
of leveraging waste products. "We are getting into
food products to derive more value out of our expensive
inputs," says Mr Kumar. For instance, AVP sources
several tonnes of dry raisins from Afghanistan each year.
After boiling the raisins to prepare the rasayans
and kashayams, the pulp is thrown out. "We
found the pulp could be used to make jam," says Mr
Kumar. AVP plans to extract value out of its other exotic
and expensive inputs too. There are also plans to burn
waste biomass to generate steam for heating the huge vats
and vessels used to make the drug concentrates.
Kumar says that only 22 out of the 500-odd Ayurvedic medicinal
products, which AVP manufactures are profitable. The prices
of the rest just about meet the costs. Some are even priced
lower than their production cost, to make them affordable.
general manager (technical) Dr A Sindhu explains: "We
prepare the medicines strictly as per the ayurvedic texts
and do not use herb extracts. This means a long manufacturing
process." Some formulations that are derived after
boiling the herbs repeatedly for several days together,
sometimes as many as 101 times. Others are made after
grinding the inputs for up to 16 hours a day, for 30 days,
in automated pestles.
more and more players getting into this field, the prices
of herbs have gone up on the increased demand. "Some
plants are seasonal and have to be bought and stored.
As a result, prices go up," says Dr Sindhu. For example,
the herb Kanchanarai, which earlier cost around Rs5 per
kg has now gone up to Rs50, but AVP is not able to pass
on the increase to its customers. There are some inputs
used in ophthalmic preparations that cost around Rs3,000
it sources as many as 550 herbs, AVP has to be doubly
careful with its inputs. There are suppliers who adulterate
their supplies with spurious twigs and roots. "Each
lot has to be tested at our lab, so that only genuine
herbs are sent for processing. So running an ayurvedic
industry is easy and difficult easy if one closes
ones eyes, and tough if one keeps them open," says
standardisation has to start at the raw material stage,
AVP is also looking at contract farming of medicinal plants.
Dr Sindhu also says that the company is seriously looking
at local herbs that are effective substitutes, in terms
of healing properties, for the ones mentioned in the traditional
texts. "The agenda is two-fold. First, it would reduce
our costs, as some herbs are sourced from the faraway
Himalayas. But the the macro benefit is that Ayurvedic
science would develop further and there will be a steady
availability of herbs for production."
visit to AVP''s Kanjikode factory in Palakkad district
is really a wonderful experience; one can inhale the aroma
of exotic herbs that are boiling in huge vats. One could
even say that every visitor gets treated to an exotic
herbal steam bath, just by wandering around.
in the pink of health
Meanwhile, at the Arya Vaidya Chikitsalayam AVP''s
Ayurvedic hospital in Coimbatore patient traffic
is steadily on the rise. Located in a four-acre campus
with many trees and a Dhanwantari temple, the 120-bed
hospital is seeing better days now. The average occupancy
is around 50 per cent, and there are air-conditioned cottages
catering to the well-to-do and non-resident Indians (NRIs).
Last year, the hospital treated 60,000 people, both in-
director Dr K G Raveendran says: "The number of patients
who chose Ayurveda as their first choice is going up."
For a long time, Ayurveda and other traditional systems
of medicine were considered as a treatment of last resort.
Only those patients who could not be cured by modern medicine
used to take Ayurvedic treatment.
compartments between different medical systems are now
much less watertight. AVP assistant director (technical)
Dr U Indu Lal says that Ayurvedic doctors do resort to
the ''allopathic'' route for diagnosis wherever required
by prescribing diagnostic tests and sometimes
even refer patients to regular doctors in urgent situations
when a faster cure can be had.
the concept of rejuvenation resorts catching up, AVP is
planning to build cottages in a different locality as
the space in the existing hospital complex is fully utilised.
AVP has been awarded a grant of Rs1.2 crore from the US
National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its
National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
to develop and consolidate long-term scientific
collaborations between researchers at AVP and some American
to director (research) Dr P Ram Manohar, the focus of
the grant is capacity building. A pilot clinical trial
of rheumatoid arthritis, comparing ayurvedic treatment
with standard medical treatment, will be conducted and
the results will be documented. The pilot trial will form
the basis for larger clinical trials, to be proposed in
subsequent grant applications.
purpose is not to evaluate Ayurveda," he adds. The
grant will be utilised to assemble a core team, as well
as establish a good
lab and IT network. A second grant is expected soon, when
other players will be involved, to bring in scalability.