India’s gurus take entrepreneurialism beyond their followers

While India’s gurus have long combined financial acumen with spiritual and ascetic virtuosity, today’s gurus are more likely to market and sell a wide range of products and services, often with the support of Hindu politicians, reports BBC News (Feb. 10). Prominent guru-entrepreneurs include Baba Ramdev, who is behind Patanjali, India’s fastest growing consumer good company, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who has unveiled his own line of food products, and Sri Sri Ravishankhar, a popular spiritual leader among middle and upper class southern Indians, who started an ayuvedic (traditional Indian medicine) company. Earlier gurus, such as Mahesh Yoga, made money as they brought courses on meditation and yoga courses to millions of foreigners, but today’s gurus market to their large base of followers and beyond, often seeking the support of politicians, particularly in the Hindu-friendly government of Prime Minister Narenda Modi. Soutik Biswas writes that “selling yoga to foreigners is almost passé. The new age—and often brash—gurus have set their sights beyond their followers and are reaching out to India’s growing domestic market, a move that must be making a number of multinational companies skittish…. Their products are now finding buyers even among the non-believers.”