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Why Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali jeans is more about brand building and less about swadeshi

The question is how can jeans, something which symbolises the western influence on Indian youth, be turned into a 'swadeshi' product?

Written by Namit Hans | New Delhi | Updated: October 10, 2016 12:48:06 pm
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About a decade ago, Baba Ramdev established Patanjali as a Private Limited Company selling products under the Ayurvedic medicine category. Today, Patanjali manufactures more than 500 different products with a ‘specialisation’ in production of FMCG. Now its founder and Yoga Guru Ramdev, with its goal of taking on foreign manufacturers, is planning to venture into the production of clothes, shoes, etc.

Baba Ramdev will now perhaps venture in to making ‘swadeshi’ jeans to cater to the growing demand among Indian youth. However, the question is how can jeans, something which symbolises the western influence on Indian youth, be turned into a ‘swadeshi’ product?

The denim cloth, which was originally worn by miners, greasers and, farmers during the mid-1800s in the West primarily because of its durability, gradually became popular among bikers. The cloth, which finds its roots in Genoa, Italy, was brought to Americas by Levi Strauss and demand for a sturdy pair of pants led to the experimentation with denim and eventually jeans were born. Jeans which represent quintessential American pop culture rapidly spread to other parts of the world, including India.

Jeans have faced a lot of resistance from those who think it has a negative impact on the country’s youth. In 2013, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Raghunandan Sharma had suggested that crime against women would reduce if they stopped wearing jeans. A number of such bizarre statements and diktats from local bodies like khap panchayats surface from time to time. In one such incident, a community panchayat in Uttar Pradesh banned girls from wearing jeans claiming that it led to eve-teasing. Thus, it would be interesting to see if Ramdev’s ‘swadeshi’ jeans will find acceptance amond India’s self-proclaimed culture defenders.

Coming back to the idea of having a locally manufactured denim product, it seems that Baba Ramdev’s idea is not really new in Indian context. In 1990s, Arvind Mills came up with the idea of manufacturing country’s first ready-to-stitch jeans to tap the consumers who were not accustomed to buying readymade products. The brand ‘Ruf-and-Tuf’ became a huge success because of the competetive prices and led to a shift in buying behavious of consumer from cotton pants to affordable jeans. However, within a decade the company started suffering huge losses for various reasons and entry of other brands in the market.

Today, when denim products are easily available throughout the country with local brands offering affordable prices, Patanjali’s Swadeshi jeans might face a tough competition to establish themselves in the market. Moreover, there is no dearth of local manufacturers and even most of the foreign brand products are already manufactured in India which indicates that the endeavor is more focused on expand ‘Patanjali’ and not much to do with swadeshi.

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