Can Indian brands own a larger piece of the multi-billion dollar global yoga industry?
India can't claim is dominance in the global yoga market. Even though over half of the 200 million yoga practitioners in the world are Indians.
The International Day of Yoga has been rocked by political controversies, raging debates on certain religious claims and India's attempt to reclaim ownership of the ancient practice. (Hopefully this shan't be as futile as 'Who Owns Chicken Tikka Masala?') What it's not is a provenance dispute. But what India can't claim is dominance in the global yoga market. Even though over half of the 200 million yoga practitioners in the world are Indians, the US is the world's largest yoga industry worth well over $27 billion. In India, the yoga market remains a largely unorganised industry, underserved by brands and typically a mom-and-pop enterprise outside a few institutes and centres.
Dave Banerjee co-founder of yoga apparel startup, Proyog, perhaps says it best when he told BE that 70 per cent of the world yoga market is in North America and that's where Bangalore-based Proyog's primary market is. Followed by regions like the UK, Australia and Japan. India, according to their projections, will account for just 3 per cent or 4 per cent of sales. The US and Canada are also where the denim industry is actively losing sales to the yoga wear category as more and more North Americans wear yoga pants to pick up the kids or groceries. Thus giving birth to the "Athleisure" category.
The likes of Proyog are riding on the 'Made In India' label to fatten their bottom lines on foreign shores and help them steal market share from yoga wear and gear giants like Lululemon Athletica. Says Banerjee, "In three years our revenues will be less than Lululemon's marketing budget. They would crush us if it weren't for our product. We want to be to yoga what Speedo is to swimming or Everlast is to boxing. None of the popular yoga wear brands have even bothered to understand the requirements for yoga. If they had any respect for yoga, they wouldn't be churning out 'plastic yoga pants'." Slapping an 'OM' on leggings does not a yoga pant make, apparently. Instead packaging yoga tights and tanks as the natural, made-in-the-birthplace-of-yoga kind of brand, just might be the ticket to nirvana. Especially with a consumer increasingly concerned with products' origins and organic credentials. Here, however, brands like Proyog cater to the affluent set clutching Manduka mats (the BMW of yoga mats), yoga enthusiasts from all corners of the world on yogations (yoga vacations) and yoginis teaching at schools in India. They will become brand advocates for the company with a very limited marketing budget.
Tapasya Bali knows the power of the 'Indian' tag as a differentiator in a cluttered yoga market. She quit her Wall Street job to start YogaSmoga, The New York based company was recently valued at $74 million after a Series B round of funding. The company intends to kill Lululemon Athletica, the Canadian brand which has a stronghold on the yoga market. (Incidentally, Proyog, too, has similar ambitions.) Bali says, "I am both a citizen of the USA and of India. Having grown up in India in my formative years, the ethos of yoga are ingrained in me and I can provide a sense of authenticity to the experience I offer to consumers." YogaSmoga celebrated International Yoga Day by hosting people at their stores, educating them about yoga and offering free mehndi tattoos.
Yoga is, in fact, India's greatest cultural export. The question we'd like answers to is why hasn't the country that gave the world Yoga produced a Lululemon or studio chains like CorePower Yoga, which has been dubbed the American Starbucks of yoga, yet? Perhaps Mumbai-based Yoga Mudra expert, Deepa Vaswani has the answer when she says "yoga in India is personal and a spiritual, therapeutic experience. And yoga certainly doesn't care what you wear, as long as you are comfortable." That may be the case still. But will that be so with newer generations of practioners striking poses better suited for Cirque du Soleil, in their 'Om' pants, some in the $100 Nike yoga shoe, while listening to playlists entirely populated with the musical stylings of MC Yogi? Although in conflict with yoga's values and teachings, to them, where, how and in what you practice yoga might just matter more than attaining peace and oneness with the universe.
Yoga by Numbers
- Roughly 200 million people practice yoga, globally. Most of them in India. Of them 80 per cent are women.
- $27 - $30 billion is the size of the US yoga industry. The world's largest yoga market saw an 87 per cent increase of spending in yoga products in the last 5 years.
- 17 per cent of leading yoga-wear brand Lululemon Athletica's inventory had to be recalled in 2013. Why? Because the $98 stretchy black yoga pants were see-through.
- $423.5 million is the Canadian company's net revenue in the first quarter of fi scal 2015
- At the 69th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 27, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the international community to adopt an International Day of Yoga
- 44 pages is the length of The Common Yoga Protocol by Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). To be used as a universal guide across the world on Yoga Day
- But 3 "Oms" is all it took for Don Draper, from the TV series 'Mad Men', to have a creative epiphany of a lifetime. Following this finale-episode scene thousands of creatives across the advertising world signed up for yoga classes en masse. (We're just kidding.)