Factors that contributed to the popularity of AYUSH products

By Avishek Majumder & Abhinash on March 5, 2019
Image by Pixabay

AYUSH products and treatment methods have gained significant popularity from off-shelf promotions in online retail stores and social media. Companies like JIVA regularly produce television soaps and educational content for youtube about Ayurvedic medicines. Himalaya uses social media influencers for sales promotion. In addition, AYUSH products are mostly organic by-products of plants and have low manufacturing costs as compared to allopathic drugs (Jaiswal, Liang, & Zhao, 2016). As a result, the treatments methods and medicines have been able to reach the masses. Motivations by the national governments and regulatory bodies have also helped in the increased popularity of the alternative medications.

International collaborations in education

The Ministry of AYUSH has boosted collaborations with countries such as France, Nepal, Canada, Russia, China, EU countries and the USA to promote education and trade of traditional medicines (Ministry of AYUSH, 2017). The Central Council for Integrative Medicine, and Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences have collaborated with institutions like:

  • Harvard Medical School, USA.
  • The Medical University of Graz, Austria.
  • Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, London.
  • University of Strasbourg, France, and University of Western Cape, South Africa.

Such collaborations have increased the number of international students in India according to the reports of all India survey on higher education (Ministry of Human Resource Development, 2016). Acording to a report by Huffington Post, (2017), 45,424 international students have enrolled in various Indian universities and institutions in 2016. The majority of the students were from Nepal and Afghanistan. However, students from the USA, China, and Iran have also increased. Various international AYUSH based institutions like the California College of Ayurveda has ‘study abroad’ programmes in collaboration with various AYUSH based institutions of India. Similarly, the University of Strasbourg on the basis of MoUs with Ministry of AYUSH has student exchange programmes with AYUSH based institutions of India.

Furthermore, according to UNESCO’s International Student Mobility data, the period between 2006 and 2016 has seen an increase from 12374 to 45,424 indicating a 267.09% rise (UNESCO, 2017). It also implicates that, the number of international student enrollment for AYUSH based programmes has also increased. In addition, various international universities have collaborated for research-based and patent based MoUs. Subsequently, the findings implicate the popularity of AYUSH related institutes. Such collaborations have also helped to popularize the significance of AYUSH based treatment methods and medicines in India.

International collaborations of trade

The Ministry of AYUSH has collaborated with several countries with respect to the trade of herbal and medicinal plants and AYUSH based drugs. These MoUs included quality export of medicinal products and raw materials from India to countries like USA, Canada, EU countries, Russia, and South Asian countries. According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), India exported 83357976 Kgs of herbal and medicinal products of AYUSH origin, generating revenues of USD 401.68 million in 2016 (FICCI, 2017). The MoUs also strengthened the guidelines of the regulatory bodies such as USFDA and EMEA. Furthermore, report of FICCI, (2017), implied that the largest importers of AYUSH related products include Bahrain, Canada, Philippines, Tanzania, and Ghana. India has also been termed as the second largest exporter of herbal and medicinal products (FICCI, 2017).

Import rate of herbal and medicinal plants (INR Crore)
Import rate of herbal and medicinal plants (INR Crore)

The international collaborations on trade have not just focused on exports of AYUSH products but also the import of raw materials from over 100 countries. In 2014, India imported herbal and medicinal compounds worth USD 14.39 million, which increased to USD 15.48 million in 2017. It is also found that AYUSH based products shared 0.033% of the total import of India in 2013-14 against 0.61% of export and 0.04% of import in India in 2015-16. As a result, the rate of import of AYUSH based products is increasing and gaining popularity (Ministry of AYUSH, 2017). Increased imports also indicate the growing demands for AYUSH based commercial products. Moreover, India has a big resource of herbal and medicinal plants, yet lacks ethical exploitation of its resources and hence conducted numerous conferences and seminars to attract foreign research institutions and universities.

International conferences to promote AYUSH based products

In 2017, the Ministry of AYUSH conducted the world’s first international exhibition and conference on AYUSH also known as AROGYA in 2017 (Ministry of AYUSH, 2017). It was a successful conference and exhibition to promote AYUSH based medicines and treatment methods. The Ministry of AYUSH also helped the UAE, Australia, the USA, and Canada to organize their first international exhibition and conference on AYUSH (Ministry of AYUSH, 2017). Lastly, the motivations of these conferences are to share the strengths and scientific validation of traditional medications, research and develop, recognition and promote international trade.

The National AYUSH Mission has also joined hands with the WHO to develop benchmarks for AYUSH based treatment procedures and medications. This has helped many countries with traditional medication capabilities to follow a systematic method of treatment as followed by the AYUSH regulatory body in India. The conferences have also helped India to establish information centres in Israel, Tajikistan, Peru, Russia and Tanzania, to share knowledge across the borders (Ministry of AYUSH, 2017).

The conferences have, however, provided a platform to over 250 AYUSH based companies to build trade relations with international traders and stakeholders. Furthermore, companies like Patanjali, Himalaya, Lever AYUSH, Hamdard, Dr. Reckeweg and SBL have been able to establish flourishing trade in over 100 countries. According to a report by Pharmexil, (2017), the private AYUSH sector of India generates at least 40% of the total revenues from drug exports. Countries like Israel, UAE, Australia, USA, Tanzania, Russia, Canada, and SAARC nations have joined hands and increase trade with Dabur and Himalaya.

Availability of commercial products

In recent years, hundreds of AYUSH based commercial companies have emerged with respect to the growing. This has led to an increased number of AYUSH based dispensaries and clinics in many parts of India. This has subsequently increased the number of availability of commercial products and their sales (Biospectrum, 2017). Commercial AYUSH products are not limited to drugs for medicinal use but also FMCG products manufactured by giants like Unilever, Patanjali, and Himalaya. Commercial drugs are not just available in clinics and dispensaries but also online and over the counter (Mondaq, 2018).

Trend of lisenced AYUSH based companies 2007-2017 (Ministry of AYUSH, 2018)
Trend of lisenced AYUSH based companies 2007-2017 (Ministry of AYUSH, 2018)

Medical e-retailers like NetMeds, 1MG, and IndiaMart have in recent years focused on online retailing and sales of AYUSH based drugs. They are mostly from major companies like:

  • Dabur,
  • Kerala Ayurveda (Ayurveda);
  • Hamdard (Unani); and SBL,
  • Dr Reckeweg (Homeopathic) (Mondaq, 2018).

Subsequently, such approaches have improved the popularity and availability of AYUSH based drugs. The above E-retailers also provide detailed information on the use and compositions of the medicines. This is further evident from the fact that at least 1% of the total pharmaceutical domestic sale is contributed by the e-pharmaceuticals, and is expected to grow by 3% in 2022 (Mondaq, 2018). The e-pharmacy has, however, captured 5-15% share of consumers in the past couple of years.