How Ayurveda Represents The Perfect Way For India To Establish Itself as a Global Center For Health

How Ayurveda Represents The Perfect Way For India To Establish Itself as a Global Center For Health

The notions of ‘wellness, calm and mindfulness’ have become trendy pursuits over the past decade or so. Ayurveda as an ancient science of holistic living, has found itself at the center of this.  Due to its increasing popularity, Ayurveda has the power to become a prominent tool of soft power across the world, having made an incredible impact in its effective methods of enhancing good health and “wellness”.

Ayurveda has even penetrated the international level through institutions such as the United Nations. “Amongst the mandates of United Nations, health of mankind is the thrust area of UN through World Health Organization (WHO). Planning and execution of policies for mainstreaming of traditional medicines (TRM) of respective countries along with conventional system of medicine (allopathy), first in the country of origin followed by the international arena, is the priority agenda of operations of WHO. Within Indian context, WHO accorded prime focus to Ayurveda in its activities related to TRM.” (Chaudhary and Singh, 2011)

There is a demand to implement modern research methodologies to help gain better understanding of Ayurveda in the west and earn its equivalent place with modern medicine. “Various methodologies are prevalent in medical treatment today. Earlier, people used to rely on direct experience. But now there is a system in place wherein documentation is done and research is conducted. There is a research methodology....a system of methodology has to be approved, which should be pursued by the practitioners of Ayurveda. A common medical practitioner keeps records of his observations and experience, and writes papers on them. These papers are then published in (science) journals, on the basis of which experiments are conducted. Good record keeping of Ayurveda is the need of the hour”, stated RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (Press Trust of India, 2018).

To bring Ayurveda on par with the status of Chinese traditional medicine, the Modi government set up a separate ministry called AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) that would institutionalize this ancient heritage. In an effort to ‘brand Ayurveda’, AYUSH helps file dozens of international patents, develop programs and courses at colleges globally; and has appointed delegates to spread the awareness of this ancient heritage.  Agricultural efforts to help farmers survive non-conducive environmental conditions are now concomitant with revival of medicinal plants for ayurvedic preparations: with plants like aloe vera and Indian gooseberries grown in lands where crops have failed due to drought.

According to the VISION 2022 ROADMAP FOR INDIAN AYURVEDA INDUSTRY, a joint publication by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Frost & Sullivan (F&S), 2017, Ayurveda is a USD 3 Billion market with a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 15-16% and comprises of the organized and the unorganized sector.  The industry offers both products valued at USD 2.27 billion in 2016 (personal, cosmetic, OTC, etc.) and services (~ USD 0.75 billion) that included medical and tourism services (Frost & Sullivan et al., 2017).

Giants in former sector include well established corporations that manufacture and market ayurvedic products like Charak Pharma, Vicco, Baidyanath, Nagarjuna, Himalaya and Dabur.  With consumer confidence increasing in the adoption of natural products for their well being and in cosmetics, along with increasing environmental awareness, multinational consumer goods mammoths like Colgate-Palmolive, Hindustan Unilever, Emani, and Patanjali have also ventured into increasing their line of products, increasing their “Naturals Portfolio” to meet the consumer demand (Sachitanand, 2017). Many upstart companies are mushrooming, especially by practitioners who have been in the practice of ayurveda for generations.  One such enthusiast is Dr. Arjun Vaidya, from South Mumbai, a sixth generation ayurveda practitioner who would like to see ayurveda burgeon in the Western world like Yoga industry has (Sachitanand, 2017).

Medical tourism in India, predominantly for Ayurveda has increased the inflow of population from the West, who are seeking a low cost, enjoyable and comfortable alternative for treatment of their diseases and wellness.  Ripe with the tradition of Ayurveda, untainted and unbroken through generations, Kerala is perhaps the only state in India which still continues to practice this tradition with utmost dedication; and has the largest number of Ayurveda colleges and practitioners in the world (Benke, 2016). Ayurveda tourism contributes to 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% of total employment in India (Benke, 2016).  Foreign tourists to Kerala increased by 6.60% in just one year in 2015, to 7.75 lakhs, while domestic tourists increased by 7.40% to 76.71 lakhs in the same year (Times of India, 2016). Corroborating this trend, foreign exchange increased by 15.07% in 2014 compared to the previous year to Rs. 6398.93 crore (Times of India, 2016).

Nanda Kumar, the deputy director of Kerala tourism told Times of India in 2016 on a visit to Pune,"We have realized that many a times, foreign tourists are looking at relaxing more than sight-seeing. So we are planning to mix ayurvedic treatment along with sightseeing in such a way that the experience is truly a stress buster for them." (Times of India, 2016)

"A memorandum of understanding between Saint Petersburg tourism board and Kerala is also on the cards. This will happen next week in Mumbai, and is first of its kind MoU of an Indian state with a foreign country," claimed Nanda Kumar.

The VISION 2022 ROADMAP FOR INDIAN AYURVEDA INDUSTRY also lays out key strategies to increase the market value to USD 9 Billion by 2022 by focusing on some key strategies aimed towards branding Ayurveda as a system of treatment to precisely diagnose the root cause of diseases and eliminate them (Frost & Sullivan, et al., 2017).  Globalization of Ayurveda by enhancing industry and government collaboration, getting the word across on the benefits of the system of therapy, using Ayurveda to diminish the burden of hypertension, diabetes and arthritis and training personnel are some of the key ways the report envisions attainment of this goal (Frost & Sullivan, et al., 2017). A comprehensive Ayurveda Industry policy initiatives promoting increased awareness among the public, especially the younger generation are seen as vital strategic imperatives to achieve this growth (Frost & Sullivan, et al., 2017).

Prime Minister Modi’s socio-political strategies has been steadily drawing awareness of the Indian public towards the neglect that has been shown towards the ancient heritage, thereby allowing the West to appropriate ayurvedic traditions as “cures”, filing for patents without due credit to India, and enabling big pharma and modern medicine to minimize traditional alternative medicine. “Our grandmothers’ remedies have become the intellectual property rights of other countries,.....” said Prime Minister Modi at the inauguration of the second Ayurveda Day in New Delhi (Doshi, 2018).

In an interview with Vidhi Doshi for the Washington Post earlier this year, Rajiv Vasudevan, the chairman of the ayurveda core group at the Confederation of Indian Industry, said that “Promoting Indian expertise could bring foreign cash and has soft-diplomacy benefits...We are a proud nation, we have rich history and we have something to share with the world,” (Doshi, 2018).


Pavithra Srinivasan is a Research Fellow at the Center for Soft Power, India Foundation


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