Bolstered by a supportive Union Ministry of Ayush, the ayurvedic pharmaceutical sector in the country finds itself in the pink of health, catering to the needs thrown up by the pandemic. Its wide range of immunity boosters and formulations that battle cough, fever, diarrhoea and other such symptoms of COVID-19 have taken the centre-stage this past year, giving the manufacturers an unprecedented growth in their turnovers and bottom-lines.
Nahar Pharmaceuticals has been around since 1925. But its sand brown factoryensconsed in a 60,000 square feet of lush greenery on the road to Maroli, a village 20 kms from Navsari, has never before witnessed the frenetic production pace it has been engaged in lately. The facility is divided between a manufacturing unit and a storage facility where innumerable medicial plants and other ingredients are dried to be puliverised into powder, before being transformed into pills and tablets. “We had a steady production earlier, but the pandemic has propelled our production remarkably. We reported a 15 per cent rise in our turnover in March this year, over that in 2020,” informs Deepak Nahar, whose father Kasturchand Nahar had established the company in pre-independent India.
Nahar has remained focussed on generic classical formulations, choosing to stick with the traditional approach. “We use ayurvedic books like Aryabhishek to produce most of our products. These are age-old recipes, that require far more ingredients than those used in modern ayurvedic formulations,” Nahar explains. These days his best-sellers include Giloy Ghanvati tablets (derived from the Giloy plant, also known as heart-leaved moonseed) that deal with fever and fatigue and Saptaparna Ghanvati (better known as devil’s tree) that treats diarrhoea, skin rashes and breathlessness.
While Nahar has continued with his existing product line allowing the relevant ones to flourish during the pandemic, others have taken to coming up with custom-made formulations to address COVID-19 symptoms. Ayursun Pharmaceuticals, a company set up by a well-known ayurveda practitioner in Surat, Dr Sandip Patel, in 1992, as an adjunct to his clinic, is one such company.
Just as the pandemic set in, Ayursun launched Niramay Kaadha, as an immunity booster in 2020. Next, it brought out Kaphari, as a tablet as well as syrup to attend to cough and lung ailments. In March this year, it introduced an ayurvedic oxygen enhancer. With blood clotting emerging as a post-COVID hazard, the company introduced Infecthin (a blood thinner), in April. “Our current focus is to formulate medicines for the third wave of COVID-19 and launch them as soon as they are licensed.” says Aditya Pandit, marketing head of Ayursun.
The company has been pushing its range of over 700 products through its pan-India distribution network and has drawn strength from backing offered by the Ministry of Ayush to the sector.
Not just these small players, but the big ones too have been thriving on the support from the government – the most famous being the controversial launch of Coronil, an immunity booster, by Patanjali in the presence of the Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan and Union Minister of Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. The company run by the yoga guru, has also been raking in the moolah with anti-bacterial hand sanitisers and hand washes. According to Tofler, a business intelligence tool, Patanjali’s turnover climbed 21 per cent in the financial year 2020-21.
Zandu, the brand owned by Emami has also launched several immunity booster kits for different age groups, besides special tablets for diabetics. It clocked a net profit of Rs 87.73 crore in the last financial year. Likewise, Shree Baidyanath Ayurved Bhavan also registered a 7.17 per cent rise in its net worth during 2020, according to Tofler. Its Ashwagandharishta, Chyawanprash and other herbal juices have a strong following in the market. Dabur India, one of the oldest players in this sphere, recorded a jump of 30.35 per cent in its turnover to Rs 1,722 crore, in the financial year 2020-21, with its net profit going up by almost 17 per cent to Rs 300 crore. The brand has been positioning its Chyawanprash (daily two spoons) as a protective shield against COVID-19.
Companies apart Ayurvedic practitioners are also milking the health scare with their own formulations. Prominent among these, was the crowds that thronged Krishnapatnam, a village in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, for the “magic potion” put together by an ayurvedic doctor – B Anandaiah – which was touted to cure COVID-19, in April.