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India Emerging as a Global Wellness and Ayurveda Hub

IBEF, Knowledge Centre

Feb 08, 2021 11:16


The Indian wellness industry—estimated at Rs. 49,000 crore (US$ 6.70 billion)—is gaining momentum on the back of government focus on building a healthy and fit India. Ayurveda is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in India. The Indian wellness and ayurveda industries go hand in hand. Ayurveda is globally acclaimed for its preventive healthcare properties and treatment of many chronic lifestyle disorders. The Indian ayurveda industry has several large players, with the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) capturing 80% market share. Ayurveda is witnessing a resurgence in India because people have accepted this as a way of life as opposed to the earlier notion of ayurveda as an alternative area of medicine.


The government set up the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) in November 2014 to promote the country's indigenous alternative medicines including education and research. The objectives of AYUSH include the following:

  • Upgrading educational standards of the Indian Systems of Medicines & Homoeopathy colleges
  • Strengthening existing research institutions and facilitating time-bound research programmes
  • Outlining schemes for promotion, cultivation and regeneration of medicinal plants
  • Evolving Pharmacopoeial standards for the Indian Systems of Medicine & Homoeopathy drugs

A budget of ~Rs. 3,400 crore (US$ 464.68 million) is set aside for the next five years—towards Ayush Wellness Centres under the National Ayush Mission. The centre has contributed towards the wellness sector by revamping the existing 1.5 lakh health centres across the country.

Key Developments & Trends in India’s Wellness and Ayurveda Sectors

Initiatives by the National Medical & Wellness Tourism Board

The Services Export Promotion Council, the Ministry of Commerce, estimates the global medical tourism market to be worth US$ 46.6 billion in 2021, with Asia-Pacific accounting for the largest share (40%). In a bid to position India as the global wellness and ayurveda hub, the tourism ministry is planning to register all wellness centres in the country after the pandemic. Mr. Prahalad Patel, Minister of Tourism, during the National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board meeting held in December 2020, outlined various measures to aid medical tourism—such as creating a database of all wellness centres and separate hubs for ayurveda and allopathy to help tourists make the right choices. Other important recommendations by the board were to increase the number of hospitals falling under the international standards of Joint Commission International (JCI) so that tourists have more hospitals to choose from. And also, upgrade hospitals under the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) and elevate them to the JCI level of hospital. Granting of medical visas are also under consideration.

Travel & Hospitality — Enablers of the Wellness and Ayurveda Sector

Travel firms reveal that travellers are now increasingly looking at destinations offering wellness experiences—Goa, Kerala, Meghalaya, Karnataka, etc. Most travel firms now offer wellness packages to their customers.

Mr. Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa and Thomas Cook India, revealed that the travel firm has launched ‘wellness breaks’ comprising a range of programmes such as meditation, yoga sessions, spa sessions, dietician consultation and nature walks, with a starting price of Rs. 6,500 (US$ 88.84). “These holidays are being well received by a wide range of consumer segments including millennials, young working professionals and couples," said Mr. Rajeev.

Many hotels have tie ups with ayurveda and wellness centres where guests can reside at hotels and avail wellness & ayurveda facilities in the hotel premises. Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), which runs the Taj Group of Hotels, revealed that its guests are opting for wellness programmes to relieve themselves from stress, leading to an average 50% increase in demand for spa treatments every month. Mr. Anil Chadha, Chief Operating Officer, ITC Hotels, highlighted that spa is emerging as one of the favourite spaces during the pandemic. The group introduced Taj Wellness in-house retreats in September 2020 across select hotels in partnership with spa brand Jiva Ayurveda.

WHO’s Launch of Ayurveda Research Institutions

In November 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) selected India to set up a traditional medicine centre to strengthen research, training and awareness of ayurveda. After the announcement, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi inaugurated two ayurveda institutions—The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA), Jamnagar (Gujarat), and the National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA), Jaipur (Rajasthan). Mr. Modi also emphasised on the need to come up with a new international standard curriculum in ayurveda.

WHO Director General, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that the new centres will support WHO's traditional medicine strategy 2014-2023, which aims to support countries in developing policies and action plans to strengthen the role of ayurveda.

The AYUSH ministry revealed that the Jamnagar institute was conferred the status of an Institution of National Importance (INI) by a parliamentary act and another college in Jaipur was designated an ‘Institution Deemed to be University (De novo Category)’ by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Research Collaborations

In January 2020, IIT Delhi and the All India Institute of Ayurveda signed an MoU to study the therapeutic benefits of herbal formulations and wellness. Seven collaborations focusing on various Ayurvedic formulations and practices have been planned for the next two years. These include the following:

  • Examine the effect of six ayurvedic juices on gastrointestinal secretions
  • Develop herbal formulations to reduce harmful effects of reusing cooking oil
  • Develop a biodegradable herbal wound dressing
  • Study the effects of ‘Brahmari Pranayama’ on the nervous system
  • Examine the impact of ashes on proteins implicated in neurodegenerative diseases
  • Develop ‘Dhoopan Yantra’—a fumigation device for aiding wound healing
  • Gauge if ayurvedic drugs help in early detection of cancer and assess response to these drugs in treating breast cancer


Yoga to be Integrated with Education

Experts feel that Budget 2021 should recognise yoga centres by giving them a strong platform to be carriers of education, training and research in the country. Ms. Shivani Gupta, Founder of Hellomyyoga, promotes yoga worldwide by designing educational yoga courses to pass on the heritage of traditional healing to students. She emphasises the importance of these initiatives to promote healthy practices among people, which is the foundation of India’s economy. She stated “My expectation with Budget 2021 is encouragement in the digital integration of yoga and ayurveda courses and programmes, as this will ensure both qualitative and quantitative expansion of the ancient healing science”.

Experts such as Ms. Shivani have also highlighted that yoga should be introduced as a regular activity in schools and universities to enhance value education and promote the importance of self-care. Most schools are trying to engage students in yoga by appointing guest trainers. In November 2020, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that yoga education has been made mandatory in the new education policy and will be imparted in every school across the state.

Wellness Experiences at Home through HomeServices

With the current lockdown, home service providers such as Urban Clap have witnessed 250% growth in massage and spa services in the recent months. These services are priced between Rs. 1,200 (US$ 16.40) and Rs. 1,700 (US$ 23.23). Mr. Rahul Deorah, Vice President – Marketing, Urban Company, revealed, "Our spa at-home service has grown significantly since the lockdown with the business back to almost 80% of the pre-covid peak. Mostly, metropolitan cities are driving this growth. There is demand for multiple service packages—stress relief, pain relief, detoxification and other signature therapies."

Ayurveda at the Top of Immunity Boosting Shelves

Ayurveda is touching every area of our lives for its healing and immunity boosting properties. In January 2021, Eureka Forbes, India’s largest water purifier brand, introduced Dr. Aquaguard with Ayurfresh technology that infuses the goodness of seven ayurvedic ingredients in every glass water.

Innovative restaurants are now launching ayurvedic herb-based dishes on their menu. Some restaurants that grabbed headlines were a Kolkata sweet shop that introduced ‘immunity sandesh’—infused with 15 herbs & spices including turmeric, basil, saffron, cardamom and Himalayan honey; Rooh, a restaurant in New Delhi offering cocktails and mocktails infused with six tastes of ayurveda; Daryaganj, an award-winning chain of fine-dining restaurants offering traditional drinks with jaggery, lemon and turmeric and a cumin-carom seed herbal tea.

FMCG outlets are critical in showcasing Ayurveda products such as herb-infused energy drinks, ayurvedic shakes, herbal powders and juices & immunity boosters. Herbal healthcare manufacturers such as Himalaya Drug Co., Dabur and Kapiva have introduced a range of ayurveda products to its portfolio containing herbs, juices, powders, health tonics and green teas.

The Road Ahead

A report by ‘Research and Markets’ covered a government survey, revealing 45% Indians born between 1982 and 2000 aspire a healthy lifestyle, use fitness apps on their phones and are willing to pay a premium for good health. Millennials prioritising a healthy life is expected to drive sales in the Indian ayurveda market to ~US$ 10 billion by 2024, from US$ 4 billion in 2018. Besides fatigue caused by the lockdown, straining work-from-home models and constant fear of infection have boosted the demand for ayurvedic products and wellness packages from domestic and international consumers.

India has the potential to become a health and wellness hub, attracting investments and creating additional jobs. The government has set a target of increasing spending on healthcare from the current 1.3% to 3% of its GDP by 2022. With continuous support from the government and various industries shifting towards a healthy ayurveda-based approach, the Indian wellness & ayurveda market is on its way to touch the lives of millions of people at domestic and global levels.