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Making Ayurveda tick
Ayurveda is losing it place and pride in India, while foreigners are embracing it. We ask experts how to make this indigenous philosophy work in Indian spas

If you’ve grown up in an Indian home or lived around one, chances are you have heard of or even tried the homemade kada (a herbal concoction) to drive away colds & coughs, body aches &pains and even bowels disorders. And many a times, we may have scoffed at these recipes, seriously doubting their effectiveness. However, the joke is on us today, as these remedies are as effective now as they were centuries ago! These remedies may involve blending herbs, spices or healing oils, which are similar to many concoctions made at Ayurvedic wellness centres or spas in India. The most fascinating aspect of Ayurveda is that uses a multitude of ways for healing that include Yoga, aroma, meditation, gems, amulets, herbs, diets, jyotish (astrology), colour and surgery etc.

Ayurveda has always sought to help man realize his full potential through a psychosomatic integration. A comprehensive health care system is what this natural and alternative medicine prescribes. But what does all this translate to in the wellness scenario? Have we begun to accept the natural ways of wellbeing through Ayurveda? How do we promote this ancient philosophy and knowledge to not only foreigners but also Indians? For this, Spa Mantra discusses key solutions with industry experts, Dr. B. Rajesh Srinivas, President, Core Wellness Limited, Dr. Krishna Talvane, Founder, Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre, Ram Mohan, Sr. Vice President – Marketing and PR, Kairali Ayurvedic Group and Rekha Chaudhari co-partner, JCKRC to bring the forgotten science alive within the Indian spa.

Setting up an Ayurveda centre

In our earlier interview with Dr. Talvane, we mentioned that the wellness industry in India is currently growing at the rate of $10.7 billion a year. And with an expected annual growth rate of 20 percent through 2014, it is an exciting time for Ayurveda. Mohan says, “One needs the passion and commitment for this system to work.  It cannot be looked at only in terms of commercial value.  Secondly, since it is a medical system, one needs to register with the local government and get approval.  Different states have different procedures and accreditations.  For example, in Kerala, the State Government is strict about the standards one maintains in Ayurvedic Centers and unless it is approved, it cannot work.” While Dr. Srinivas makes suggestions about an Ayurvedic center set up. He says, “Sporting a contemporary design at the center is instrumental for customers/ patients. Centre hygiene, politeness of staff, Ayurveda doctors, trained therapists, marketing budgets set aside initially and a process driven transparent operations all go into making a successful Ayurveda centre.”

Sourcing Manpower

Sourcing qualified and trained manpower is one of the greatest issues faced by this industry.

“Doctors, therapists and spa managers are short in supply. There is an urgent need for standardized, quality training programs. The AYUSH should establish a board and certification process with minimum standards. Proper licensing is absolutely necessary to maintain credibility. In general, we lack quality standards at all levels of this industry,” asserts Dr. Talvane.

“Recruit from Ayurveda centres that train therapists with exposure to patients in Ayurveda hospitals. There are many such centres in Kerala such as Pankaj Kasturi in Trivandrum, PDSociety in Wayanad, etc.,” says Dr. Srinivas.

Mohan adds, “Trained manpower is a big issue. Unless we have our own institutions, we cannot outsource to get the best. In Kerala, we have our own training institution wherein we give them the training in basic treatments (for six months and so on) which is approved by the government and certification is also given by them.”

Following in Kerala’s footsteps

India’s cost-effective and efficient medical sector has made it a favored destination for healthcare for international visitors. Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda are among the most ancient systems of medical treatment in the world. For hundreds of years, the Ayurveda Vaidyas (practitioners of Ayurveda) were the only recourse for people seeking healing in Kerala. Unlike the other Indian states the status of Ayurveda in Kerala is not alternative but mainstream. Most hotels and resorts are coming up with spas and Ayurveda Centers as an integral part in Kerala.

Mohan confirms, “Kerala is the state which has promoted Ayurveda in its most authentic form and preserved it very strictly. They also have standardization, which can be replicated by other states if this system has to flourish with authenticity.”

Dr. Srinivas says, “Kerala is successful in promoting Ayurveda because it is a part of the lifestyle of the people and is therefore woven into the fabric of the society. Ayurveda is a way of life for many in Kerala. Likewise, other states should research into their own healing heritages and promote them rather than trying to duplicate Ayurveda.” He further states, “The other way out is to offer Ayurveda under the supervision of an Ayurveda doctor who is from the specific state because such a physician will be well aware of the local climate, lifestyle, eating habits and healing practices, which could be synergized with Ayurveda therapies.”

Challenges in adopting the system

“The integrity of traditional Ayurveda is not practiced at most centres, and even when it is practiced it is not presented in a hygienic set up and is not operated professionally. Lack of effective marketing also means that the benefits of Ayurveda do not reach one and all,” says Dr. Srinivas, enlisting some of the challenges of running an Ayurveda spa/wellness centre.

Mohan agrees with Dr. Srinivas’ stance on marketing and hygiene and says, “Unless it is promoted vigorously as the Government of Kerala does – both in India and abroad – and a strict vigil is kept on its standards, it could go the wrong way as has happened in a couple of states. Ayurveda is not just about one massage as a layman thinks; there is every possibility that the values could be diluted if it is not promoted as it should be.”

 Promoting Ayurveda and Medical tourism

Of the ways of promoting Ayurveda, Chaudhari explains, “Ayurveda can do wonders in stimulating wellness. Hence, it can stimulate wellness tourism too once it spreads in various parts of the world. Wellness tourism broadens the appeal of medical tourism. Ayurveda plays an important role in medical therapies and treatments in India. Ayurveda can cater to the wellness needs of individuals, especially those from outside India, who feel greater responsibilities towards their health. This ancient Indian system can become an important part of ‘Spa and Wellness’ vacations in India within day and destination spa concepts. Providing people with ways to change their lifestyle through Ayurveda can attract tourism as also lower overall health costs.”

“Today, the Govt. of India (AYUSH) and other trade bodies like FICCI and CII are promoting Ayurveda vigorously across the globe as the country is being seen as a major hub for medical tourism in the next decade.  FICCI and other trade organizations are doing a great job in setting up accreditations so that the system can flourish in India in the days to come,” edifies Mohan.

Dr. Srinivas points out some initiatives taken by the government to promote indigenous systems of healing through various initiatives by the department of AYUSH as well as the Ministry of Tourism. Listed below are some other initiatives that will help Ayurveda’s cause in India.

a)      One big game changer would be that traditional systems such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Naturopathy and Yoga must be covered under insurance. This single initiative will ensure that more and more people will opt for traditional healing systems. More users would mean that the entire health care delivery ecosystem will naturally evolve into a robust care delivery mechanism with benefits to all stakeholders.

b)      Government must offer integrated medicine in all its hospitals where Allopathy will be the line of treatment in acute conditions and ailments, whereas traditional systems may be recommended for lifestyle disorders and in health improvement.

c)      All expenses incurred for medical therapy must get the benefit of tax rebates.

More departments, other than AYUSH, should work toward building and promoting Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy among other things. Some such examples are the CCRYN – Central Council of Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, NIN – the National Institute of Naturopathy, MDNIY – Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. Both private and govt. bodies are engaged in a lot of initiatives in promoting Ayurveda across the globe.

Dr. Talvane also mentions, “NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) is working on bringing standards. There is a unique need to develop an Indian brand of spa with pure, authentic and traditional Ayurveda. Unless there is a coordinated support and effort from AYUSH and private funding, special benefits and incentives, Ayurveda as an Indian spa brand will be a distant dream.”

Changing the Indian mindset

Today, tourists from across the globe visit India to benefit from Ayurveda; however this isn’t the case with Indians. Educating Indians and changing consumer perception can certainly be undertaken by AYUSH. Dr. Srinivas avers, “AYUSH can have a tie up with banks so that fresh graduates receive financial support to set up healing centres. This is important because the revenue yield per square foot is lower in such healing centres as compared to allopathic hospitals.

“In addition, it is important to assist practitioners with land, subsidized loans, research support, and marketing so that they become financially viable. At the end of the day, if traditional systems of healing have to stay relevant and grow in time, they have to be successful financially.”

Mohan confirms, “Ayurveda finds natural interest in the West due to their passion for esoteric things, but not so much with Indians. However, Indians are gradually changing their mindsets due to the various side effects that allopathic medicines cause.

“AYUSH alone cannot be doing this job of change the mindset. It is for the various organizations, which are into Ayurveda, to propagate it. We are hopeful that Ayurveda will find its rightful place with Indians as not just as a rejuvenating system, but as a preventive and curative one too.”

Franchising – the way forward

Dr. Talvane talks about it in detail, “It might be one way of looking for the rapid expansion of the Ayurvedic Spa-Clinics. However, it has special challenges in terms of human resource training. Just like various products supplied to the outlets, the franchisor needs to have a central pool of well-trained therapists to replace the attrition in the outlets. Most franchises have short (2-10 weeks) term training programs compared to Ayurveda therapists, where it takes a minimum six months to train. Ideally, it should take one year and the continual quality maintenance is a challenge. Despite the large number of younger population in India, it is harder to recruit them. Finding candidates with 12th grade itself is a very hard thing. To conduct a recognized training program, the university requires minimum 12th grade education.  Currently, the spa industry in India is growing at the rate of 32% per annum and at present there is a shortage of over 30,000 therapists in the spa industry (as per data from FICCI).”

Ayurveda and its future…

Ayurveda has been catering to the needs of the people for centuries and there is no doubt of its efficacy.  Dr. Srinivas believes that even modern surgery has learnt a lot from Ayurveda techniques such as rhinoplasty, which was extensively and effectively practiced just 150 years ago in India. What is required is to present this knowledge in the modern way with a scientific basis / explanation on how the systems bring about cure. He goes on to say, “Faith in the system has to be revived by the practice of traditional Ayurveda in all its purity. Modern advances in diagnosis and pathology can be used as proof for its efficacy.” Dr. Srinivas exemplifies, “China has proved the effectiveness of its healing methods not just within China but also overseas. There is no reason whatsoever why India cannot do the same. For this to happen there has to be an equal interest, intent and resources commitment by both the government and the practitioners themselves.”

“As per studies by various government and institutions like FICCI and others, Ayurveda has a bright future provided we put in place a standard working practice both in terms of products and services,” Mohan concludes the discussion on a positive note.




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